Patience is a virtue when you’re cooking Baghali Polow for the family and have a huge pan in front of you that’s filled to the brim with broad beans. Each bean has to be delicately skinned and shelled before you can do anything else and this does take some time.
Now while Master Cyrus is a little bit too young to help out in the kitchen at this point, my sister-in-law’s little boy is four and loves nothing more than sitting on the Persian carpet in the lounge skinning, shelling…and eating beans. I’m sure than once C catches on to the joys of this, it’ll be amazing how quickly he’ll follow suit too!
Before C was born, I admit I was a little overwhelmed at the idea of cooking with him around – especially since we’ve gone health and safety crazy these days and I knew there would be simply no one to hand him over to when the going got tough.
After the first few weeks, the friends bearing meals stopped and I had to quickly comprehend how I was going to cook for my husband and look after a new baby at the same time. I was adamant I wasn’t going to turn to the take-out option because 1) I knew it wouldn’t help my health and 2) I was used to multi-tasking and I was ready for a new challenge.
So instead of feeling down, I set to work on a plan. I invested in a baby carrier which I could use about the house to keep him all snuggly, warm and close to me. Once he was asleep, I’d quickly transfer him to his buggy so I could get on with my kitchen tasks. Now while I actually loved having him in the kitchen with me, it did mean that we sometimes ended up eating at midnight!
At six months old, C has got used to being in the kitchen with me and he loves nothing more than touching, holding and feeling new fruit, vegetables and other objects. Now while I wouldn’t give him any broad beans or rice for that matter at his age, he loves to sit and watch as I cook. Whether he takes it in or not, I explain ‘Jamie oliver-style’ what I’m doing every step of the way. Even if it’s just a bit of singing and dancing *safely* around the kitchen while things are cooking, it means I can keep him busy, but within eye-sight.
I can’t wait until he’s old enough to do more than bang spoons around and stack measuring cups, especially since broad beans are the bane of my life! Any way, back to the recipe.
Broad beans are as much a staple in Persian cuisine as rice is and the strong flavour of dill goes really well with the bland flavour of the bean.
- Prepare the rice. Wash the rice thoroughly and leave to soak in water for at least three hours or more. Add two tablespoons of salt.
- Prepare the rice ingredients. Shell the broad beans, then blanch and skin them. Finely chop the garlic or onion. Clean and wash the dill, removing coarse stems. Shake dry, then chop finely and spread on a paper towel to dry off.
- Bring about 2 litres of water with two tablespoons of salt to a rapid boil
- Pour off excess water from the rice and pour into the bubbling water. Bring back to the boil for 2-3 minutes. Add the beans to the rice when it comes back to the boil, then strain all together. After 2 minutes, test to see if the rice is ready; the grains need to be soft on the outside but still firm in the centre. Strain and rinse before tossing the rice in a colander.
- Return the rinsed out pan to the heat and add oil and 2-3 tablespoons of water. Heat until sizzling.
- Sprinkle one layer of rice across the bottom of the pan. Then spread about a third of the prepared ingredients over the rice. Fresh dill and garlic or onion should be sprinkled in layers to steam with the rice.
- Poke two or three holes through the rice to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Wrap a pan lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan.
- Keep on high heat for 2-3 more minutes until the rice is steaming, then reduce the heat to low for around 30 minutes. The rice can be kept warm and fresh on the lowest heat for another hour or longer.
- Lightly mix 2 or 3 tablespoons of rice with liquid saffron in a small bowl and reserve for garnish.
- To serve, gently toss and mix the rice and ingredients and sprinkle lightly on to a warmed dish in a mound. Garnish with the saffron rice, and pour over melted butter to give it a sheen.
- Serve with tender pieces of chicken, fish or lamb and bowls of yoghurt.