Tahchin is a Persian baked rice dish layered with buttery soft chicken and a gorgreous golden covering of saffron infused, spice scented rice. The long bake in the oven produces beautifully steamed fluffy rice with a crispy casing (Tahdig) that you will be fighting over.
Don’t be put off by the multiple steps. It is a really simple dish to create and the result is truly worth it.
FOR THE CHICKEN:
500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 ½ cups cold water
FOR THE RICE:
1 ½ cups uncooked basmati rice (I substituted ½ cup with Jasmine rice for added aroma)
3 TBSP plain low-fat yoghurt
1 large egg
Small pinch of saffron strands infused in a little hot water
1 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP butter
1 tsp Persian Rice Spice (see recipe below)
To cook the chicken: Add the skinless chicken pieces to a stockpot with a good lid that will not allow too much moisture loss. Add salt, pepper, the cut onion and 1 ½ cups water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until the chicken falls apart with a fork.
Remove the chicken from the stockpot and set aside to cool.
If there is more than 1 cup of broth in the stockpot, bring it to a boil and let it boil for 3-5 minutes, or until it is reduced to 1 cup. Turn off the heat, smash the cooked onions with a fork, pour the reduced broth into a medium bowl and set aside.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred into large chunks. Mix the meat with broth until it is well coated. Chill the meat and broth mixture in the refrigerator for at least 30-40 minutes, or until the broth solidifies. This step may be done up to 3-4 hours in advance.
To make the rice: A lot of recipes require you to wash the rice several times but I just place it straight into boiling salted water, stir to separate the grains and par-cook for about 5-7 minutes. Check one of the grains; it should be soft around the edges while still firm (not crunchy) in the centre. Drain and set aside.
To make the Tahchin: Preheat oven to 200C.
In a medium bowl whisk together 1 egg, yoghurt, 1 tsp Persian Rice Spice and the saffron. Stir in ½ of the par cooked rice and mix until all the rice is coated. Set aside
Add the oil and butter to a medium glass baking dish. Place the dish in the preheated oven 3-5 minutes, or until all the butter melts and starts sizzling. Watch very closely so the oil does not get too hot and smoky then transfer the baking dish to a heat proof surface. Swirl the butter all around the base and sides of the dish.
First layer:Add the rice and yoghurt mixture to the baking dish and spread evenly to cover the bottom of the dish. Sprinkle the rice layer with 1 tsp Persian Rice Spice.
Second layer:Stir the chilled chicken and broth well and arrange evenly on top to cover all of the rice layer.
Final layer:Add the rest of the rice on top of the chicken, press gently with the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with 1 tsp Persian Rice Spice.
Cover the baking dish with a sheet of heavy duty aluminium foil and seal the sides by pressing the aluminium foil to the dish. Use a sharp knife to cut one slit on each corner and then a few in the centre of the dish.
Bake on the lowest rack of the preheated oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the lowest portion of the sides of Tahchin are golden brown. Do not overbake; the bottom will bake darker than the sides. If the lower sides are not golden brown, return the Tahchin back to the oven and bake for another 7-10 minutes, or until it is golden brown.
Remove the baking dish from the oven, remove the aluminium foil. Run a knife along the sides of the baking dish to release the Tahchin. Place a large shallow baking sheet on top of the dish. Use oven gloves and hold both baking sheet and the glass dish and invert the Tahchin. Let the Tahchin sit on the counter for 10 minutes.
Use a serrated knife to cut the Tahchin into 4 equal pieces and serve with Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs), Torshi Sir (pickled garlic), cooling yoghurt and/or Salad Shirazi.
The Persian rice spiceis a blend of 5 spices with the main ingredient being the dried rose petal powder. You may find dried rose petals “gole sorkh” in most Middle Eastern supermarkets. It is the dried blossoms of a special species of wild rose that grows in Iran and is used for culinary purpose. However if you have a hard time finding it, no worries, the spice blend still tastes wonderful without this ingredient. I have cooked rice with a spice blend combining cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and cardamom and it turns out really delicious and fragrant.
4 TBSP ground cinnamon
2 TBSP cumin seeds
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom seeds
6 TBSP powdered rose petals (optional) (I didn’t include these)
Toast the cumin and cardamom seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until fragrant. Blend in a pestle and mortar until well ground. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and rose petals if using. Mix all the spices well. Place in a small airtight jar.
Take the flavours of the classic comfort food to new heights with this omurice with crab and curry sauce. Omurice is a Japanese favourite consisting of omelette covering a bed of fried rice slathered in sauce. This particular version involves a generous dose of rich and flavourful curry sauce that works perfectly with the fluffy omelette and veg and crab-filled fried rice inside.
½ onion, finely chopped
2 chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 crabsticks, chopped
50g cooked, cold jasmine rice
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp mirin
1 cube curry roux
150ml hot water
Fry the onion and mushrooms in a small saucepan over a medium heat for 5 minutes.
Add the rice, crabsticks and soy sauce. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. Remove from the heat.
Make the curry sauce by mixing the roux with hot water in a mug then microwave for 1-2 minutes until thickened to your liking. Set aside.
Whisk the eggs and mirin together in a small bowl.
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat. When the pan is hot, pour the eggs into the pan and quickly spread to cover the bottom of the pan.
Lower the heat and put the fried rice on top of the omelette. Fold both sides of the omelette toward the middle of the rice to cover.
When the eggs have cooked, cover the frying pan with a plate and carefully flip over to place the omurice on the plate. Serve the curry sauce over the omurice and sprinkle with chopped chives.
Arancini, named after the little oranges that these fried rice balls are said to resemble, are best known in the UK as a handy way to use up leftover risotto. You can use any risotto you have made, fill it with anything you like and coat it in what you fancy too.
I had leftover mushroom risotto, stuffed it with some chorizo and coated it in a sage and pistachio breadcrumb coating but you can use whatever you have or fancy.
Some ideas could include:
Risotto: Butternut and sage, chicken and bacon, saffron, tomato and basil
Take 1 heaped tsp of leftover risotto and flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand
Place a little of your filling in the centre and gently cup your hand to encase the filling within the risotto mix. Form into a compact ball and repeat until the risotto is used up.
Place the flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Coat the risotto balls in the flour, then in the egg and finally in the breadcrumbs.
Heat the oil in a pan over a high heat until it reaches about 180C or until you drop a few breadcrumbs in and they sizzle and turn golden.
Fry about 4 arancini balls at a time so the temperature of the oil does not drop as this will make the balls soggy. When they are deep golden brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Keep in a warm oven while you cook the rest.
Serve with a tomato sauce to dunk them into… and maybe a glass of wine too 😉
I recently went to a Japanese restaurant in London with my best mate and haven’t been able to stop eating Japanese food since. This is a recipe for a Japanese crispy fried chicken with a sauce made from a curry roux. This is an incredibly easy dish and an incredibly satisfying one with silky sauce to accompany crispy, juicy chicken.
The recipe serves 3 as I was raving about it so much that a couple of mates wanted in on the action too but the quantities are easily adjustable.
3 Chicken breasts, skinless & boneless
50g Plain Flour
100g Panko Breadcrumbs
1/2 Onion, finely chopped
3 chunks of curry roux (I used S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix)
Sunflower Oil for frying
Salt & Pepper
Cooked Jasmine Rice and chopped chives to serve
Butterfly the chicken breasts, cover with a sheet of cling film and flatten them out using a rolling pin until they’re about 1cm thick. Season both sides of each breast with salt then coat all over in the flour.
Beat the egg in a shallow dish and tip the breadcrumbs into another. Dip each piece of chicken in the egg then coat in breadcrumbs. Leave to one side whilst you make a start on the Katsu Curry sauce.
Add a tsp sunflower oil to a small pan and sweat the chopped onion until cooked through.
When the onions are cooked, add in the curry roux and a little bit of the hot water. Stir to dissolve the roux then gradually add the rest of the water and cook over a medium heat until the sauce has thickened.
Meanwhile, heat some sunflower oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. (Just short of enough to coat the base). Be a little patient with this, if you put your chicken in and the oil isn’t hot enough, the panko crumbs will likely go soggy.
Carefully add the prepared chicken into the pan and fry for about 5-7 minutes on each side or until golden and crispy. Remove from the pan onto a plate lined with some paper towels.
Now all your components are ready, it’s time to serve. Plate up some cooked rice, slice up the chicken and place on top. Then pour over as much of the katsu curry sauce as you like! You could even sprinkle over some chopped chives.
A good moussaka is a joy to behold with cinnamon spiced lamb mingling with aubergines and a delicious creamy sauce. It is something I’ve always wanted to make but never have until my friends and I decided to have a Greek night. Perfect chance. I don’t know why I’ve not made one before. It’s extremely comforting and flavourful and well worth the effort.
2 large aubergines, cut into ¼” / ¾ cm thick slices
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, grated
500 g lamb mince
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp plain flour
400g tinned plum tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato puree
1 cup chicken or lamb broth/stock, or water + 1 stock cube
1 tsp dried mint
2 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice (optional)
Lemon zest and juice (optional)
4 tbsp butter
5 tbsp plain flour
3 cups milk
¼ tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
⅓ cup panko or fresh breadcrumbs
Sprinkle the aubergines with salt and place them (stacked) in a large colander. Leave to sweat for 30 minutes, then brush off excess salt and pat dry with a paper towel.
Preheat oven to 200C. Lay the aubergine onto 2 large baking trays, brush with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until just softened. Remove and set aside to cool.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium high heat then cook the garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Add the lamb and cook, using the wooden spoon to break up the mince as you go. Add the flour and herbs and stir. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer, then cover, lower heat to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, using a whisk to keep it moving.
Add 1 cup of milk and whisk to combine. It will thicken quite quickly. Add the remaining milk. Whisk until smooth then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until it thickens so that it thickly coats the back of a wooden spoon.
Remove from the stove and whisk in cheese. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then whisk the eggs in.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Place half the filling in the bottom of a baking dish then half of the aubergine in a layer on top. Repeat the process with the remaining filling and aubergine.
Pour over the béchamel sauce, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and a little extra grated cheese and bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.
An authentic Palestinian bread from Jaffa that is served as a main meal along with a bowl of soup or a salad, this “Yafawi Sfeeha”, also known as “Milwayeh” which means twisted, is crispy yet fluffy and full of flavour.
The dough is a sort of un-yeasted bread dough that needs to be stretched out really thin, to the point where you can see through it, before adding the filling and rolling it up. The shaping technique takes a bit of practice to get right but you get the hang of it after you have done a couple.
The filling is traditionally meat based but I have chosen to make a cheese version using halloumi as that is what I had available. Feta would be great too.
small handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
fresh ground black pepper
Place the flour, salt, sugar, powdered milk and vegetable oil in a bowl and gradually add the water until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough. Turn out onto a work surface and knead for about 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 even pieces and shape into balls, place on a greased tray and cover with oiled clingfilm, leave to rest for at least a couple of hours and up to overnight.
Once the dough has rested make the filling, simply mix together the grated cheese, beaten egg and chopped parsley in a bowl with some freshly ground black pepper. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Grease a work surface and your hands well with olive oil or ghee; take one ball of dough and use your hands to gently spread it out on the oiled surface into a large, thin circle. You should be able to spread it out to about 25cm (10in) wide and it should be thin enough to see through.
Fold one side of the circle over the middle, then the other, so that the dough is almost folded into thirds.
Spread some of the filling along one edge of the dough, fold the closest side over the top of the filling then roll it up into a tight sausage; coil the sausage up in a spiral shape, place the bun on a baking tray.
Re-grease the work surface and your hands and repeat with the remaining balls of dough.
Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
The recipe is very loosely adapted from traditional Georgian versions but makes use of what I had in at the time. First, for a lack of Georgian cheese supplies, I used a more generic assortment of cheeses including parmesan and mozzarella, which yielded a satisfactory gooey-ness and savoury flavour. Instead of mixing them with egg before baking, as is traditional, I used a thick bechamel sauce because I thought it would be a nice change and provide a creamier filling. You can substitute the sauce for egg if you like or even crack one on top when baking! The added tapenade really gave the bread another depth of savouriness and flavour. Rip off the crust and dunk it into the gooey centre for ultimate yum!
Makes 4 large breads.
450g strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon caster sugar
2 x 7g sachets fast action dried yeast
300ml warm water
2 Tablespoons good olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp plain flour
¾ cup milk, cold
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
320g of equal parts of grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese
4-6 tbsp black olive tapenade (recipe in instructions)
For the dough: Place salt and flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar and yeast but do not let the yeast directly contact the salt.
Pour in the water and olive oil. Mix together with your fingers.
Work the dough into a soft warm ball then slap it onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until soft and elastic.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled, large bowl and lightly oil the dough itself so a crust does not form. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and leave in a warm place for about an hour until the dough has doubled in size.
For the filling: While the dough is proofing, cook/stir butter and flour in a pan over medium heat for 1 min. Add the cold milk and whisk the mixture continuously until it starts to simmer and thicken. The consistency should be like mayonnaise. Add the grated nutmeg then season with a bit of salt and black pepper. Let the sauce COOL COMPLETELY then evenly mix in the grated cheese (the cheese should not melt). Set aside.
If you’re making your own tapenade: In a food-processor, combine 155g pitted black olives, 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic, 3 anchovy fillets, 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar and 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Puree the mixture as smoothly as you can. Set aside.
To bake the bread:Preheat the oven on 250C, with a pizza-stone or large inverted cast-iron pan in the middle.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a large oval with pointy tips then transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Rub 1-2 tbsp of tapenade over the dough, then pile ¼ of the cheese-mixture across the middle. Fold the dough over to partially cover the cheese, then bring the 2 ends together and tuck the tips underneath itself, then pinch at the bottom so it sticks. Repeat with the others.
Slide the parchment with the bread on top, onto the pizza-stone or inverted cast-iron pan. Bake for 10 min until golden browned on all sides.