Barberries (‘zereshk’ in Farsi) -used in Persian cooking- are small, sour berries that have a somewhat similar flavor to cranberries (you can use cranberries as a substitute in this dish).
I would say that this is my favorite Persian meal. Zereshk Polo (Barberry Rice Pilaf) is traditionally served alongside roast lamb, turkey or chicken. I love it all by itself. The sweet and sour pilaf combines super cute little red berries with the wonderful flavors of caramelized onion, almond, orange peel and saffron. This dish can be served for dessert…. just kidding, don’t serve it for dessert. Although, It sure goes down like dessert, with all of the mouthwatering flavor it has. *wipes drool* I am salivating just thinking about this dish. True story.
The original recipe calls for butter, but vegan butter (e.g. Earth Balance) can be substituted.
Zereshk berries can be found in Mediterranean or Iranian markets. You can just as easily substitute them with cranberries.
I have posted tips and pictures. Recipe Below.↓
Barberries are harvested in such a way that they are commonly a little dirty. There are sometimes large pieces of soil or small rocks found in the package.
It is very important that they are cleaned thoroughly.
Do not skip cleaning them!
1. Place berries in a medium bowl with water. Most berries will float to the top. Let them sit for a couple of minutes.
2. Using your hand, scoop a handful of berries off the top of the water and put them in a fine mesh strainer. Repeat until all berries are transferred to the strainer.
3. Run berries under water, in the strainer. As you rinse, look carefully for any leaves or large pieces of soil in the berries. Remove anything that doesn’t look like a cute little red berry. 🙂
4. Lay berries in a single layer on a paper towel to dry. Inspect berries once more. Set aside while preparing the rest.↓
Slice onions very thinly. ↓
Making saffron water.↓ Click image to enlarge.
Click here to learn how to dry your own
orange peel to save for future use.↓
Barberry Rice Pilaf
- 4 cups cooked basmati rice about 2 cups uncooked
- 1/3 cup barberries zereshk* (or substitute with 1/2 cup dried cranberries)
- 1 onion sliced very thin
- 1/3 cup butter or vegan butter such as Earth Balance
- 1/2 cup sliced almonds
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. fresh orange peel or dried and rehydrated
- pinch saffron crushed and soaking in 1 Tbsp. water
- Cook rice according to package directions.
- Clean barberries- Place berries in a medium bowl with water. Most berries will float to the top. Let them sit for a couple of minutes. Using your hand, scoop a handful of berries off the top of the water and put them in a fine mesh strainer. Repeat until all berries are transferred to the strainer. Run berries under water, in the strainer. As you rinse, look carefully for any leaves, large pieces of soil or rocks in the berries. Lay berries in a single layer on a paper towel to dry. Inspect berries once more. Set aside while preparing the rest.
- With a mortar and pestle (or a small bowl and the back of a spoon) crush a pinch-full of saffron, so that it is almost a powder. Add to the saffron powder, 1 Tbsp. water. Set aside for later.
- Combine onion and butter in a large fry pan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently until onions are almost caramelized, or a light golden brown (approximately 15 minutes).
- Add to the onions, the almonds, sugar and salt. Turn heat up to medium and cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add barberries (or cranberries), orange peel and saffron water. Cook and stir for 5 additional minutes.
- Pour cooked rice into a large serving bowl. Top rice with barberry pilaf mixture.
I just made this, and it is one of the best recipes I’ve ever come across. Perfection! I substituted 1/4 tsp. of turmeric and 1/2 tsp. of paprika for the saffron. Worked beautifully. Thank you!
So glad you liked it! Great suggestion on the substitute as well!