↑ Fresh, large sour cherries cooked with sugar will be plump in the rice. This time, the preserved sour cherries were smaller than usual, and in the photo look more like raisins. Nonetheless, they gave their cherry like fragrance, flavor and beautiful, deep maroon color to the rice (and they do not taste anything like raisins).
It is sour cherry season. Lucky are those like Azita of Fig & Quince who can obtain fresh ones from DC and make Sour Cherry Syrup Drinks (sharbate albalu) or the blog, My Kitchen Witch, who has a tree in her backyard and just made Cherry Chutney. Persians/Iranians go crazy about sour cherries as they do for pomegranate. Albalu/sour cherry for summer and anar/pomegranate for winter. Here is a beloved Persian/Iranian sweet mixed rice, Albalu Polo/sour cherry rice which I made with sour cherry preserves. This rice dish by itself, is a vegetarian/vegan dish. It is however, commonly served with meats. Petite seasoned meatballs go very well, added in cooked layers before steaming.
Albalu Polo • آلبالو پلو • Sour Cherry Rice
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
• 1½ cups basmati rice
• 454 g/ 16 oz bottled sour cherry preserves (pitted) 
• ½ tsp cinnamon powder
• 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted or vegetable oil for vegan
• vegetable oil
• 1 large tortilla bread or lavash for tah-dig /bottom of the pot
• smidgen (1/32 tsp) ground saffron diluted in 3 Tbsp hot water
For garnish (optional)
• 1 Tbsp slivered pistachios
• 1 Tbsp roasted slivered almonds
 If using fresh or frozen cherries… for each 454 g/ 1 lb of ‘pitted’ cherries, add ½ cup sugar and cook over high heat for 30 ~ 40 minutes.
To soak the rice
◊ Although today, clean fine rice is available, some imported rice brands may contain small, non-rice particles which must be picked-over before washing. Also, some brands may need to be washed with extra agitation until water is clear. Put the rice in a large enough bowl with plenty of water and rub the rice between two hands to scrape off any powdery substance. Drain in a fine-meshed colander. Rinse the rice until clear water runs through.
◊ Put the washed rice in a bowl, add 1 Tbsp salt, cover with water level 3 cm/ 1″ above the rice, stir gently and set aside for more than an hour. This can be done in advance and soaked for 3+ hours. (Note: A faster step for cooking rice is… wash rice and soak without salt for 30 minutes. Add the salt to boiling water and follow the next steps.)
◊ Open the jar of sour cherry preserves and drain with a sieve over a bowl. Keep the liquid, it will be used later. (Yields about 200 g/ 7 oz of solid fruits.)
To boil the rice
◊ Have a fine meshed colander ready in your sink, one with legs, so that it doesn’t touch the sink bottom.
◊ In a non-stick pot (9 cups capacity) bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Drain water from the soaked rice and add to the boiling water. Keep your attention on the pot or else the foam from the boiling rice may overflow.
◊ As the rice starts to boil briskly, lower the heat to medium-high (or a tad lower) and occasionally, gently stir the rice in a circular motion. After a couple of minutes, taste the boiling water (carefully) to insure the salt content is to your taste. Add salt if needed.
◊ In a few minutes, after rice begins bubbling like a fountain, it boils slower/thicker. Test/bite a grain to check its hardness. Do this repeatedly, as timing is very important. As soon as there is no more hardness in the center of the rice (but still firm), drain rice in colander waiting in sink. It is better for rice to be a tad under-cooked than over-cooked. Rice should not sit in the colander more than a minute (it will continue cooking and be sticky soft). At this point, you must act quickly.
To steam the rice:
◊ Rinse the non-stick pot used for boiling. Add 2 Tbsp oil.
◊ Use one layer of flour-tortilla to cover the entire bottom of the pot. For mixed rice, especially ones with sweet ingredients, this tah-dig is recommended to avoid fast burning of sugar by lining the pot.
◊ Sprinkle one-fourth of boiled rice on to the tortilla. Spread/sprinkle/drizzle third of sour cherries, third of cinnamon, fourth of butter, ½ Tbsp of saffron and 1 Tbsp of syrup from the preserve. Repeat this two more times and finish with last fourth of the rice. Drizzle the rest of the butter, saffron and 1 Tbsp of the syrup over the last layer of rice.
◊ Cover the pot with one sheet of paper towel and put the lid on tightly. On medium-low heat, steam for 45 minutes.
◊ Dish out the rice, a spatula at a time and sprinkle on the serving dish/platter (keeping the tah-dig intact at the bottom of the pot). Drizzle the rest of the saffron and 1 Tbsp of syrup on top of the dished-out rice and garnish/sprinkle with pistachio and almonds.
◊ Loosen and dish out the tah-dig with wooden or non-stick, pot-safe spatula and serve in a different dish.
~ Noushe jan • نوش جان ~
↑ Serving suggestions: With saffron Cornish hen; also a great poultry stuffing
So, what’s cooking in your kitchen?