Persian Recipes

(See previous post.)  Try these luscious, exotic recipes at home.  Some are traditional and some are Persian by inspiration but thoroughly modern in execution.

Persian Grilled Quail

recipe from Mark Ainsworth

Serves four people


4 quail

Pinch of saffron

1 cup boiling water

Fresh lime juice from 4 limes (about 2 ounces of juice)

2 ounces olive oil

salt & pepper to taste


Put the saffron in the super-hot water and leave it for an hour to infuse, allowing it to completely cool to room temperature.

Mix the infused water with the lime juice, then add the olive oil.  Whisk right before adding the quail.

Rinse and damp-dry the quail and put them in the saffron-lime mixture for 15-20 minutes but no longer, since the acid in the limes can “cook” the meat.

Remove from mixture, add salt & pepper to taste and put on pre-heated grill.  Cooking time should be 1-3 minutes per side, depending on the grill and the desired degree of doneness.

Option:  Unskinned chicken parts can be substituted for quail.  Grill following the usual recommended times for chicken.


Shirin Polo (Persian sweet rice)

Recipe from Parnian Kaboli

Some recipes for this mainstay dish at Persian weddings include sugar but Kaboli’s family recipe does not.  The sweetness comes from the sweetened orange zest and dried fruit.

Serves 4-5 people.


2 cups basmati rice

4 teaspoons salt (optional)

¼ cup vegetable oil (optional)

15 saffron threads (preferably Iranian saffron*)

1 stick unsalted butter  (½ stick for cooking nuts; the rest is optional but is often poured over the dish to increase flavor)

1 orange (to be used for zest)

½ cup slivered almonds

½ cup slivered or chopped pistachios

1/3 cup dried cranberries and/or raisins, currants or zereshk*


-To make orange zest, peel the orange while eliminating as much of the white pith as possible. Cut the zest into very thin slices. Soak the zest in water for an hour to remove bitterness, drain and cook with an equal volume of sugar for a few minutes with just enough water to dissolve the sugar.

– Rinse the rice a few times and drain, then soak rice in 4 cups of water and 4 teaspoons of salt for 2 hours to help the rice cook faster. However, this soaking step can be eliminated to speed up the process.  If so, add 1 teaspoon salt to rice.

– Partially boil the rice until the grains start to soften when squeezed between two fingers but are still firm at the core. This should take about 10 minutes if the rice has been pre-soaked or 15 minutes otherwise.

– Drain the rice in a colander and pour 2 cups of cold water over the rice and drain again. This step will remove some of the starch, thus reducing stickiness. A Persian rice dish, unlike some Japanese and Chinese rice recipes, is supposed to be fluffy with separate individual grains.

– While the rice is being steamed (see below):

– Pulverize the saffron in a mortar & pestle, then add about 1/8 cup lukewarm water to the mortar and let the saffron soak.

– Sautee the nuts for 3 minutes at medium heat in ½ stick of butter, add the fruit and cook for an additional minute. Add the zest, stir and remove from heat.

-Persians like their rice to have a crusty bottom (tah dig) by cooking the rice longer with oil.  To include this optional step, pour the ¼ cup of oil in the bottom of a non-stick pan, add the rice plus ¼ cup of water, cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 15-20 minutes after steam becomes visible.  Test a few grains and if they are cooked, remove from heat.  The crusty bottom rice is traditionally served separately.

– (Optional) Melt ½ stick of butter and hold.

– After the rice is cooked, mix about 1/3 cup of the cooked rice with the saffron mixture until uniformly orange in color.

–  Mound the remaining warm cooked rice on a warmed platter.  Put the saffron rice on top of the white rice and pour any remaining saffron liquid across the top. Warm up the zest, nuts and dried fruit and sprinkle them on top. If including, slowly pour the melted butter across the top of the rice and serve. Many Persians include cooked poultry inside the mound of rice, in which case, some butter is replaced with cooking juices (see below).

Optional:  For a complete meal, chicken breast or quail can be added.  Persians put cooked deboned pieces of chicken or whole quail inside the cooked rice, under the saffron rice and toppings.   The poultry should be cooked in broth with salt and a little powdered saffron until tender. The remaining broth can be mixed with the melted butter that is poured over the finished dish if a more moist rice is desired. In this case, the amount of butter can be reduced.

* available at Middle Eastern markets. Zereshk needs to be washed carefully and soaked for ten minutes, then drained.


Khoresh-e Fesenjoon ba Jujeh (Pomegranate Stew with Chicken)

Recipe from Faz Poursohi

Serves 4.


2  large onions, peeled and thinly sliced

2  lbs. skinless chicken parts (preferably legs and thighs but breast can be included)

5 tbsp. oil or unsalted butter

1 tsp. salt

½ cup pomegranate paste* or pomegranate molasses dissolved in 2 ½ cups water, or 4 cups fresh squeezed pomegranate juice or Pom Wonderful (or other pomegranate juice)

1 large quince

½  lb. or 2 cups shelled walnuts

½  tsp. cinnamon

¼  tsp. ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp. hot water

2  tbsp. sugar (optional)

Seeds removed from a whole pomegranate or packaged pomegranate seeds


  1. In a Dutch oven, brown onions and chicken in 4 tablespoons of the oil or butter.  Add 1 tsp. salt.
  2. Wash but do not peel the quince.  Core quince, using an apple corer, cut into quarters and remove seeds. Cut into wedges.
  3. Brown quince in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil or butter in a skillet for about 10 to 15 minutes, until golden brown.  Set aside.
  4. In a food processor, finely grind the walnuts; add the diluted pomegranate paste or molasses or juice, cinnamon, saffron water and mix well to create a creamy paste.
  5. Add the quince and nut paste to the Dutch oven, stirring gently.  If the pomegranate paste is too sour, add 2 tbsp. sugar.  Cover and simmer for 1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent the nuts from burning.
  6. If the stew is too thick, add warm water to thin it.  Taste the sauce and adjust for seasoning and thickness.  The stew should be sweet according to your taste.  Add pomegranate paste to sour the taste of the stew or sugar to sweeten it.
  7. Transfer the stew from the Dutch oven to a deep ovenproof casserole.  Cover and place in a warm oven until ready to serve with chelow (saffron steamed rice) or cooked rice (basmati rice is recommended).  Just prior to serving, sprinkle 2 tbsp. fresh pomegranate seeds on top of khoresh.

NOTE: Other meats such as duck, lamb, meatballs, etc., can be substituted for chicken.

* available in Persian and Middle Eastern markets


Chilled Eggplant and Dried Lime Soup

Recipe from Scott Cooper

Serves 6.

For the soup:

2 pounds small Japanese or Italian eggplants

2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, preferably homemade

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 each dried limes *

For the garnish:

1 small eggplant

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon sour grape juice *

1/4 cup yogurt

Optional: sprigs of herbs such as tarragon, persian mint, persian chive/leek, shahi (watercress), etc. *


–  Set aside one eggplant for the garnish.  Prick the remaining eggplants with the tip of a small knife in several places and cook under a broiler until well charred on the outside and soft on the inside, turning once or twice during the cooking.  The eggplants should be charred and black on the outsides similar to the process of roasting peppers, this should take about 10 to 15 minutes depending on your particular oven.

– Set the charred  eggplants aside until they are cool enough to handle.  Cut the eggplants in half and use a spoon to scrape the pulp from inside and discard the charred peel.

– Cut the dried limes into three or four pieces and place them in a blender with the stock, olive oil and eggplant pulp and puree until smooth.  Strain, season with salt to taste and refrigerate until well chilled.

–  Meanwhile, slice the reserved eggplant into thin rounds and sprinkle them with a teaspoon of salt and set aside for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, cook the salted eggplant slices in boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds and then strain and immediately plunge into ice water to stop the cooking process.

– Remove the eggplant slices from the ice water and gently dry them with a towel and then season them with the honey, sour grape juice and a little salt if needed.

–  Divide the soup among six bowls and place a spoonful of yogurt in the center of each bowl.  Place the eggplant garnish next to the yogurt and garnish as desired with the herbs.

* can be found at Middle Eastern markets

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