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 spice is 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.