Chelo (Iranian plain rice with butter)
12 oz / 350g long-grain rice, washed thoroughly under cold water and drained (I used basmati)
2 tablespoons salt
2 ¾ pints / 1.65 litres water
2 oz / 50g butter, melted
4-6 individual pats of butter
4-6 raw egg yolks (depending on the number of servings)
A sprinkling of sumak - a lemony spice
Place the rice in a deep pan, add half the salt and enough cold water to cover it by about 1in / 2.5cm, and leave it to soak for 2 hours.
Bring 2 ½ pints / 1.5 litres of the water to a boil in a heavy saucepan with a close-fitting lit (make sure you use a wide and deep one - I didn't and I think that's why my rice turned out pasty). Drain the rice thoroughly in a sieve, then pour it slowly into the boiling water and add the remaining salt. Stir it a few times and then boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Drain the rice into a sieve. Pour ¼ pint / 150ml water and half the melted butter into the saucepan; add the rice. Pour the remaining melted butter over the top.
Cover the pan with a tea towel, then fit the lid on and lift the ends of the cloth on to the lid so that there is no danger of them burning or catching fire.
Steam the rice over very low heat for about 25-30 minutes, until the grains have become tender and the liquid has been absorbed.
To serve, place a pat of butter and an egg yolk on top of each individual portion and sprinkle with sumak. The whole lot is then mixed together and usually eaten with a spoon.
Note: I didn't have sumak so I mixed a little ground saffron in about ¼ cup hot water and poured it over the top of the rice before steaming. I also left out the pat of butter and served with the egg yolk and yoghurt.
Pairs Well With
On my journey to become a vegetarian, I found this book by Arto Der Haroutunian, "Vegetarian Dishes from the Middle East" filled with lots of great and yummy recipes. I tried this one today and, although my rice got a little pasty from using the wrong pan, it was pretty good. Here's Arto Der Haroutunian's comment on the recipe: "Iranians are the past masters of preparing rice. No other cuisine, including the Indian and Chinese, can match its wealth in colour, content and taste. Chelo is a great rice pilav of Iran. As well as being the most popular, chelo is also one of the simplest to make. It's often eaten 'as it comes' with a little yoghurt spooned over the top."