This delicious and warming Persian Saffron Chicken and Barberry Rice recipe is the perfect weekend cook when entertaining friends. You will need a large heavy-bottomed ‘Le Creuset’ style pan with lid that can go in the oven for the chicken and one more for cooking your rice.


For the chicken
 1 Large Chicken
 1 Whole onion (peeled)
 2 Cloves of garlic
 ½ Lemon
 A generous pinch of saffron, ground and dissolved 100ml warm water
 Salt and Pepper to season
 2 Large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
For the rice
 300 g White Basmati Rice
 100 g Barberries – (clean and soak in a small bowl of water)
 1 Large tbsp of ghee or butter
 1 Small onion, finely sliced

1. Take your chicken and place the whole onion, half lemon, and garlic cloves inside the cavity. Place in your deep casserole pan.


2. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, add the carrots around the chicken and pour the saffron water (save a couple of tablespoons of saffron water for your rice) over the top of the chicken and carrots.


3. Put the lid on and place the dish in the preheated oven. Let it cook for 2 hours. Take out and check after 90 minutes, with a spoon take some of the juices from the bottom and spoon over the top of the chicken, place back in the oven.


4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add. A generous sprinkling of salt and then gently pour in the rice.


5. Place a colander/ sieve in the sink. Allow the rice to come to a boil, after 6-7 minutes the rice should start coming to the top of the water, carefully using a teaspoon, take a little rice out – it wants to be slightly soft on the outside but still hard on the inside.


6. Drain the rice through your sieve or colander.


7. Place your pan back on the heat, add the ghee and the saved saffron water. When it has melted, add the rice back in the pan in the shape of a pyramid (don’t squash it down) as it needs to now steam.


8. Wrap a clean tea towel around the lid, and place on lid back on the pan. (This allows the tea towel to collect the excess water to stop the rice going soggy. Turn the heat down to the lowest it can go so that the rice doesn’t burn. Let it gently cook like this for at least 45 minutes so that it can create a crispy bottom.


9. 15 minutes before you are ready to serve your food, prepare your barberries –
In a little frying pan, gently heat a little olive oil/ghee and then add the sliced onion, allow it to gently cook, and caramelise. Add your barberries and one tablespoon of honey or maple syrup to taste (the berries can be very sour) and stir continuously.

When you are ready to serve, taking your chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 10 /15 minutes. Take a large plate and place on top of your rice pan and turn out to make a ‘rice cake’ with the ‘tahdig’ crispy outside. Generously sprinkle your barberry mix on top. Place your chicken on a plate, spoon out the carrots around the plate and pour the saffron juices over the chicken. I serve this with my spinach, yoghurt side dish.
Persian Saffron Chicken

Barberries – Berberis vugaris


These little super food berries contain a unique compound called berberine which is anti-inflammatory and acts as an antioxidant in the body. A super interesting fact about these little tart berries is that they can improve how your cells respond to the hormone insulin, which regulates your blood sugar levels. Studies also show that barberries are protective against high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and increased cholesterol. For centuries they have also been used to calm down diarrhoea and on a separate note barberry extract has been used an effective treatment for dental infections such as gingivitis.


Every cuisine has its favourite sweet and sour dish, and these vibrantly red berries make up the tart sour part of the favourite Persian dish called Zereskh Polo. Luckily its quite easy to find these berries in the UK online, on Amazon, Middle Eastern supermarkets and I have recently seen them in Waitrose with the spice section.

If you can’t find them you can substitute them for any tart-dried fruit such as dried cranberries, sour cherries, goji berries, or mulberries.

TK TIP: When you buy a bag of barberries, keep them in the freezer to keep their vibrant red colour and freshness.

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