Drinking tea is a national past time in Iran. It’s traditional to drink tea which part of Iran, whatever the occasion. Tea is always on offer where ever you go be it visiting friends and family, in the bazaar, at work … almost everything stops for tea! I even get offered tea when I visit my favourite Iranian grocery store in London! I remember my mother visiting us when I lived in Tehran and we took a trip to the Bazaar and how surprised she was that tea was offered to us at every stall we stopped at. Can you imagine being offered tea at your local market!
Iran is full of Tea shops or chai khaneh whether you’re in a city or a village or crossing the mountains, you are sure to come across a chai khaneh sooner or later.
What you need to know about making persian Tea or Chai.
You’d think making tea was easy.. it is provided you know what you’re doing and you have the right mix of tea leaves. There are 1,500 different types of tea to choose from and within those there are several grades of tea leaves from Orange pekoe aka pecco, the highest grade, to what’s known as ‘fannings’ or tea dust the poorest grade and that’s what you would usually find in an average tea bag.
Persian tea is always black, without milk and has its own distinctive taste . Here are a few tips on how to make it. It’s always best to buy loose tea leaves, mix them and store in a container within easy reach. Never use tea bags !
- 1 part earl grey
- 2 parts Darjeeling
- A teaspoon of orange pekoe
- filter the water before you use it
I often add a pinch of za’faran and a small limu ormani to a pot of brewing tea, alternatively a few cardamom pips. They do say that too much limu ormani causes impotence… so perhaps stick to the cardamom seeds as they are known to have the opposite effect!
How to make Persian chai
- loose tea leaves
- a samovar
- a strainer
- Boiling water
- Place water in your samovar and bring it to the boil.
- Warm your tea-pot with a little hot water and place 2 teaspoons of tea leaves in it.
- Place on the top of your samovar and leave to soak.
- The water in the kettle can boil but your tea should not.
- If you want to add anything such as cardamom seeds now is the time to do it.
- Leave to brew for about 10-15 mins
- When the colour of the tea is dark enough it is ready to serve. It should be rich.
- Poor a little tea into a cup and then top up with water from the kettle.
Serve tea with ghand or raw sugar cubes. Persians usually drink the tea through the sugar cube itself and dont place the sugar in the tea. You can also use nabat or candied sugar pieces or on a small stick which you place in the tea cup itself.
Kalam Polou or cabbage rice is another family favourite in my house. It’s economical to make, nutritious and a great way to use what is usually a fairly unexciting vegetable. Plus kids love it … which is always a bonus and a testimony in itself!
- 3 cups or 400 gr’s of rice
- 400 gr’s of minced beef or lamb
- 1 medium cabbage diced
- 1 large onion
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1 good tablespoon of tomatoe paste
- a good pinch of ground za’faran
- 1-2 tablespoon of lime juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- a little oil
- Thoroughly wash the rice and soak in salted water for about 2 hours before needed.
- Chop the onion
- Remove a few leaves from the cabbage, enough to line the bottom of the pan you will cook the rice in and put aside. Chop the rest of the cabbage but remove the hard stalky pieces, rinse and put aside
- prepare a little cup of za’faran infusion
- Par boil the rice in the method described here to stage 8 and put to one side
- Fry the chopped onions in a little oil until transparent
- Add the ground meat and fry until brown
- Add salt and pepper to taste and cook until the ingredients are golden
- Add the turmeric, tomatoe paste, lime juice, a small cup of boiling water and most of the za’faran infusion leaving a few drops aside. Mix in well and allow to bubble away while you cook the cabbage.
- In a separate pan, fry the cabbage in a little oil on a medium heat for about 5-10 mins until soft
- Add to the meat and onions and mix in well.
- Add another small cup of water and allow to cook until it has reduced.
- In a large deep heavy bottomed, non stick pan with a lid, heat some oil.
- Add a few drops of the za’faran and mix, remove from the heat and line the pan with the cabbage leaves you put to one side earlier
- Now add layers of rice and meat mixture starting and finishing with a layer of rice
- Using the back of a wooden spoon, ease the rice away from the sides of the pan using the end of the spoon make a few holes in the rice.
- Add a desert spoon of butter or ghee to the top of the rice
- Place a covered lid on the pan and cook on a low heat for about an 90 mins. This will form a smashing taadig.
Serve with sabzi khordan or mixed green herbs, salad, mast or natural yoghurt and naan.
Nooshi joonet . Enjoy