This version of lubia polo was born out of necessity one day when I wanted to make the favourite Persian dish of delicately spiced rice, lamb and green beans but realised we had run out of Persian rice and the only meat I had that didn’t need defrosting was chicken breasts.
We love Paella and there is usually some Arborio rice in the pantry. So I set to work. I used Italian Arborio and decided to try cooking my emergency lubia polo in a large frying pan that I sometimes use to make paella. The paella-style lubia polo went down very well with my husband and son. The recipe has stayed with us long enough to deserve to be called a family favourite now.
There is an Spanish element in this dish too: My favourite non-Persian spice, Spanish sweet smoked paprika. The other spices that I used were our beloved saffron and cumin, or Persian caraway (zireh) to be more precise. Persian caraway is hard to come by but cumin is a very good substitute.
Arborio rice is medium grain and cooks to a very lovely sticky texture but will retain a bite in the centre. It smells lovely too. The stickiness is what sets my lubia polo apart from the authentic Persian lubiya polo. When properly prepared every grain of Persian rice must remain separate. I love and enjoy cooking with both types of rice.
I started with lightly frying my onions to make piyaz dagh, the Persian equivalent of sofrito. I fried more onions than I needed and saved the extra for using in my next dish which always helps cut the time I have to spend in the kitchen. I didn’t brown the onions like I would for proper Persian piyaz dagh. I was too hungry to wait for proper slow caramelisation!
While that was happening I chopped my grean beans into 2cm long pieces. As soon as the onion began to take colour off it went into a bowl and the beans went in. I sautéed them until they were only a little browned, like the photo below. Sautéing completely changes the flavour of beans and gives them a lovely texture when cooked with rice.
The rest as you will see in the recipe was quite easy, all done in the same pan so not so much washing up afterwards. This version of lubia polo is very healthy and relatively low calorie. There is a huge amount of green beans (650g), less carb (300g of rice) and little oil (3 tablespoons) in a big pan that can feed five to six people.
If you have a bit more time on your hands and want to make a more authentic lubia polo check out my Spiced Rice with Chicken and Green Beans. Proper lubia polo is made with lamb but chicken is a very good substitute for red meat in this dish and cuts the cooking time almost in half. It has a saffron crust in the bottom too that everybody will be fighting over!