Iranian albalu polo (sour cherry rice)
350g / 2 cups frozen, stoned sour cherries
150g / ⅔ cup sugar
1 chicken cut into 4, or 4 chicken thighs
3 tbsp butter or olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
200g / 7 oz. minced meat (lamb, veal or beef)
For the rice:
1 good pinch ground saffron
2 tbsp boiling water
2 tbsp olive oil
180g / 1 cup basmati rice
½ tsp salt
500ml / 2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp toasted slithered almonds, to serve (optional)
Allow the sour cherries to thaw in a small pan. Once thawed, add the sugar and simmer over low heat for about 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the saffron and 2 tbsp boiling water. Let it steep in the water for at least 30 minutes.
In a frying pan, heat 1 tbsp butter or oil, and sauté the chicken and half the onion, until cooked through. Set aside.
In a bowl, combine the minced meat, the rest of the onion, salt and pepper. Mix well, then form small balls, the size of a large hazelnut. Heat the remaining butter or butter in the frying pan and fry the meatballs. Set aside.
In a shallow pan, heat the olive oil. Stir in the rice and salt and stir gently until the rice is coated with oil and glistening.
Add the boiling water and stir briefly.
Turn heat to the lowest setting, put a lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
Do NOT lift the lid or disturb the rice for the entire time.
After 20 minutes, remove pan from heat, remove lid, and pour the saffron infusion into 3 points in the rice. Place a clean tea towel over the rice and replace the lid.
Let stand for 10 minutes.
When ready to serve, fluff the rice gently with a fork. Mix with sour cherries and meatballs, and top with the chicken.
Decorate with toasted slithered almonds, if you wish.