Baghali polo or Persian dill rice is a fragrant and fluffy rice dish that pairs the pleasant flavors of dill, basmati rice and saffron with plump soft broad beans. All topped with a delightfully crunchy golden crust.
Boil 10 cups of water with 2 tbsp salt in a cooking pot. Add basmati rice and lima beans. Boil at medium high to high heat for 4 to 5 minutes until rice grains are soft. Stir the rice while it is cooking. Drain rice in a colander and set aside.
Potato crust (optional): Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil or butter in oven proof dish such as Pyrex baking dish. Spread the oil or butter evenly and sprinkle half the salt, pepper and coriander/cumin seeds (if using).Next arrange the medium thick potato slices. Then sprinkle the rest of salt, pepper and cumin.
Spread a layer of rice and beans, followed by sprinkling a thin layer of dill weed. Mix the grated garlic and chives and sprinkle some of it.
Assemble the dill rice by making several alternating thin layers of rice, lima beans, dill weed and sprinkles of the garlic-chives mixture.
Finally top it with a rice layer. Pour 4 tbsp olive oil or melted butter all over and then sprinkle the saffron water.
Cover with a sheet of aluminum foil and seal well. Bake for an hour or more until steam builds up well. If making the crust (tahdig) it should be golden.
Transfer the baking dish from the oven and let it rest a few minutes. Take some scoops of the top layer of saffron colored rice and set it aside for garnish.
When the steam has released a little, gently mix the top layers of rice and dill and plate it on a serving dish. Arrange the potato slices all around and sprinkle the saffron rice for garnish.
Persian baghali polo goes well with a yogurt salad such as Persian yogurt dip with shallots.
You can make this same recipe in a cooking pot on stove or in a rice cooker (see the blog post and notes below).
Dill preparation: Rinse the dill and spin it through a salad spinner. Spread it out on an absorbent kitchen towel and cover with another towel. Allow the moisture to absorb very well for several hours or overnight. Now the dill weed will be much easier to chop finely and you will have fresh dill that is easy to sprinkle it evenly over the rice, without being clingy.
Rinse the basmati rice several times, until the water is clear and not starchy.
When boiling the rice in the method used here, make sure to watch the time (4 to 5 minutes) and the rice should be soft at the tips and have a white dot in the center. It should still hold its shape well.
Stove top: Use a non stick cooking pot or a conventional heavy bottomed pot. Arrange the rice and dill layers in the form a pyramid, which helps to create a crust.
Rice crust: Mix couple big scoops of cooked rice with 2 to 3 tbsp yogurt, 2 tsp of saffron water and spread a thick layer evenly over the oil or butter in the bottom of the dish. Tip: Adjust the rice-yogurt mixture used according to the size of the pot used.
Flavor and Ingredient Substitutes and Enhancements:
You can use rose water to dissolve the saffron instead of plain water for a subtle flavor, if you prefer.
You may sprinkle 1/2 tsp cumin between rice layers or add couple of split cardamom pods to the rice when it is boiling (discard pods later).
You could use 4 tbsp chopped green garlic instead of garlic + chives.
If you want to give a brighter color to the lima beans, you can boil them separately with 1/4 tsp of turmeric.
You may use fresh, frozen or dried fava beans instead of lima beans. The beans need to be shelled. The dried beans need to be soaked overnight.
Make Ahead: You can have the chopped dill ready the day before. The dill rice freezes beautifully. Just thaw and reheat it.
Grind the saffron threads using a mortar and pestle into a fine powder. Tip: Adding a pinch of sugar to the saffron is helpful to grind it fine.
Check the full blog post above for more variations.
Nutrition Facts: No salt or potato crust included.