The first time that I ever made Adas Polo was on Christmas Eve about six years ago. My (non-Persian) in-laws asked if I could bring something to add to their traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Tourtiere and baked beans. They requested Albaloo Polo (Rice with Sour Cherries) as that was one of their favourite Persian dishes. I had made it a few times so I happily agreed. Unfortunately, I burned the sour cherries and my Albaloo Polo was ruined. I was not about to venture out on December 24th to the grocery store, so in a panic I looked in my cupboards and realized that I had all the components of Adas Polo. I called my mom and she gave me instructions over the phone. It was a hit at dinner……who knew that Adas Polo would go so well with Quebecois meat pie and baked beans!
Adas Polo is very simple to prepare and is extremely flavourful. Aromatic basmati rice with lentils, caramelized onions, sweet dates and raisins. A beautiful balance of sweet and savoury. Adas Polo is delicious served on its own as a vegetarian main dish but also pairs very well with a variety of meat dishes such as Lemon and Saffron Roasted Chicken.
2 cups basmati rice
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
1/2 large onion (or one small onion), thinly sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 cups chopped dates (preferably Medjool)
2/3 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
2 tbsp butter, cut into pieces*
salt and pepper
Put rinsed lentils in a small pot with 3 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a large frying pan heat 3 tbsp of canola oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, fry the onions for about 8-10 minutes until golden. If they start to brown too quickly, turn down the heat slightly. Add the turmeric and fry for another minute. Add the chopped dates and raisins and fry for another minute. Take off heat and set aside.
Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear (about 4-5 times).
After the rice is washed, cover with 6 cups lukewarm water and 1 tbsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes (this step is optional, but the rice will be tastier and fluffier if you do it).
Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water and 1 tbsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 6 minutes stirring occasionally.
Drain the rice in a wire sieve.
Using a paper towel, dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil into your pot to just cover the bottom. Add the saffron water to the oil.
Using a spatula, add enough rice to form a layer to cover the bottom of the pot and form the ta-dig (the golden rice crust).
Sprinkle about 1/3 of the lentils on top. Then add 1/3 of the onion/date/raisin mixture.
Mix the cinnamon and the cumin and sprinkle about 1/3 over the mixture.
Repeat the layers forming sort of a pyramid and sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt over the top.
Using the handle of a wooden spoon poke three holes in the rice and pour over 1/4 cup water mixed with 2 tbsp canola oil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.
Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel and cover the lid of the pot. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Alternatively you can use a double layer of paper towel between the pot and lid. Let the rice steam for 40 minutes.
When rice is ready add the butter and very gently mix the rice with the lentils and date mixture. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Using a spatula transfer the rice to a serving dish. Loosen the ta-dig with your spatula or a wooden spoon and serve with the rice. Enjoy!
*vegans can substitute non-hydrogenated margarine