Rice pilaf layered with saffron carrots and candied orange peel.

Havij polo ba gusht

هویج پلو با گوشت

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 variety of rice pilaf dishes in Persian cuisine, there are probably 15 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 I tend to put saffron, cinnamon and rose water in mine. I also like mine on the sweeter side.

Freedom of choice!

Havij Polo ba Gusht

Rice pilaf layered with saffron carrots and candied orange peel with stewed lamb, beef or roasted chicken.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Soaking time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: beef, carrot, chicken, lamb, orange peel, rice, saffron
Servings: 4
Author: Omid Roustaei, The Caspian Chef

Ingredients

Carrots

  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter or olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 6 average sized carrots, julienned
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
  • 1 tablespoons rose water, optional
  • 1/2 cup candied orange peel. See notes for instruction
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar, adjusted to taste

Rice

  • 2 cups basmati rice, soaked for one hour
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for parboiling the rice (will be rinsed out)
  • 4 tablespoons ghee or butter or olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water

Instructions

  • In a frying pan, add 2 tablespoons of ghee and saute the onions over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
  • Add turmeric and saute for an additional minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of ghee to the same pan and saute the carrots on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  • Add cinnamon, rose water , candied orange and the caramelized onions, and gently mix over low heat. Remove from the heat, cover and allow to sit for 2 minutes.
  • In the meantime, rinse the soaked rice several times and bring 8 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil.
  • Add the rinsed rice and boil on high heat uncovered for about 6-8 minutes. The rice should still have some texture and density to it.
  • Drain the rice in a large colander and set aside while you prepare the pan.
  • Melt 2 tablespoons ghee in a non-stick pot over low heat. In a small bowl, mix 1 cup of the lightly cooked rice with 1 tablespoon of saffron-water mixture, gently mix and spread evenly in the bottom of the pot. This will be the crispy rice referred to as Tah-dig.
  • Begin by layering a 1/3 of the partially cooked rice and a 1/3 of the carrot mixture into the pot and repeat until all of the rice and carrots have been layered in the pot. Gently mix the rice mixture to create a uniform mixture.
  • Spread the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee and 1 tablespoon of saffron water evenly over the top of the rice.
  • 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 about 45 minutes.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Select a large tray or platter to place on top of the pan and carefully and swiftley invert the rice onto the platter.
  • Serve with your choice of stewed meat or roasted chicken arranged around the rice platter.

Notes

To make candied orange peel. Peel 2 oranges and cut into matchsticks.  Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of sugar, cover and cook over low heat for 15-20 minutes or until most of the liquid has been cooked off. 

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