Havij Polo -Saffron rice and carrots

هویج پلو

Havij polo is not just another Persian rice dish. It’s rather an experience and a destination, much like getting a stamp in your passport at the end of an exotic journey!

Though there’s quite a variety of rice pilaf dishes in Persian cuisine, there are probably 10 that most Iranians would be able to list without even thinking. Havij polo is in my top 5.

What makes this dish so distinctive is its simplicity and the delicate combination of ingredients that lend themselves to creating a highly flavorful, mildly sweet and aromatic dish. Each region, of course, will make its own variation on this dish by introducing more aromatics such as cinnamon, rose petals or rose water.

This is a good example of a Persian dish that can be easily adjusted to suit your palate and taste preferences. For example, I can’t seem to get enough of the aromatics, so depending on my mood I put saffron, cinnamon and rose water in mine. I also like mine on the sweeter side.

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Havij Polo

Saffron rice and carrots
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: carrots, chicken, rice, saffron
Servings: 4
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef

Ingredients

Saffron

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 8 tablespoons hot water, divided

Candied orange

  • 1 Navel orange peeled, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Chicken

  • 3 tablespoon ghee or butter or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
  • 4 pieces chicken thighs and breasts, with bone-in and skin-on preferred
  • 1 cup water, more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons saffron water

Carrots

  • 4 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons saffron water

Rice

  • 2 cups white basmati rice, soaked for 1 hour and rinsed
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons salt, for parboiling rice and will be rinsed out
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons saffron water

Garnish

  • 1/4 cup slivered or chopped pistachios

Instructions

Saffron

  • Using a smooth mortar and pestle, grind the saffron threats into a ground and add hot water, stir and set aside.

Orange

  • Score the navel orange into quarters with a paring knife, approximately 1/8 inch deep. Peel the orange and remove as much as of the pith as possible. Thinly slice the orange peel into matchsticks.
  • Place the orange peel in a small saucepan with water and sugar, stir and bring to a gentle boil. Continue to simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes or until the water and sugar have cooked into a small amount of syrup. Set aside.

Chicken

  • In a large heavy pot, sauté the onions with 2 tablespoons ghee for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add turmeric, salt and pepper and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • In the same pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and saute the chicken pieces on medium-high heat for 5 minutes on each side. Return the onions to the pan, add 1 cup of water and mix well.
  • Cover and cook the chicken over low heat for 75-90 minutes until the chicken is completely tender. Be sure to turn the chicken over halfway and check for the liquid level. Add a small amount of water if necessary during the cooking, however keep in mind that the finished dish should not be watery.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, add the remaining 3 tablespoons of saffron water and stir. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

Carrots

  • In a medium sized frying pan, sauté the carrots over medium heat with ghee for about 5 minutes, add the orange peel and syrup and 3 tablespoons of saffron water and cook for an additional minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

Rice

  • Select a large heavy bottomed pot and bring 8 cups of water and salt to a boil, covered. Once boiling, add the rinsed rice and bring back to a boil on high heat uncovered for about 6-8 minutes, or until the rice has slightly softened. Drain the rice in a colander, rinse with warm water and set aside while you prepare the pan for the next stage of cooking.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons of ghee over low heat in the same heavy bottom pot. In a small bowl, gently mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 2 tablespoons of saffron-water and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy rice referred to as Tahdig.
  • Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the carrot mixture until all of the rice and carrots are layered in the pot. Wrap the lid with a clean towel and place on top of the pot. Allow the rice to steam over a medium-low to medium heat for 45-50 minutes.
  • Place the rice and carrot pilaf on a serving platter with the braised chicken arranged around the platter, garnish with pistachios on top and serve.
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