Living in Grenoble and having access to delicious French food has been a wonderful experience. However, the lack of ethnic food options has been what I miss most about home. Being from New York has really spoiled me since you have 24 hour access to foods from all over the globe. After a year and a half in France, I went home for Christmas in December and filled my suitcase with Foie Gras, Confit de Canard, homemade Conficture de Figue, and cheese. On the way back, my suitcase was filled with Mexican hot sauce, chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, and a lot of Persian groceries that would help me satisfy my cravings for Persian food.
One of the simplest and most delicious Persian foods is called Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh (Barberry rice with Chicken). The hardest item to find for this recipe is the Zereshk (Barberries). Lucky for me, there is a very large population of Iranians in New York so hard-to-find ingredients are easy to find! I came back to Grenoble with a bag of Zereshk (Barberries) and a package of Saffron. I was well-equipped to make one of my favorite foods- Zereshk Polo Ba Morgh (Barberry Rice with Chicken)!
To give the chicken a nice color, I soaked Saffron threads in hot water for two hours and rubbed it all over the chicken.
I used the saffron to also season a portion of the rice, for decorative purposes, and added the saffron threads and water to the Zereshk (Barberries) when I was cooking them.
I spent some time with my Aunt Akram, in Sydney, and she taught me how to cook a delicious and moist chicken on the stove. It has always been a hit with my dinner guests. I pour a tablespoon or two of olive oil into a pot, layer the pot with sliced onions and tomatoes, add a few bay leaves, salt (pepper, if you like), two tablespoons of water, add the chicken and cover the pot. Keep it on a medium low flame to prevent the onions from burning. You can really cook it as long as you want. The longer you keep it on the stove, the easier the meat will fall off the bone. I have cooked whole chicken like this before and it comes out like a roasted chicken. Except you don’t end up with a nicely roasted layer of skin. You can also fill the sides of the pot with fingerling potatoes and carrots. Whatever you like.
I have always loved cooking Zereshk. Whenever my mother would cook this meal, I would volunteer to make this. You take a saucepan, put it on a low flame, add two teaspoons of butter and then add the washed Zereshk. When the little Zereshk berries start to puff, you need to add a little bit of hot water to it. Next, you add the saffron threads that have you soaking in water. Zereshk is very sour (and is high in vitamin C!) so you need to add a bit of sugar to counterbalance the acidity. You end up with a deliciously sweet and sour sauce that goes great with rice and chicken!