Barberry rice with rose petals

Barberry rice with rose petals

Zereshk polow

Mark Roper

Fresh barberries are mouth-puckeringly tart, but when dried, which is how they are sold in specialist Iranian or Middle Eastern stores, they add little bursts of sweet sourness to a dish – and they look like little rubies! This polow is especially good with roast or grilled chicken. The rose petals are not strictly traditional, but they look beautiful and their sweet perfume works well with the tart barberries.


Quantity Ingredient
75g dried barberries, stems removed
50g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon caster sugar
300g basmati rice
2 tablespoons sea salt
70ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon rosewater, or to taste
dried rose petals, to garnish, (optional)
2 tablespoons Saffron liquid


  1. Soak the barberries in cold water for 2 minutes, then drain and dry well. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the barberries and fry for 4–5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the sugar and saffron liquid and cook for another 3–4 minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Wash the rice thoroughly, then leave it to soak in a generous amount of lukewarm water for 30 minutes. Swish it around with your fingers every now and then to loosen the starch.
  3. Strain the rice, rinsing it again with warm water. Bring 2 litres water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the salt and stir in the strained rice. Return the water to a rolling boil and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Test the rice by pinching a grain between your fingers or by biting it. It should be soft on the outside, but still hard in the centre. Strain the rice and rinse again with warm water. Toss it several times to drain away as much of the water as you can.
  4. Return the rice saucepan to a medium heat and add the oil and 2 tablespoons water. As soon as the oil begins to sizzle, spoon in enough rice to cover the base of the pan in a thin layer. Scatter some of the barberries over the rice with a little of the buttery saffron liquid. Continue to layer the rice and the barberries, building them up into a pyramid. Use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke 5 or 6 holes down through the rice to the base of the pan to help it steam. Drizzle on 2 tablespoons warm water and any remaining melted butter. Wrap the saucepan lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pan as tightly as you can.
  5. Leave the pan on a medium–high heat for a 2–3 minutes until the rice is visibly steaming – you will see puffs of steam escaping from the edges of the pan. Turn the heat down to low and leave the pan alone for 40 minutes. Resist the temptation to peek, as this releases the steam and affects the cooking time. The rice can actually sit quite happily over the lowest possible heat for another 20 minutes or so.
  6. When ready to serve, sit the saucepan in a little cold water in the sink; the sudden change in temperature creates a surge of steam that ‘shocks’ the rice and makes it shrink from the sides, which loosens the crusty bottom.
  7. To serve, invert the pan onto a warm serving platter so that the rice plops out as one glorious, golden-capped mound.
  8. Serve with a sprinkling of rosewater and the rose petals, if using.
Middle Eastern
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