I recently had a bad tummy bug…don’t worry I won’t go into details! To help me recover from the upset stomach, I ate a bland BRAT diet, that consists of Banana Rice Applesauce & Toast, until the worse was over. After the BRAT diet, you are supposed to gradually go back to your normal diet and you start by introducing easily digestible foods such as chicken, eggs and yogurt prepared in a very simple and bland manner.
Well, a girl can only take but so much of bland and boring! My challenge on day 4 was to make a dish for supper that was within the Life after Brat guidelines but delectable. For this challenge, I turned to fond memories of my life in the Middle East and Persian cuisine which has a heritage of ambrosial rice dishes.
Rice is an important staple in Persian cuisine. It is not necessarily a side dish but a main dish. In Persian cookery, contrary to European cookery, the main component of the meal is well prepared rice, not meat. Rice dishes can be infused with herbs and spices such as dill and saffron, with vegetables and pulses such as broad beans and lentils, dried fruit such as dates and barberries, and meat such as chicken or lamb. There are a myriad of fragrant rice dishes and I hope that one day you will try one.
I decided to cook Tah Chin which is a rice cake with chicken and yogurt. I used the recipe in The Persian Kitchen, Home cooking from the Middle East by Neda Afrashi (p.95) as my guide. To prepare this dish, first braise some chicken. This recipe calls for chicken legs and as I had some chicken thighs from Bryn Derw, I decided to use them. You can use whatever cut of chicken you like but you want the chicken to still be moist after braising, as it gets steamed with the rice afterwards. After removing the skin, I braised the chicken thighs for about 1 hour in a small amount of water in which turmeric, saffron, carrot, salt and bay leaf were added.
I use a heat diffuser over the lowest flame to keep the heat very gentle. After the chicken was cooked, I let it cool and then picked the meat from the bones which I then discarded. The chicken was very moist, tender and infused with the flavour and colour of the rich turmeric and saffron.
Whilst the chicken was cooking, I soaked 600g of basmati rice for 1 hour, boiled it in about 2 litres of water in a very large pot until al dente (about 4 minutes) and then drained it. The dish was assembled by mixing ½ of the rice with 2 eggs, a tablespoon of plain yoghurt and saffron which had been soaked in hot water. This mixture was spread in a pot which had enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. The shredded chicken was put on top, and the plain rice on top of that. I wrapped the lid of the pot with a tea towel, put the lid on the pot ensuring a tight fitLife, and let the rice cook on lowest heat (I use the heat diffuser), for about 80 minutes.
The rice on the bottom of the pan forms a golden crust called tadiq. You then get ½ of the rice which is fragrant with the saffron, turmeric and chicken and a plain steamed fluffy rice.
The dish is presented inverted on a platter, cut in wedges and served.
This dish is not only fabulous for life after BRAT but for any occasion.