If I may say so, I think zereshk-polo-ba-morgh (chicken, rice and cranberry-like berries) is pretty much overrated. Yes, I know it is the standard fare of weddings and restaurants, and I know Iranians eat it while moaning with pleasure, if not actually bursting into tears of delight, but the greasy chicken in the orangey-red sauce, and the saffroned rice with the little shrivelled red zereshks never did it for me.
My favourite chicken-and-rice dish is tah-chin, which can be more or less translated as `layered at the end` or something like that. Here is how I make it, which can vary significantly from how other families do it:
Cook chicken (can also be made with pieces of meat, but I don’t like that so much) with onions, turmeric etc- you know the drill now. Let cool, de-bone, so you are left with a heap of white chicken meat.
Bring a pan of salted water to boil, add rice. After a short while, drain rice.
Peel and slice a potato.
Put several spoonfuls of yoghurt in a large bowl, and mix with salt and saffron until yoghurt is a deep golden-yellow colour. Do NOT add tomato paste to this mixture. Do NOT add eggs. Some people do, but we don’t know them.
Taking spoonfuls one-by-one, add about one-third of the parboiled rice to the saffron-yoghurt mixture, carefully stirring, until the rice is well-coated with the yoghurt.
Meanwhile, put some water in the bottom of a deep non-stick pan, add some salt and a good knob of butter, and put on heat until water is boiling and butter melted. Arrange the potatoe slices at the bottom of the pan. Let the potatoes fry a bit in the buttery-watery mixture in the bottom of the pan. Gently begin adding the rice-saffron-yoghurt mixture over the potatoes.
Once you have finished spooning the rice-saffron-yoghurt, smooth it, and arrange the pieces of chicken on the top of it.
Then, add the rest of the white rice, filling the pan up.
Put a tight lid, and turn the heat low. Let cook for about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and wait. Inside that pot is a raging inferno. Yes, I know you’re starving and the smell of melted butter and saffrony rice is driving you crazy, but believe me, you have to wait until the rice cools enough to be served without running the risk of second-degree burns.
Then, turn the pot upside-down on a flat serving tray. If you are a grandmother, the pot of rice will fall out beautifully, like a round golden cake decorated on top with golden fried potatoes. If you are the rest of us, the white rice will crumble out, and you have to stab at the rest with a fork and scrape it out. In either case, the taste will be delicious, I promise you.