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January 2008
Persian Saffron-Dill Pilaff with A Potato Tah-Dig (Crust)
Marlena Spieler

Persian Saffron-Dill Pilaff with A Potato Tah-Dig (Crust)

By: Marlena Spieler

Serves: 4

This recipe for buttery rice, encrusted with a layer of crisp potatoes, all infused with saffron and studded with dill, is from my newly published Yummy Potatoes! (Chronicle Books, December 2007). It is available at books for cooks, amazon, etc.
This dish of potatoes and rice was prepared by my brother's mother-in-law, Naima, when we came for Sunday lunch, as my then-little daughter loved it so! Naima would give her the biggest crunchiest hunk of tah-dig, that crisp crust from the bottom of the pan, an edible token of affection for the child.
Cooking rice the Persian way - first boiling, then draining and rinsing off the starch, then layering with flavourings and steaming - results in a rice that is fluffy, light, fragrant. The rice from the bottom of the pan becomes crispy and crunchy, and is called tah-dig. This traditional variation uses potatoes instead which turn buttery crisp at the bottom of the pan, whilst their moisture helps keep the rice light and succulent.


250g long grain rice
4-6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large potato (jacket size) or 2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and sliced
very very thinly (use a mandoline, food processor, or just slice thinly
with French (chefs') knife)
2-3 large pinches of saffron threads
Salt as desired
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh dill


1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the rice and boil for about 5 minutes or until the rice kernels are not quite cooked through: bite into one - the core of the grain should be a little crunchy. Drain and rinse in cold water, then drain and rinse again. Set aside.
2. In a wide-bottomed heavy nonstick saucepan heat about half of the butter. Working in one layer at a time, lightly sauté the potato slices, removing them and setting them aside as they begin to go translucent.
3. When all the potato slices are tender, arrange the layers on the bottom of the saucepan, coming up the sides about a quarter of the way. Sprinkle with a pinch of saffron and salt, then add about a third of the rice.
4. Dab with about a third of the remaining butter, then a sprinkling of saffron and dill, and repeat: rice, saffron, salt, dill, and butter, ending with the butter.
5. Cover the top of the saucepan tightly with a clean cloth, then place a heavy, tight fitting lid on top of that.
6. Heat over medium-low heat without disturbing the rice, and cook gently, letting the potatoes brown a bit and the rice finish cooking in its own steam, for about 10 minutes. Do not let the potatoes burn.
7. Remove from the heat and let sit for a further 10 minutes or so. Unmould onto a platter. If the potato tah-dig comes out easily in one disc, that is wonderful, but if it doesn't that is fine too - simply cut the potato crust into pieces and serve along with the rice.

© Recipe copyright 2008 Marlena Spieler


Author: Marlena Spieler Email:

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