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.
A kuchen is a cake-like dessert, very similar to a cheesecake, that has a soft dough crust and a topping of custard or cheese that contains berries or other fruits. I love this recipe for many reasons. There are no stray egg whites or yolks left to deal with when the cake is finished. What’s not used in the crust is used in the custard and that appeals to my “green” instincts. The cake, which can be made without a mixer, is very easy to do and has the added advantage of being low in fat and only moderately sweet. Best of all, it can be made with fresh or frozen berries of any type. Frozen berries will produce a creamier cake because of the liquid they exude as the cake bakes.
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1-1/2 cups plain low-fat or non-fat yoghurt
2 tablespoons plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 slightly beaten egg yolks
1 slightly beaten whole egg
1+1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form tin. If using frozen raspberries, thaw at room temperature for 15 minutes then drain.
In a medium mixing bowl stir together 1 cup flour, the first 1/2 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Add melted butter, 2 egg whites and first teaspoon of vanilla. Stir by hand until mixed.
Spread onto the bottom of the cake tin; sprinkle with berries. Set aside.
For the filling, place yoghurt in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flour. Add remaining sugar, yolks, whole egg, zest and remaining vanilla. Mix until smooth then pour over berries.
Bake for about 55 minutes or until the centre appears set when shaken gently. Cool for 15 minutes then remove sides of pan. Cover and chill until serving time, up to 24 hours. If you are feeling brave, you can remove the pan bottom. I wasn’t feeling brave. Transfer to a serving plate.
Credit to my amazing friend, Jess, for this little gem. Instead of getting down about the depressing English weather, we laughed in its face, pinched a recipe from a cook book in a shop, bought lots of lemons and whipped up a tasty treat for everyone to enjoy!
Tuck in to a slice of this quick and easily mixed lemon cake. You just need a bowl and a wooden spoon and you can be enjoying delicious cake and a cuppa in a no time. The sponge has a bright yellow crumb with a moist texture from the light olive oil and tangy flavour thanks to the inclusion of thick creamy yoghurt and lemon zest. While the cake is still hot, a lemon and yoghurt glaze is added to give a shiny finish with a slight crunch.
As a general rule of thumb when adding glazes to cake it is helpful to remember this top tip: add hot glaze to cooled cakes and cold glaze to hot cakes. The glaze is absorbed better this way and permiated the sponge to add more depth of flavour.
Makes 1 x 450g loaf tin or 1 x 8″ loose-bottom round cake tin
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
good pinch of salt
50g ground almonds
200g caster sugar
finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
125ml Greek-style yoghurt
125 ml mild light olive oil
For the lemon glaze:
100g icing sugar, sifted
finely grated zest of 1 large lemon
1-2 Tbsp Greek-style yoghurt
Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line your chosen tin with greaseproof paper and margarine. Measure the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds into a mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest then ake a well in the mix.
Combine the eggs, yoghurt and oil in a measuring jug and beat well with a fork until well mixed. Pour into the well in the bowl then beat everything together with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
Scrape the mixture into the prepared tin, spreading evenly amd making sure the corners are well filled (if using a loaf tin).Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes if using a round sandwhich tin or 55-60 mintes if using a loaf tin. The cake should be well risen and a deep golden brown colour. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Towards the end of the baking time make the lemon glaze so it will be ready when you need it.Sift the icing sugar into a bowl. Mix in the lemon then stir in enough yoghurt to make a smooth, shiny glaze with the consistency of double cream. If your yoghurt is particularly thick, add a squeeze of lemon juice to loosen.
As soon as the cake is ready, remove fro the oven and set the tin on a wire rack. Leave the cake to firm up for 5 minutes. Run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the loaf/cake then carefully lift it out onto the wire rack. Place a plate underneath the rack to catch drips. Spoon the glaze over the hot cake letting the glaze slowly drip down the sides. Leave until the cake is cold and the glaze has set.
Serve cut in thick slices. Store in an airtight container and eat within 4 days. The flavours and aromas will be even more pronounced a day or so after baking.
Some meals just demand bread. For me, the idea of a barbecue without bread is like a celebration without champagne. Bread has the ability to “wrap” and hold the flavours and juices of grilled vegetables and meats so well: very helpful when the dry heat of the grill or oven has evaporated moisture from the flesh. To counteract that, the use of a sauce, such as yoghurt and mint, plus a swaddling with a bread wrap will rescue your meat or veg from drying further.
This is a long dimpled spongey flatbread that’s a little like Iranian barbari bread. I’ve packed it with yoghurt to boost the flavour, helping it to colour ultra-fast in the oven and so keeping it soft. Give yourself 2-3 hours and drape a dry cloth over it while it cools to keep it soft.
Makes 2 large flatbreads.
175g low-fat yoghurt
250ml warm water
7g sachet fast-action yeast
400g strong white flour
100g wholemeal or spelt flour
2 tsp salt
Olive oil, for kneading and shaping
Nigella seeds, to finish
Put the yoghurt in a bowl, add the warm water (very warm if the yoghurt is fridge-cold) and stir until smooth. Mix in the yeast, then let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve.
Add the two flours and salt, then mix evenly to a very sticky dough. Cover the bowl, leave for 10 minutes then rub oil on a worktop and scrape the dough out on to it. Oil your hands well, then fold the dough in on itself about 6-8 times and put it back in the bowl, cover and leave for 30 minutes.
Oil the worktop again, lift the dough on to it then dimple it out into a rectangle. Fold the dough in by thirds then place it back in the bowl. After another 30 minutes, repeat this stretch and fold, then return the dough to the bowl and leave for another 30 minutes.
Place the dough back on the oiled worktop and with a dimpling action stretch it out into a rectangle. Cut the dough in half then fold the edges of each dough piece inward so they form neat rectangles. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper, then flip the dough pieces on to it so they sit side by side. Don’t worry that they don’t fill the tray yet as we’ll fix that later. Leave the dough uncovered for 30 minutes, and heat the oven to 180C fan.
To bake, stretch the dough pieces out by getting your fingers right underneath each rectangle and pulling them outwards. Oil the top of the dough, and run 3 or 4 fingers over the length of each rectangle so grooves form, then sprinkle lightly with seeds. Leave to rise another 15 minutes then bake for about 25 minutes until golden.
To serve, leave to cool then slice the dough lengthways and serve with grilled meat and a little yoghurt mixed with fresh chopped mint.
You can make this in advance and leave it to marinate in the fridge. It will only taste better the longer you leave it. The mix of spices permeate and tenderise the chicken resulting in a massive flavour punch in each bite.
The chicken can be served hot with naan and rice or cold with salad. As you can see from the picture, I served mine with Bombay potatoes (recipe included) and garlic and coriander flatbreads (see earlier post). Unfortunately my salad options were vastly limited hence the random two tomatoes you see. I also made a quick raita with cucumber and mint as the freshness is lovely against the other bold flavours on the plate.
Tandoori Chicken (serves 2)
1 pack of chicken joints (I used drumsticks)
1 tsp salt
Juice of half a lemon
½ inch cube of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 fresh green chilli, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp chopped coriander leaves
75g/3oz thick set natural yoghurt
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp tomato purée
Remove skin from the chicken and cut each piece into two. With a sharp knife, make 2-3 slits in each piece. Rub salt and lemon juice into the chicken pieces and set aside for half an hour.
Meanwhile, put the ginger, garlic, green chillies, coriander leaves and the yoghurt into a blender and blend until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend again.
Pour and spread the marinade all over the chicken and in the slits. Cover and leave to marinade for 6-8 hours or overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 240C. Line a roasting tin with foil and arrange the chicken pieces in it. Place the tin in the centre of the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, turning the pieces over carefully as they brown and basting with juice in the roasting tin.
Remove from the oven and serve hot or cold.
Bombay Potatoes (serves 2)
approx 8 Charlotte potatoes
1 tsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp oil
1 green chilli, finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
Small bunch of spring onions, sliced
½ tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Onion Seeds
1 tsp Ground Coriander
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
3 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Fresh or tinned tomatoes (optional)
Boil the potatoes in water until tender. Drain well.
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium high heat. When really hot add chilli and cook for 30 seconds until brown.
Add the garlic, the spring onions, garam masala, ground coriander, fennel seeds, turmeric and onion seeds, and cook until the spring onions go slightly tender.
Now add the potatoes and cook for a further 5-7 minutes on a medium low heat. If using tomato, add it at this point. Slightly crush the potatoes in the pan so they take on all the lovely spices. Add a drop of water if it looks too dry.
Add Lemon juice, fresh coriander and salt and pepper to taste and serve.