Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for celebration tah chin

Celebration tah chin with chicken and spinach

Tah chin is a glorious savoury rice cake from Iran. The name refers to the layering of meat and rice, which is then baked until it has a crisp base, called a tahdig. It’s best to use a nonstick pan, because it helps in getting that crisp, golden exterior you’re after.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s tah chin with chicken and spinach.

Soak At least 2 hr
Prep 25 min
Cook 2 hr 45 min
Serves 6

90ml olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1½ tsp ground cumin
8 cardamom pods
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1kg boneless and skinless chicken thighs
Salt and black pepper
400ml chicken stock
35g dried barberries (if you can’t get them, use chopped dried cranberries)
150g baby spinach
10g parsley leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra leaves to garnish
10g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
500g basmati rice, washed and soaked in plenty of cold water for 2-8 hours
1 whole egg, plus 2 yolks
250g Greek yoghurt
½ tsp saffron threads, lightly crushed and soaked in 50ml hot water for 45 minutes
55g unsalted butter, cut into roughly 1½cm cubes
25g pistachios, roughly chopped

In a large saute pan for which you have a lid, heat two tablespoons of oil on a medium-high flame. Once hot, fry the onions, stirring from time to time, until softened and lightly browned – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, cardamom and a teaspoon and a half of cinnamon, and cook for two minutes more, until fragrant.

Add the chicken, two teaspoons of salt and a generous grind of pepper, and cook for about five minutes, to sear lightly, then pour in the stock, bring to a boil and turn the heat to medium-low. Cover and leave to cook for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Lift out the chicken and set aside. Stir 20g barberries into the pot and cook for 15-20 minutes on a medium-high heat, or until the sauce reduces to a thick gravy. Meanwhile, shred the chicken into large chunks. Stir the chicken meat back into the sauce, then stir in the spinach to wilt, followed by the herbs. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/gas 6. Put the well-drained rice in a pot filled with boiling water and simmer for five minutes, until just cooked. Drain, run under the cold tap to remove any excess starch, then leave to drain for at least 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the egg, egg yolks, yoghurt, saffron and its liquid, two tablespoons of olive oil, the remaining half-teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon and a half of salt, then gently stir in the rice until well coated.

Heat the remaining two tablespoons of oil in a large, 22cm nonstick saute pan and swirl it around the base and sides. Press two-thirds of the rice mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan and about 4cm up the sides. Fill with the chicken mixture and press down firmly, so the chicken is surrounded by rice. Top with the remaining rice to encase the chicken, again pressing down firmly. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon, then scatter with 25g of the butter cubes. Wrap the pan tightly in foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 35 minutes more, or until the edges go golden, then leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Put a large, round serving plate on top of the pan. Holding both the pan and the plate tightly, quickly and carefully flip the whole thing over to release the tah chin.

Melt the remaining butter in a small frying pan on a medium-high heat, add the remaining barberries and cook for 90 seconds, until plump. Pour over the rice, followed by the pistachios and parsley leaves, and serve warm.

Courgette and walnut yoghurt

Serve this alongside tah chin or any other similar, substantial main course. The walnuts make this quite rich, so leave them out if you prefer something a bit lighter.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s courgette and walnut yoghurt.

Prep 20 min
Cook 15 min
Serves 4-6 as a side

3½ tbsp olive oil
2 medium courgettes, coarsely grated (370g net weight)
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
300g Greek yoghurt
1 lemon
, zest finely grated, to get 1 tsp, then juiced, to get 1½ tbsp
10g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
5g mint leaves, roughly chopped, plus extra whole leaves to garnish
1 tsp dried mint
60g walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
¼ tsp sweet smoked paprika

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large saute pan on a high flame. Add the courgettes, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly coloured – about seven minutes.

Add the garlic, cook for a minute more, until fragrant, then tip into a bowl and leave to cool completely before stirring in the yoghurt, lemon zest and juice, parsley, fresh and dried mint, walnuts and half a teaspoon of salt.

Transfer to a round, shallow bowl, smoothing it out with a spoon and then making a slight well in the centre.

Heat the remaining tablespoon and a half of oil in a small frying pan on a medium-high flame. Take off the heat, stir in the paprika and drizzle over the yoghurt mix. Top with a few mint leaves and serve.

Smacked cucumber salad with sumac onion and radishes

Shirazi salad is a staple Iranian side dish, and I can understand why. The simplicity and crunch of this chopped salad add all the freshness you need alongside elaborate rice dishes such as tah chin. I’ve adapted the concept into this equally refreshing cucumber salad.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s smacked cucumber salad with sumac, onion and radishes.

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Serves 4 as a side

1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
1¼ tsp sumac
1½ tbsp cider vinegar
Salt and black pepper
2 cucumbers
1 lemon, zest finely grated, to get 1 tsp, then juiced, to get 1½ tbsp
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted and lightly crushed in a mortar
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
100g red radishes, thinly shaved (use a mandoline, if you have one)
2 tbsp mint leaves
2 tbsp dill leaves
2 tbsp parsley leaves
tbsp olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, sumac, vinegar and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt. Leave to sit for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you want to get ahead.

Trim the ends off the cucumbers, then, using the flat of a large knife, bash the cucumbers repeatedly until they split and break. Scrape away and discard the seedy innards, then use your hands, or a knife, to break the cucumber into random, bite-sized chunks about 3cm in size.

Transfer to a bowl with half a teaspoon of salt and leave to sit for 20 minutes, to draw out the moisture. Pour away the liquid, then add the lemon zest and juice, half the coriander seeds, garlic, radishes, herbs, sumac onions, oil, a quarter-teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the remaining coriander seeds.

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