The traditional feast at Nowrooz consists of ash-e resht-e (for which you get get the recipe here), sabzi polo (rice with green herbs) and mahi (fish), either smoked (doodee) or fried white fish (sefeed).
I have never cared for the fried fish, and so in my own home, I'm only preparing smoked fish. This meal is the epitome of spring flavors to me... the bright, fresh greens in the rice with the salty taste of fish reminds me of a green field from whence you can smell the ocean air. It sounds hokey, but wait 'til you try it...
The fish itself we get from the Persian markets, and best I can tell, it's usually a smoked trout... I'll have to take a picture when I get home tonight and let you guess for me.
- 4 c. Basmati rice
- 4 tbsp canola oil
- 1 large piece lavash bread
- 1/2 c. scallion tops (greens only), washed & chopped fine
- 1 1/2 c. flat leaf parsley, washed & chopped fine
- 1 bunch (4-5 stalks) green garlic, washed but left whole
- 1 c. cilantro, washed & chopped fine
- 1 1/2 c. dill, washed & chopped fine
- Soak the rice in well-salted water for a few hours before cooking, changing the water once towards the end of the soak.
- Fill a large, heavy pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add a healthy pinch of salt.
- Add the rice (and the water it was soaking in), and bring it back up to a boil.
- Stir gently a couple of times, and keep an eye on the grains - as they begin to turn translucent on the ends, occasionally take one out and chew it - you're looking for something slight on the crunchier side of "al dente", but chewable.
- Drain the rice in a colander, and run some water over it to rinse off the excess salt.
- Add the oil to your pot, along with 1/2 cup of water or milk (to make tahdeeg), and lay the lavash bread on the bottom in one layer.
- Begin adding the rice and herbs into your pot, but "mounding" everything so that you have a pyramid of sorts at the end. You want to lightly "fluff" the herbs into the rice to incorporate as you go along. The garlic you want to lay about halfway through the mound in one or two layers as needed.
- With the handle of a wooden spoon, make a few holes around the mound of rice to create "steam vents"
- Wrap the lid of the pot in a clean kitchen towel and secure it, ensuring that the towel is well out of the way of any flame.
- Drizzle a couple of tablespoons water or oil over the top of the rice, and put the lid on (the towel will help absorb the steam so water doesn't drip back onto the rice).
- Cook on high heat for 5-8 minutes until you see steam, and hear a sizzling/crackling coming from the bottom of the pot.
- Reduce to medium, and cook for another 15-20 minutes, keeping an ear and nose on things - you don't want to smell smoke, but you do want to hear light crackling/popping.
- Finally, reduce again to medium-low, and cook a final 10-15 minutes. You'll know it's ready when you smell a "toastiness" from the tahdeeg on the bottom, and the top grains of rice are tender.
To serve, spoon the rice onto a large platter, reserving the garlic stems to garnish the top. Using a spatula, break up the tahdeeg into 1.5-2" pieces as best you can and serve on a separate platter, or around the base of the rice, if you have room on your serving platter.
Serve this with the fish, which you warm slowly in the oven, and narenj (bitter orange, which is actually tart-bitter). If you can't find narenj, lemons will do, though I would suggest meyer lemon for its more fragrant quality.