Spice It Up With Shirin Polow

Spice It Up With Shirin Polow

This picture of a tomato vine without its fruit reminds me of the tree of life created by starfish. Can’t you just see them holding hands and reaching out? 😉 Kinda the way I feel about people in general. We are all born tied to an umbilical cord that sustains and nourishes us and as we mature we spend the totality of that time on earth growing into our own skin and seeking connections. Over the past week Simon and I have been reading a book called A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, and it’s delicious. Funny how years later reading the same text means so much more! One of the greatest gifts the kids have given me is the ability to go back in time to appreciate what I took for granted. Rolling down hills, touching moss on trees and hunting for salamanders is highly underrated (especially when you find the elusive orange one under the rock)! Anyway, as usual I digress!

Magical Carpeted Forest
Magical Carpeted Forest

Back to A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a book about so many things, but there was one message that inspired this post. Creativity, individuality and faults are what make us special. Oh how well we know this in my kitchen. It was refreshing to be able to read something so inspiring to Simon. I mention this because a friend once said she would never have me over for dinner because she doesn’t have as much experience in the kitchen! Well now, that is just plain ridiculous as each and every time someone cooks for me it is dearly appreciated. Eating the food that someone took time and love to prepare is always a treat.

Now for the reason I wrote this post. If you love food cook, but don’t just blindly adhere to recipes if you don’t feel like it. Dive in and do something crazy. That’s the beauty of food, for the most part it’s forgiving. Don’t get me wrong. If you’re making cheese, preserving and fermenting or creating pastry or other such detail oriented tidbits – then stick to the directions. Other than that use your own magic to personalize old favourites.

That’s how I have come up some of my best – and worst dishes. Without that creativity my family would have the same old standbys day in and day out (hmmmm maybe we shouldn’t tell Simon about this post. He is particularly fond of mac and cheese and not at all sure about my culinary surprises, so this might be a welcome development).

So Spice it up baby! Who says that spaghetti has to be made with pasta? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but these adventures will always open doors to your abilities that would have remained otherwise shut – or at least that is what has happened in this kitchen.

Persian Rice
Persian Rice

This week I am trying my hand at my take on Iranian Shirin Polow (Rice Pilaf) – adapted from Saveur

Ingredients – Candied Orange Rind:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. crushed saffron
3/4 cup thinly sliced orange peel
1 tbsp. rose water

Ingredients – Rice:

4 cups Basmati rice
1/4 tsp crushed saffron
2 tbsp. sea salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tbsp. unsalted organic butter, melted

Ingredients – Fixin’s:
3/4 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup pomegranates
1/2 cup pistachios (whole)
1/3 cup dried apricots (chopped)
1/3 cup sliced green onions

Rice Step 1 – Instructions:
There is a time and place for creativity. I am unfamiliar with particular rice, so I stuck to the recipe in Saveur verbatim – although since then I found a great video on youtube that may change the way I make it next time. Rinse the rice and then soak it in a 6 quart pan with salted water for 2 hours.

Candied Orange Rind – Instructions:
In the meantime I prepped the candied orange rind. Oh how I love thee! There is nothing, in my humble opinion, that candied orange rind can’t make better. In a 2 quart pan combine the sugar, 1/2 tsp of saffron and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over high heat, then add the orange rind. I reduced the heat to medium and allowed the sugar to bubble for about 8 minutes before quickly adding the rose water. When the rind cooled enough to handled I removed it from the pan and arranged it on waxed paper. The rinds become less flexible when the sugar cools and I did not want them to stick to the pot and make a mess.

Saffron, Pistachio, Orange Rind
Saffron, Pisatchio, Orange Rind

Rice Step 2 – Instructions:
When the orange rind was finished, I placed the pan with rice on high heat bringing it to a boil. When the rice starts to float to the surface in about 12 minutes drain it, clean the pan and return it to the burner. Add the remaining saffron, milk and oil. Bring the liquid to a boil and then add the rice. Saveur suggest arranging the rice into a mound and poking holes into it to allow the steam to escape and cook the rice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. The YouTube video suggests covering the lid with a towel. I will try this next time.

Fixin’s – Instructions:
While your are waiting for the rice you can prepare the fixin’s. I opted for pistachios, carrots, pomegranate, dried apricots and green onions. You could really add just about anything your heart desires. Slice these lovely bits and bobs into small jewels to spike your rice. They will accompany the candied orange rinds. MMMMM!

The Fixin's
The Fixin’s

Rice Step 3 – Instructions:

After the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, pour the butter and 1 cup of boiling water over it. Reduced the heat to low and cooked the rice for another 30 to 45 minutes. This will allow the rice to develop its characteristic crust or tahdig. The tahdig will be scraped from the pan and incorporated into the rice upon serving. Crunchy! I tossed the fixin’s on the top and served the rice on a platter.

My tahdig was a bit scanty. After working through the kinks I am confident that next time will yield better results. I am going to try the method suggested on the YouTube video next – if for no other reason than to try those crunchy potatoes!

I served the rice with lightly curried chickpeas. The combination was delectable.



  1. Hi am Amal from instagram just stopping by and say hi by the way your recipe look so yummy ..I did put it on my list to try it .. Have great day :)

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