Friday, October 07, 2011

Of Oranges, Anise and Barberries AKA Zaresht Berries... (step by step recipe) .

This post brings together two of my favourite ingredients Citrus Zest which I wrote about in my HT column last month and Zaresht Berries, which featured in this months column.Its not a traditional recipe, it is my own creation, but when you cook and eat it you will agree that the two flavours complement each other sensationally! 

We drink Orange and use a lot of citrus juice, especially lime or lemon juice, which is not surprising when its ability to uplift even the most dismal dish is taken into account. But it tends to be a one-note wonder  - adding sourness alone. The most aromatic attribute  of Citrus – the skin – is usually discarded, taking the best part of the fruit with it. The rind or peel of Citrus is packed with maximum flavour thanks to volatile aromatic oils found in them, rich with floral, tangy tones against a background of slight, sophisticated bitterness. They are also pack amazing nutrition, being incredibly rich in valuable phytonutrients and vitamin C which makes them ideal to help the body absorb the iron and protein in dishes they are added to. Which is why I added it to this Chicken Pulao. 

The other big flavour in this recipe comes from Zaresht Berries, sour little crimson berriesBritania Cafe in Mumbai. Iran is however the largest producer of these berries, today, which are widely cultivated side by side with saffron on the same land and harvested simultaneously. (A factoid I find almost poetic since they are also both used in Zaresht Polov). Surprisingly, however, for an ingredient so widely cultivated the berry seems to have only one traditional culinary use  (that I can have been able to find so far) - this rice dish called Zeresht Polov, although there are many references to them being used in poultry and meat dishes and to make zereshk jam, zereshk juice, and zereshk fruit rolls. Which is sad, because  these berries are very underutilised. Not only do the pack a flavourful punch, they are also being discovered for their nutritional values, valued as a cleanser and digestive aid for eons, they are also extremely high in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants, which is perhaps why they are paired with a protein like chicken in the traditional Zaresht Polov. They are also purportedly preventative of cholesterol and ease arthritic pain.   best known as the topping on the Berry Pulao, made legendary by

These little jewels of flavour are extremely sour and tart. Available in their dried form these wrinkled little berries plump up to a glossy crimson when sautéed with onions and butter and burst between your teeth with a subtly sweet extremely sour flavour offering the perfect sour counterpoint to the sweetness of the orange.

Taste this and tell me how you go! 

Chop the Chillies. Zest and Garlic together so their oils blend.
Add Spice mix and Zest Mix to cleaned prepped chicken.
Heat ghee, add Star Anise and marinated chicken.
When chicken is 3/4 cooked add the orange juice.
Then add the vegetables and mix well.
Add the rice, mix well to coat and add the chicken stock and stir well.

Cook untill almost all the water has been absorbed by the rice, saute the berries in butter with chopped onion, and scatter this mixture over the rice. Cover and cook on a low flame. When you incover it you will be enveloped in a aromatic cloud of smoke.
Serve hot!
Orange and Anise Pulav with Zaresht Berries

Time: 1 hour; Serves: 4

400g chicken boneless breast meat, chopped into bite sized chunks
2 cups rice
2 tsp ghee
3-4 star anise-lightly roasted
2-4 whole dry red chillies (although here I used half of a fresh Naga Chilli)
5-6 peppercorns
1 onion-sliced thinly
1/2 cup shelled green beans cut diagonally for Pulao
1/2 cup carrots cut diagonally for Pulao
Zest of an orange
6 cloves Garlic
1 cup orange juice
3 cups stock
1/3 c Zaresht berries
1 small onion, chopped fine

Combine Zest and Garlic on a chopping board and chop fine. Mix well. Reserve so flavours can blend. Soak rice in water for thirty minutes. Meanwhile heat the saucepan. Add the star anise, chillies and peppercorns in and stir until toasty. Remove and pound coarsely. Reserve.In the same pan add 1 tsp ghee and add orange zest, garlic mixture and sauté until fragrant. Add chicken and sauté until opaque at the edges (about 2 minutes). Add the vegetables, pounded spice mix and stir fry till chicken is almost cooked. Add rice and stir to coat. Add orange juice, the stock and salt. Stir well and leave to simmer. Meanwhile in a small pan, heat remaining ghee and add chopped onion, sauté until it is beginning to brown. Add the zaresht berries and sauté until they plump up slightly. Be careful not to let them burn. By now your rice will have absorbed the water. When almost all the water has been absorbed, scatter onion-berry mixture over the surface
of the pulao and cover tightly. At this point you can leave it to finish cooking by itself or allow to cook on a slow flame for another 5 minutes so the rice at the bottom gets nice and crusty. Serve hot. 

GYAN and Links 
You will find Zaresht Berries at Royal Dry Fruits in Crawford Market. 

1 comment:

Saee Koranne-Khandekar said...

Sounds like something I would love. I could inhale those citrus flavors in the picture where you take off the lid! Where in Bombay do you think I can get the berries?