I present Friday night mayhem at my parent’s house, in two parts. On Special occasions in my family, it’s customary to make Shirin Polo – a sweet rice for a sweet life. It’s a basmati rice dish that is traditionally adorned with candied orange peels and toasted almonds.
In my mother’s usual fashion, she went all out with this rice dish, and look how beautifully she decorated the rice with strips of candied slivered orange peels, almonds, pistachios and currants.
Watching my mother prepare this rice dish, is like watching a contestant on Top Chef frantically scurrying to complete this dish before the clock goes off. Mom, calm down. You are not on a show, just this video, and all but five people watching (hope more, maybe six).
There is a special technique to making these dried orange peels. In the last ten years, dried orange peels are sold ready made by Sadaf. My mother is old school so makes them herself. First, you have to peel off the orange rinds, then further peel away at the pith, because it is bitter. Then you sliver the orange peels, real thin and leave them out on a baking sheet to dry. It can take a couple of weeks. I could remember as a child, growing up in my parents home, when ever my mother made Shirin Polo, weeks prior there were orange peels laid all over the entire dinette table, and for weeks it smelled like orange blossoms in the kitchen.
Once the orange peels are dried, then you have to soak them in water and boil it, and drain out the water, three times!! All this to remove the bitterness from the rinds. Once that’s done, you then add the sugar to the orange rinds and a splash of rose water in a sauce pot to to cook them into candied orange rinds. This particular recipe will be in my forthcoming cookbook, Silk Road Vegetarian. You can pre-order your copy now at an extraordinary price.
There is nothing comparable to Shirin Polo. Once you make this dish, it will become part of your family festivity meal. In fact, my Ashkenazi Cuban sister in law has converted into a full fledged Bukharian Baboushka!
She is the one that is holding the pot and arranging a platter of burnt rice, known to Bukharians as Tardegih made with eggs. Persians know it as Tadig and prepare it without eggs. That recipe will also feature in Silk Road Vegetarian, although everything in my cookbook is made with brown basmati rice, which has a nuttier consistency. So that’s my little teaser for what’s to come in my cookbook. The price will go up once it’s published in May.