Iran has been negatively in the news, which is so sad especially because the country is sooo beautiful, and the people are incredibly generous and friendly. And if you think Iran is a country made up entirely of dry desert plains, think again. Not only does it have plenty of mountains (and half a dozen volcanoes), head for the peaks of the Alborz Mountains – only a few hours from Tehran – and you’ll discover several ski resorts! Dizin is the largest and, at 8,700 ft, it’s higher than Europe’s highest resort. I would have never associated Iran with skiing! But apparently anything is possible
Things you didn’t know about Iran:
- If you get in a cab anywhere in Iran, chances are when you try to pay, your driver will refuse to take your money. Walk into a shop to buy something, the same happens. Baffled? The cultural practice of Taarof is Iran’s own personal brand of etiquette. You’re not really being given a freebie, it’s a form of civility and all you have to do is play along. It’s all about denying your will to please the other person – and it extends to pretty much every social situation.
- You should accept all offers of food and drink (but be sure to decline once or twice first!) and it is polite to try a bit of everything that is served.
- Believe it or not, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita. The pursuit of the perfect nose certainly has a lot to do with the restrictions of the hijab dress code leading to a larger focus on the face but it’s about more than physical beauty. For Persian women (and some men), it’s also an indicator of wealth and social status.
- Iran is the largest exporter of the most expensive caviar in the world
- According to an old Persian proverb, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise”. Why? It’s simple, really. A fine Persian rug will almost always include intentional imperfections to symbolize how only God can create perfection.
Jeweled Rice is mostly served at weddings and other joyful occasions. The fruitiness of the cranberries and raisins makes it special! A yummy side dish!
- 1/4 cup unsalted, shelled raw natural pistachios
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 2 cups basmati rice
- Kosher salt
- 1 orange
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, cut into matchstick-size pieces
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Preheat oven to 175°. Spread pistachios on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate, let cool, then coarsely chop. Spread almonds on the same baking sheet and toast until golden brown, 5–8 minutes; let cool. Set nuts aside.
Place rice in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Cook rice in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until grains have lengthened but are still firm, 6–7 minutes; drain and rinse under cold water. Spread rice on another rimmed baking sheet; let cool.
Meanwhile, using a vegetable peeler, remove zest from orange and thinly slice lengthwise (reserve flesh for another use). Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add orange zest and carrots, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender, 15–20 minutes; drain and set aside (discard syrup).
Combine barberries and raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water; let soak 10 minutes. Drain and set aside. Place saffron in another small bowl and add 1/4 cup hot water; set aside.
Heat butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until soft and beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes. Add cardamom, cumin, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon saffron mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Reduce heat to low, add barberries and raisins, and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Stir in reserved nuts and orange zest and carrot mixture; season with salt. Set fruit and nut mixture aside.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large wide heavy pot over medium heat. Add half of rice, spreading evenly; top with fruit and nut mixture, then remaining rice, spreading evenly. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke 5–6 holes in rice all the way through to bottom of pot (to help release steam and help rice cook evenly).
Drizzle remaining saffron mixture over rice. Place a clean kitchen towel over pot, cover with a tight-fitting lid, and secure loose edges of towel on top of lid, using a rubber band or masking tape.
Cook until pot begins to steam, 5–8 minutes. Reduce heat to very low and cook, without stirring, until rice is tender and bottom layer of rice is browned and crisp, 30–40 minutes.