Long ago I shared a recipe for an easy version of lubia polo. As I mentioned in that post that recipe was born out of necessity because I didn’t have the right ingredients at home that day. That very different lubia polo was voted a family favourite by critics No. 1 & 2 and I often make it for them now. But today I’m sharing a more authentic version. Today’s recipe comes with the bonus instructions for saffron tahdig, a crunchy golden crust to die for.
Green beans taste quite different when sautéed in oil. The flavour of beans in this lubia polo recipe is not same as simply boiled green beans so don’t skip the frying stage
My version of Lubia polo (also spelled as loobia polo) which is very similar to what my mum makes is perfumed with cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and saffron and is really comforting whatever the season. The spices and the two-stage cooking method that involves parboiling the rice and steaming afterwards make all the difference. This one is very fluffy and aromatic.
I’ve often wondered if there’s a historical link between Persian layered rice dishes like lubia polo and Indian biryanis. They are prepared in the same way but Indian biryanis are usually quite spicy whereas ours are not. The tiny amounts of black pepper and chilli powder that we use in our dishes goes nowhere near the amount in the mildest of Indian dishes.
There’s no mention of meat in the name of lubia polo (green bean rice) but that’s not surprising. Like many other Persian dishes this one takes its name from the vegetable in it. The real authentic and original lubia polo is made with lamb (or mutton). Using chicken breasts is my twist to cut the cooking time almost in half but I must confess, lamb is tastier so I make it with lamb whenever I have time. The rest of the recipe is as authentic as it gets.
Sometimes I’m too hungry or too tired after work to follow all the stages of the recipe for lubia polo, that is boil the rice, layer with prepared green beans mix and steam for perfect fluffy rice. On such days I kind of cheat and just make the chicken and green beans mix, add a few chunks of tomato and water and let it simmer away while I’m making rice by the absorption method (kateh) in my Persian rice cooker. Those rice cookers are real life-savers for us Iranians!
Making kateh is much quicker and easier than the more elaborate method of parboiling and steaming (chelo) although the result is not as perfect. But who cares about perfection when everybody’s HUN-GAR-Y?
On occasions like that while the rice is cooking I stew the chicken and green beans and serve as a khoresht (stew eaten with rice). If cooked separately like this it will be khoresht-e lubia which is a real khoresht. So two recipes in one here!
Lubia polo (layered rice) and khoresht-e lubia are both especially nice with chopped lemony tomato and cucumber salad and the rest of the usual things we serve with most meals, like small bowls of pickles (torshi), fresh herbs and radishes (sabzi khordan) and yoghurt. Can a meal get any healthier (and more satisfying) than that?
I often make a big pot of this and save some for later in the week. No one has ever complained about having to eat the same thing twice in a week, at least in my house. Lubia polo is always welcomed and enjoyed even two days in a row. The following recipe will feed four hungry people.
For the rice and tahdig
For layering with rice
You’ll love the bulghur pilaf and the aubergine tahdig in this recipe. I think every other recipe I post has aubergines in it but what’s there not to love about it? It’s delicious and nutritious and it lends itself well to all sorts of cooking methods and spices.
I’m not vegetarian, at least not yet, but have been trying to cut meat from our meals as much as I can. Using aubergines helps me balance the flavour of vegetarian dishes, on their own or with mushrooms for added protein.
My desire to eat less or no meat has led me to “invent” quite a few dishes that had not been in my repertoire before, including this delicious pilaf which I made a couple of weeks ago. It turned out even better than I had imagined and looked really good too.
Bulghur pilafs can be found in many of Iran’s regional cuisines. These recipes usually call for mixing bulghur with rice or lentils. There is also one made with noodles which is really delicious.
Since I was making this one with aubergine I decided to go for aubergine tahdig. What’s tahdig? Bear with me, I’m going to explain that right now.
Tahdig is a layer of crispy, golden rice (or other things) coming from the bottom of the rice pot. Iranians love this and there is usually a ritual of fighting over the tahdig at the table to determine who gets the biggest share. Bulghur is treated in the same way. Even pasta, but that’s another story!
Making good tahdig, nicely coloured and crispy, is an art and the sign of the competency of a cook. Thin flatbread, potato slices or other sliced vegetables are often laid in the bottom of the pot (whatever we are making, rice, pasta, bulgur) for other kinds of tahdig. Aubergine is one of the tastiest.
The aubergine slices turned beautifully golden, caramelised and nicely soft with crispy bulghur surrounding the slices. yum yum! To make tahdig you need to use a non-stick coated or ceramic saucepan or pot. It’s really worth investing in a good one for cooking rice and pilafs. You get a nice crust and nothing is wasted. It’s easier to clean afterwards too.
Bulghur is cooked, pounded and dried wheat. It comes in different sizes. I used medium grain (coarse) to give texture to the pilaf. Finer bulghur is better suited for making salads.
Vegetarian may like to add a minty yoghurt and cucumber topping to this dish like I do. The ingredients and recipe are listed below.
So to make this lovely pilaf for four people you will need the following ingredients:
For the yoghurt and cucumber topping (for non-vegans):
Will I ever stop posting recipes that use aubergines in one way or another? Never! I love aubergines so much I always have at least a couple in my fridge. So here is another recipe with aubergine playing a star role.
The now humble aubergine has been eaten in Iran since ancient times. There are references to dishes made with aubergines in 9th century books, like a dish called burani that was created for the very lavish wedding feast of Queen Buran, the Persian wife of Caliph al-Mamoun, the caliph of Baghdad. At that time the aubergine which originated in India was quite a novelty.
The list of Persian rice dishes has no ending. This one is not a particularly authentic one although there are some regional rice dishes that are layered with aubergines such as the bademjan polo of Qazvin (a city to the west of the capital, Tehran).
This dish is one of my “fusion” ones. It’s kind of a cross between bademjan polo and the Spanish paella. The cuisines of Iran and Spain have a lot in common. Sounds strange? It does but food historians have established the connection between the two cuisines. The influence came through the Moors that ruled Spain for centuries. The Moors who had been influenced by the Persians in many ways took both rice and saffron to Spain with them.
Iranian rice dishes are usually made in deep saucepans but I like to make this dish in a big frying pan, much like in making paella. I also like to make it with Arborio rice. Arborio is short-grain and usually used for making risottos. If you are using other rice varieties, such as basmati, make sure you use less water as other types of rice can quickly get mushy unless they are of the “easy cook” type which needs even more water to cook thoroughly.
This dish can be flavoured with saffron, too. I usually use saffron (I’m lucky I always have a stash sent to me by family from Iran) but sweet smoked Spanish paprika is a great spice on its own. I sometimes use both. There are no words to describe the aroma of these spices when the rice is bubbling away on the stove!
I love to serve this scrumptious rice dish with plenty of tomato and cucumber salad (salad shirazi), a basket of herbs (sabzi khordan), yoghurt, olives and/or Persian relishes (torshi). With all these accompaniments the meatless dinner turns into a real feast!
To serve four people you will need the following ingredients:
Cooking time: Anywhere between 45 to 60 minutes depending on the type of rice, size of frying pan and size of burner.