This is a traditional Persian dish cooked all year long; however, during glorious spring days, it is served to bring in the celebration of our Persian New Year. This healthy meal is satisfying, full of flavor, and easy to prepare.
Fresh spring herbs such as parsley, chives, cilantro, dill and fenugreek are the collective herbs (sabzee) producing a heavenly fragrance to accent the rice (polo). Served aside the rice is traditionally fried fillets of white fish (mahee). However, here in southern California, it is really hard to find white fish that is not frozen; therefore, my mother substitutes trout which is abundantly fresh and flavorful. Most likely, Persian will also prepare for New Years, kookoo sabzee to be served along with this fish and rice dish to complete the decadence of herbs and eggs for our celebrations of spring.
The aroma combination of fresh herbs, rice and fish always takes me back to my childhood. My mother’s pride was evident on her face while serving our portions. Finding the freshest herbs and fish to prepare for her family a wholesome meal inspires me. This was her way to serve those she loves. No wonder I have an abundant affinity for cooking; for me it is the greatest expression of love.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
4 cups basmati rice- rinsed in cold water
1 lb. fresh parsley- rinsed and finely chopped (leaves and stems)
1 lb. Iranian chives (tareh) or green onions- rinsed and finely chopped
½ lb. fresh cilantro- rinsed and finely chopped (leaves and stems)
½ lb. fresh dill- rinsed and finely chopped (leaves and stems)
1 tsp. dry fenugreek leaves- crushed
5 cloves of garlic- minced
6-8 individual sized fresh trout fillets
1 tablespoon salt blended with ½ tsp ground black pepper and 1 tsp crushed, dry angelica powder
1 cup flour
½ tsp saffron (mixed with ¼ cup hot water; once cooled mixed with ½ cup canola oil)
In a large pot bring to boil rice, 10 cups of cold water and 1 tsp of salt. Bring heat down to medium and stir rice and cook until almost ‘al-dente’. Immediately add all herbs (parsley, chives, cilantro, dill, and fenugreek) and garlic. Give it a good, gentle stir until rice and herbs blend and remove from heat and pour into a rice strainer (thin holes so the rice and herbs do not escape). Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.
In the same pot, add ½ cup each water and canola oil. With a large spatula lightly spoon the rice back into the pot. Puncture 3 holes in the rice mound to allow hot air to escape from the bottom of the pot to the top. Place a large paper towel on the lid (carefully securing to not catch fire from the flames) and cover pot to capture steam. Heat rice over medium high heat for 5 minutes until you hear the rice crackling, and then reduce heat to low to cook for 40-45 minutes.
Meanwhile place a large frying pan with 1 cup of canola oil over medium low heat. Using your hands, sprinkle over the fish the salt, pepper and angelica powder mixture. In a flat dish place one cup of flour and pat fillets over the flour to gently cover. Then carefully place the fish in hot oil to fry until golden (approximately 6-8 minutes each side). Flip the fish over to cook evenly on both sides. Remove from oil and place over paper towel to absorb oil and keep warm until ready to serve with the rice.
Once the rice is cooked, spoon over a large platter and don’t forget to serve the ‘tahdeeg’ (literal translation ‘bottom of the pot’) which is the most delicious crunchy part of the rice. Pour saffron mixture over the top of the rice evenly coating all areas. Using a spoon, fluff the rice in order for the saffron sections to blend into other sections of the rice.
Serve immediately with fish.
Happy New Year!