Persian chicken with aromatic basmati rice is a deliciously fragrant dish that’s full of robust flavours. Golden crisped rice is a speciality in Persian cooking, known as ‘tahdig’. It adds a fantastic nutty flavour and texture to any rice dish. ‘Tahdig’ can also be made with pieces of bread or thin slices of potato that are added before the first layer of rice. If fresh pomegranates are hard to find, substitute with dried pomegranate seeds soaked in pomegranate juice. Dried chopped apricots or dates also work well in the pistachio and mint rice. For saffron yoghurt, add a pinch of saffron to 30ml (2 tbsp) of water and allow to infuse, then stir through thick Greek yoghurt.
Persian chicken with aromatic basmati rice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 large deboned chicken breasts, skin on
- saffron yoghurt, to serve
Pomegranate and saffron glaze
- 500ml (2 cups) pomegranate juice
- 60ml (¼ cup) sugar
- a pinch of saffron
Pistachio and mint basmati rice
- 500g basmati rice
- 45ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
- 200g unsalted pistachios, shelled and slivered
- 200g fresh or dried pomegranate seeds
- 125ml (½ cup) fresh mint leaves
For the glaze, add the pomegranate juice, sugar and saffron to a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the juice has reduced by more than half and become sticky, about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
For the rice, wash the rice until the water runs clear and soak it in cold water for 15 minutes.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drain the water from the soaked rice, add the rice to the boiling water and parcook for 3 minutes. Drain the rice in a colander, return the pot to the heat and turn the heat to low.
Add 15ml (1 tbsp) of the olive oil to the pot and spoon a layer of rice into the bottom of the pot. Add the remaining rice, cover the pot with a clean tea towel and place the lid on top. Steam the rice until it is cooked and the grains have separated, about 20 minutes.
Spoon the rice into a large bowl. The bottom rice layer will form a crispy golden crust. Add this golden rice to the bowl. Combine the pistachios, pomegranate seeds, mint, remaining olive oil and seasoning and add to the rice.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Season the chicken breasts and place on a baking tray. Brush the chicken with the pomegranate glaze and bake in the oven for 15 – 20 minutes. Glaze the chicken every 5 minutes and place under the grill for the last minute to crisp the skin.
Serve with the pistachio and mint rice, saffron yoghurt and fresh pomegranate if available.
To drink: A fruity, dry white wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc with plenty of tropical flavours, will match the fragrant rice and sweet, fruity glaze of the chicken