Welcome to my recipe remix series. This series is inspired by my love and appreciation for cuisines from around the world, and my passion to recreate traditional recipes at home.
What is Tahdig?
Here we have tahdig biryani. Tahdig is a Persian speciality that means ‘bottom of the pot’ in Farsi. This dish is a rice dish that is cooked with saffron infused water, butter and yoghurt, then caramelized for 45 minutes to create a beautiful crispy bottom in the shape of the cooking pot.
Upon serving, the pot is flipped over, so the golden rice sits at the top of the mountain of fully, saffron infused basmati rice. Just like biryani, there are many variations of this dish throughout the country, sometimes vegetables like potatoes are added at the bottom of the pot as well. That turns out gorgeous too as the potatoes crisp up with that saffron sheen.
I’ve merged this traditional Iranian speciality with a traditional Indian speciality: Biryani.
What is Biryani?
Biryani is an Indian spiced rice often cooked with chicken or lamb. There are so many variations of this dish and it differs from state to state. It’s very similar to how tahdig is made, in terms of steaming the par boiled rice, and letting the rice sit over a long simmer for the beautiful aromas to infuse into the rice.
However, the biggest difference between the two is that biryani is made with an onion tomato masala. The first step is to sauté the traditional Indian spices like star anise, bay leaf, cardamom, and cloves in ghee. Thereafter, turmeric, red chilli, cumin seed powder and coriander powder along with a range of other masalas are added along with some meat or veggies. The last step would normally be adding the par boiled rice to the spicy mixture and letting it fully cook through steaming.
Sometimes, whole wheat dough is added to completely seal the pot to ensure no steam escapes, and all the flavour is secure inside. I’ve created a simplified vegetarian version of biryani cooked with spices. tomatoes, onions, peas and potatoes.
I originally wanted to recreate tahdig at home, because it was such a gorgeous looking dish. However, knowing that both recipes include flavoured rice, I thought why not merge the two!
The end result was divine. This is something you need to try to make at home if you’re a culinary explorer like myself. The technique and patience needed to make this will surprise you.
A few tips before you make this…
- You need a really good nonstick pot to make this or else your rice will literally stick to the bottom of the pot.
- The rice needs to be soaked for a good 20-30 minutes in warm, salted water before you cook it. This will help cook the rice evenly.
- I’ve mixed saffron with water, then added that to melted butter, then added that to full fat greek yoghurt, and finally added that to 1 cup of the parboiled rice. This yoghurt, saffron, butter rice mixture tastes much better than just using saffron water when making this (in my opinion 🙂
- The temperature of the pot matters. When first cooking the crispy layer, you need to add a generous amount of oil and butter, over high heat, then place the yoghurt mixture over it. Let that crisp up for a few minutes before adding the biryani and turning the heat to a very low fire.
- Poking holes through the pot of rice will help make way to add some extra saffron water, and butter to ensure the bottom turns crispy. I used a chopstick to do this.
If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below!
- 1 pestle and mortar
- 1 Meyer chefs pan Spark Collection
- 1 Meyer saucepan Spark Collection
For the tahdig
- 20 saffron strands
- 1/4 tsp rock salt
- 1 tbsp water
- 2 tbsp butter 2 tbsp measured when not melted, then melt this up.
- 1.5 cups basmati rice this needs to be soaked in hot water mixed with 1/4 tsp of salt for 15-20 minutes
- 1/2 cup full fat Greek yoghurt
For the biryani
- 1 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 star anise
- 3 cloves
- half Ceylon cinnamon bark
- 5 cardamom pods
- 1/4 tsp jeera seeds (cumin seeds)
- 1/2 purple onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 1 tsp ginger grated
- 1 green chilli minced
- 1 fresh tomato chopped
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cumin powder
- 1/4 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- sprinkle of pepper
- sprinkle of hing
- sprinkle of chilli powder
- 2 small potatoes diced
- 1/2 cup green peas
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
For the rice
- Drain the soaked rice and add it to the Meyer saucepan. Fill the saucepan with triple the amount of water, and let it reach a boil.
- Once the boiling pot of rice reaches a bubble, turn the heat down to medium fire. Keep checking if the rice has been partially cooked. If not, keep boiling the rice until it reaches 50% cooked. *Remember, you dont want to fully cook the rice*
- Once the rice is par boiled, strain the rice and let it slightly cool.
For the tahdig
- In a pestle and mortar, add the saffron strands and rock salt. Grind together until it becomes fine powder.
- Pour the powder from the mortar into a small bowl, and add the water. Mix it together until the colour is consistent.
- Add the melted butter to this mixture, and set aside.
- Take 1 cup of this par boiled rice, and place it in a mixing bowl with the yoghurt and half of the saffron butter mixture.
- Mix this thoroughly. Set this aside.
For the biryani
- In the Meyer chefs pan, add the ghee and let it melt around the pan
- Add the bay leaf, star anise, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves. Sauté this for a minute.
- Add the onions, and sauté until golden brown.
- Add the ginger and garlic, and sauté this for another 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes and chilli. Sauté the tomatoes with this mixture until all the water evaporates.
- Add the potato, peas and all the spices. Mix thoroughly.
- Add 1/2 cup of water and cover the chefs pan with the lid. Let this simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the potato is tender. Keep checking if the potato is cooked using a fork to poke the potato. If the fork can easily go through the potato, it's done. Add 1/4 cup of water if you need to.
- Once the potato is tender, add the remaining par boiled rice to this mixture and mix everything together.
Assembling the tahdig biryani
- Using the Meyer saucepan, add 2 tbsps of butter, and 1 tbsp of avocado oil. Let the butter melt over medium to high heat.
- Add the saffron yoghurt rice mixture to the saucepan, and flatten this layer to reach the edges of the saucepan. Add the remaining saffron butter mixture around the edges of the saucepan so this layer absorbs more of the colour.
- As this layer is sizzling to crisp, gently pour the biryani mixture over this and fill the entire saucepan to the top.
- Using a chopstick, poke several holes into the rice and add the remaining butter in each hole so that the butter can crisp up the bottom further. Drizzle about 2 tbsps of water over the holes.
- Finally, wrap the lid using a dishcloth before placing it on top of the saucepan. This will prevent the water from dropping down into the rice and messing up the tahdig. This will also prevent any steam from exiting the saucepan and help fully cook the rice.
- Place the dishcloth covered lid on top of the saucepan
- *TURN THE HEAT DOWN TO LOW FIRE*
- Let the rice cook for 45 minutes in this saucepan with the dishcloth lid.
Serving the tahdig biryani
- After 45 minutes, take that leap of faith and turn the heat off.
- Carefully cool down the bottom of the saucepan by placing it under the tap for a few seconds.
- Place a large plate on top of the saucepan, and quickly flip it over.
- Slowly peel off the saucepan from the plate, and the gorgeous crispy top should appear.
- Serve with pomegranate, pistachios or barberries as a garnish.
- Good luck! and don't forget to tag me in your beautiful recreations!