This wonderful, favourite Persian saffron rice cake (Tahchin) is normally served with chicken and always garnished with lots of barberries. If you can’t find barberries, you could substitute cranberries or currants soaked in lemon juice. “Tah” is a Persian word for bottom and “chin” is the root word for “chidan” which means arranging or layering in this case. In western restaurants, it’s often called Upside down layered saffron rice with chicken. No matter what it’s called, the end result is so elegant, it’s often the centrepiece of occasions from casual dinner parties to birthdays and even weddings. Serves 4-6
Tahchin | Persian Saffron Rice Cake Recipe
- Place the raw chicken breasts in a pot along with roughly chopped onion, turmeric, salt, pepper and a cup of water, bring to boil then reduce heat, cover and cook for an hour on medium-low heat. When cooked set aside to cool. Then shred the chicken into pieces.
- Heat butter in a pan. Then add chicken and 3 tbsp of saffron. Drain barberries (or your substitute) then add and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot on medium-high heat. Add the washed, soaked rice and boil for about 8-10 minutes or until rice grains are soft on the ends and firm in the centre. Drain and pour some cool water over it to cool and separate the rice grains Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl combine yogurt, yolks, oil, salt, pepper and the rest of saffron. Mix well. Add the rice to the yogurt mixture, gently combine, trying not to break the rice grains.)
- In a non-stick round or loaf cake tin add 3 tbsp of oil, move the oil around to cover the bottom uniformly. Ladle 2/3 of the rice in, Lay the rice mix on the bottom of the tin and press the rice up the sides of the tin by about 1 inch/2.5cm.
- Pour chicken mix evenly in the hole. Cover the entire surface with the rest of the rice, flatten the top with the back of a spoon while pressing down a little. You can drizzle some melted butter over the top layer of rice.
- Cover with aluminium foil and poke holes into it using a knife to let the steam out. Bake in a preheated oven of 200°C/400˚F, for about 45 minutes to an hour. The dish is ready once the crust forms.
- prepare the barberries by melting the butter in a pan over medium-low heat. Add in barberries, stir until coated with butter. Add in sugar, rose water and slivered pistachios. Stir well. Barberries are ready once they’re shiny. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- When the Tahchin in ready, remove from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes to loosen the crust. Place a serving platter over the cake tin. Hold firmly (where oven gloves) and gently turn over. Garnish with barberry mixture as you like.
- Tahchin is traditionally made in a non-stick pot on medium heat but there is always a possibility of burning the bottom if you’re not careful. An oven-safe dish is easier, and you should always end up with a deliciously even, golden Tachin.
- You can also make individual ‘cakes’, ideal for party finger food or lunch boxes.
- There are two ways to ‘bloom’ saffron. The ice method seems popular in Persia/Iran. The boiling water method seems to be a western preference.
- Bloom Saffron with Boiling Water: - After grinding saffron with the back of a spoon, pour it into a small amount of boiling water and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes until the saffron gives its taste and colour to the water. Use a third of a glass of water to a tablespoon of saffron.
- Bloom Saffron with Ice: - Pour the ground saffron into a glass, place small ice blocks on top and let the ice melt at room temperature until the saffron gives its extract and colour to the water. The amount of ice used depends on the amount of ground saffron. Use two ice cubes to half a teaspoon of ground saffron. Increase in the same proportion as required.