Members' Recipes Archive

August 2000
Tahcheen-zereshk (Rice with barberries and chicken)
Margaret Shaida

Tahcheen-zereshk (Rice with barberries and chicken)

By: Margaret Shaida

ONE of the favourite parts of any Iranian rice dish is the "tahdeeg", the crusty bottom of the rice. In the recipe below (my personal favourite of all the wonderful Persian rice dishes), the tahdeeg crowns the dish -- is indeed the major part of it. I think that the essence of this dish lies in the perfect balance of its simple ingredients. The golden saffron rice is scattered with the piquant ruby-coloured barberries. Served with chicken lightly poached in onion and flavoured with saffron, it makes a very elegant and typically Persian dish. Do be sure to use a good Basmati rice. Barberries are available from any Iranian store -- called zereshk in Persian. Excellent Iranian saffron is also available from these stores, and is usually very much cheaper than in local supermarkets.

As with so many Iranian rice dishes, this is ideal for entertaining. It can be assembled earlier in the day for an evening meal, so you have only to dish up when your guests arrive. The one disadvantage in the summer is that it needs to be cooked in a very hot oven for two hours! You will need a 2 litre clear pyrex bowl or casserole. If you don't have a rice colander, use a large fine-weave fruit basket.


600 grams/1.5 lbs basmati rice
4 dessertspoons salt
20 saffron pistils
60 grams/2 oz dried barberries
half a teaspoon sugar
2 small pot grams plain yoghurt
2 medium eggs
100 ml oil
3 oz butter
4-6 chicken breasts
2 medium onions
Salt and pepper


  1. Wash the rice, cover with water with two dessertspoons salt and leave to soak for a least three hours (preferably overnight). Grind the saffron into a powder, add hot water sufficient to make a rich golden colour.
  2. Clean and wash the barberries, leave to soak in a water for a few minutes. Strain, then fry briefly in a little butter, stirring constantly, add the sugar and a teaspoonful of liquid saffron. Stir and remove from heat. Beat the two eggs into the yoghurt, add a teaspoonful or two of liquid saffron and salt and pepper.
  3. If you are going to cook the dish straight away, light the oven and set at 200 degrees C.
  4. Bring the rice to a rapid boil in well salted water until almost cooked, but not soft (al dente). Strain immediately, rinse with cold water, then lightly toss in the colander to remove excess water. Stir a skimmer of rice into the egg and yoghurt.
  5. Pour the oil in to the 2-litre bowl, then add the egg/yoghurt/rice mixture. Add some more rice, and spread the eggy rice up the sides of the bowl. Keep turning the bowl, drawing up the eggy rice round the sides of the bowl, and adding white rice into the centre. Sprinkle the barberries into the centre of the rice, in layers with the white rice, making sure that they don’t penetrate to the sides. Level the rice off and cover with foil. This can be left for several hours before cooking.
  6. Place into the centre of the oven, and cook for two hours at 200 degrees C, turning in the middle to ensure an even colour all round.
  7. In the meantime, grate the two onions into a saucepan. Cut the chicken breasts into three filets each and mix in with the onions. Add a little water (three tablespoons or so), salt and pepper, and cook on a low heat until tender (about half an hour). Remove from heat, and add the remaining liquid saffron. Stir and keep warm until ready to serve.
  8. When the rice is a deep golden, take out of the oven, remove the foil, spread the butter over the rice and replace the foil. Leave for five minutes. Then turn out onto a warmed dish. Serve with the saffron chicken on the side.
  9. A green salad with a dressing of lemon juice and oil, scattered with pomegranate seeds is a pretty (though not necessary) accompaniment.
© recipe copyright 2000 Margaret Shaida


Author: Margaret Shaida Email:

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