Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Zereshk Pulao

Ramadan, the holy month, has arrived. Fasting during the month of Ramadan from dawn until dusk is obligatory for all Muslims who have reached their age. It is a month not only to refrain from food and drinks. It is a month to practice "purity in thought and deed" and to seek the pleasure of the Almighty. So, on this month, may we be kind to our fellow beings and may we be forgiving as to be forgiven.

Ramadan again reminds me of the wonderful times in India. We used to get up on the early morning hours for Sahr(morning food before fasting) and as a family sit together at the dining table and eat something light. Then we recite the Niyyat together followed by prayer. I would then go to school/college. At the evening, when I reach home, mom would be preparing some delicacies and getting ready for Iftar(breaking the fast). Right after sunset, we would break fast, pray and eat afterwards. The menu for Iftar would usually contain some cool drinks, sweets and lots of fruits. It is good to go light on it again. Sometimes, my dad would bring the special Kanji (நோன்பு கஞ்சி), a kind of rice porridge, from the mosque. Ohh!! I can still remember the aroma and flavor of the light but filling Kanji. I am not sure if this practice is followed in other parts of India. Those of you in Tamilnadu, who have tasted this would really relate to what I mean.

For the past three years, I am seeing Ramadan in Germany. I must confess, I'm definitely missing being with the family and all the above things. However, the past Ramadans were quite good. This year, Ramadan has come in peak summer. The day is long leading to longer fasting times. My mother-in-law beautifully said, "More fasting... more blessings!!". So, we are taking this as a great motivation to fast enthusiastically. You know what, today my husband prepared the same Kanji at home. Do I really need to tell you how it tasted? :) I felt like I was back in India!!

Now, coming to the post. This was our lunch last Sunday. This is a Persian rice dish. My husband, when he was studying in Germany, was sharing accommodation with another Iranian guy, who used to prepare this dish often. My husband picked up the recipe from him. It is a simple yet flavorful rice Pilaf prepared with Berberis (also called, Barberries) and Saffron. Zereshk in Persian refers to the dried Berberis fruits. They impart a slightly tart flavor to the Pilaf, traditionally accompanied by chicken. Let me go straight into the recipe now.

Preparation: 15-20 mins
Cooking: 30 mins

Basmati Rice - 500 g
Barberries - 100 g
Onion - 1 medium sized, thinly sliced
Cardamom and Cloves - a few (a little indian touch)
Cumin - 4 tsp
Sugar - 3 tbsp
Milk - 1/2 cup (lukewarm)
Saffron strands
Salt to taste

Clean and wash the basmati rice, drain and keep aside. Add few strands of saffron to the luke warm milk and set aside.

Clean and rinse the barberries in cold water by placing them in a colander and allow barberries to soak for 15-20 minutes. Take the colander out and run cold water over the barberries, drain and set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of ghee/oil in a pan, add 2 tsp of cumin, a few cardamom, cloves and leave it to splutter. Then add the sliced onion and sauté until the onions turn golden brown. Now add the barberries and sauté just for a minute over low heat; otherwise the barberries burn easily. Finally, add the sugar, mix well, and set aside.

Now place the drained rice in a rice cooker or a vessel with twice as much of water. Add 2 tsp of cumin, 1 tbsp of oil and enough salt and cook it until its 2/3 done. Drain rice in a fine-mesh colander and set aside.

In a heavy bottomed vessel heat 2 tbsp of ghee/oil. Add a thin layer of rice and a few spoons of the saffron-milk. This will form a tender crust at the bottom of the vessel when the rice is completely done. This tender crust is known as tah dig. Add the rest of the rice in the vessel, sprinkle a few spoons saffron-milk over the rice; cover it with a clean kitchen towel and a tight lid. This will avoid any steam escaping from the vessel. Cook the rice covered like this for 10-15 minutes over medium low heat.

Remove the vessel from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. This will also free crust from the bottom of the vessel.

Take 2-3 scoops of cooked rice and mix it with saffron-milk and set aside for garnishing. Then take 2/3 of the cooked rice and mix it gently with 2/3 of the barberry mixture. Then arrange the plain rice on a serving platter in alternating layers with the barberry mixture. Finally, decorate the top with the saffron-flavored rice, some of the barberry mixture, cashews and pistachios.

Voila! you have great looking platter of Zereshk Pulao. This pulao goes well with Chicken Tandoori and Raita. I personally feel, it would be equally good with tandooored Paneer or Bagara Baingan too. :)

If you don’t like the barberries to be too sweet, adding just about 2-3 tbsp of sugar would be enough,  and that should be good. If you like more you can adjust the measure to your taste.

I'm happily sending this recipe to the following events:
Iftar Moments by Taste of Pearl City, Iftar Nights by Jabeen's Corner and Food Palette Series Black by ToriewToronto and Lubna's Joy from Fasting to Feasting IV.

I'm also sending my Lamb Biryani, Printen and Strawberry Shortcake Cookies to Iftar Nights by Jabeen's Corner.


  1. Aw. U so reminded me of the days back home.. "The kanji" We always waited every evening for my dad or Bro' to bring em' from masjid..
    lovely days..

    This rice dish sounds delightful and very royal.. :) and I should say.. the pictures are stunning..

    Thanks For Linking it with Iftar Nights..
    And also Thanks for the other Archived Recipes u sent..

    Jabeen's Corner

    Ongoing Event-Iftar nights

  2. Lovely Looking Pulao. wish i was there to taste it.

    Hamaree Rasoi

  3. Lovely Pulao and one more thing Could you please share the kanji recipe also with us. I love it very much. If you had already posted it just lead me to the link. The kanji is my way of staying connected to my childhood.

  4. A lovely mix of so many good flavors! This looks outstanding. Very well presented! Ramadan Mubarak :)

  5. Nice name and I love the flavour of saffron in it. BTW what is barberries, is it different from normal berries, what is the replacement for that, can we use raisins or cranberries?

  6. Also thank you so much for sending this rich looking dish to Iftar Moments :)

  7. @All, thank you for your lovely comments :)

    @Radhika, thank you for your interest in the Kanji. I shall surely share the recipe. Yesterday, we were in a hurry preparing for Iftar and so couldn't capture the Kanji in lenses. Anyways, we'll be surely preparing it again and I would happily share it here. Just stay tuned :)

    @Umm Mymoonah: Yes dear, Berberis is a kind of small berries, cultivated mainly in Iran. The color varies from bright red to dark red, purple and even black. It can be bought in any Oriental Shop. In German, it is called Berberitzen. If you do not find them, of course, you can substitute with raisins or dried cranberries. :)

  8. Royal & tempting pulao!!! Nice insights on Ramadan dear..Ramzan Mubarak to u!!
    Prathima Rao
    Prats Corner

  9. Now, that looks exotic, what wonderful flavors n ingredients ~ loving it! I also loved your pretty props :)
    Us Masala

  10. delicious looking rice pulao looks fabulous
    we always have kanji for iftar :) love the way you brought back some lovely memories masjid kanji :)
    Have a blessed Ramadan
    thank you for linking it to the event

  11. wow, that looks so nice, fluffy, colorful and flavorful too :)

  12. i guess the barberries makes the whole package really delicious.
    i love all kind pulao and this recipe very new to me :)

  13. looks nice & great pics ; wishing u & ur hubby a happy month of fasting & feasting; May this Ramzan shower all blessings , cheers, love n hope !

  14. That's what i call perfect indulgence...simple recipe...sounds to give it a try....thank u for linking it to my event....

  15. Ramadan wishes to you. The pulao looks so rich and yummy

  16. Hi..I am new to your blog...Biryani looks mouthwatering...Happy to join you dear....Do visit me at

  17. Delicious and flavourful pulav..

  18. Wow Wonderful looking pulao and that can make any one drooooooool....

  19. Hey Aysha, first, Ramadan Kareem! Yes this Ramadan is in the peak of summer but who cares? It's such a lovely feeling and we are all on a spiritual high. Loved a glimpse into your family tradition for Ramadan. We make a special kanji for Ramadan called 'jeeraka kanji' in Malayalam. I wonder if it tastes similar to the ones you are used to in TN. Anyways, the pulao looks tempting. Wonder where I can buy those berries..?

  20. Asak, Ramadan Mubarak. Lovely blog.......especially your pics are simply amazing. Glad to follow you. Please do drop in at my newly created blog too....would love your feedback and suggestions.

  21. @Plateful:

    You can find these berries in Persian and other oriental shops. Ask for them with the Persian name 'Zereshk'. :)

  22. What a lovely recollection of memories from your childhood. I was in Chennai and Pondicherry and my best friend was Gulisthan who used to fast ... So I have some understanding of what you speak about! Te pulao looks fantastic!

  23. Hi, first time here...loved my time here....beautiful space...tempting pulav....happy to follow u.

  24. Hmm...I remember your fasting in H1d days....
    You had a great determination even with limited meals from the nearby hotel ;)

    Simple yet yummy pulav recipe... Nice touch in the foto background...
    Have a nice Ramadan ahead...

  25. What a lovely pulao. Looks aromatic and wonderfully delicious!

  26. Ants the other name for barberries,pilaf looks delicious,.