Chelo (Iranian plain rice with butter)
- Cooking Time: 35 to 40 minutes
- Servings: 4 to 6
- Preparation Time: 2 hours
- 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
- Greek-style yoghurt
- 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.
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."