Havij Polo is a heartwarming and cherished Persian dish with a special place in the memories and traditions of my family. This delightful recipe, a beautiful symphony of aromatic rice, tender meat, and sweet carrots, has been passed down through generations and always brings a sense of warmth and togetherness when prepared.
Havij Polo is significant because of my mother’s love for this dish. Growing up, I watched her meticulously prepare this meal joyfully and enthusiastically, pouring her heart and soul into each step. However, it was only when I reached adulthood that I truly began to appreciate the depth of flavours and the comforting embrace of this dish my mother so lovingly made.
As I share the recipe for Havij Polo with you, I invite you to experience the delicious harmony of flavours, from the tender ground lamb or beef and the fragrant combination of turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom, to the delicate notes of saffron, sugar, and rose water. The added texture from the almonds and the crispy potato tahdig at the bottom of the pot make each bite a celebration of Persian culinary traditions.
As you prepare this dish, may you feel the warmth and love passed down through generations and bring joy to your family and friends just as it has to mine.
Basic Ingredients for Havij Polo (Persian Carrot Rice)
Rice: As the base of Havij Polo, rice is essential for its fluffy and aromatic texture. It absorbs the flavours of the other ingredients and creates a satisfying and comforting meal.
Ground Lamb or Beef: Providing the protein in this dish, ground lamb or beef adds a rich and savoury element to the recipe. The choice between lamb and beef depends on personal preference, with lamb offering a more distinct, robust flavour and milder beef.
Carrots: The star ingredient of Havij Polo, carrots lend a natural sweetness and bright colour to the dish. They are cooked until tender and slightly caramelised, which enhances their sweetness and complements the other flavours.
Onion: A staple in many cuisines, onions provide a base flavour and aroma. They are sautéed until soft and golden, adding depth and richness to the overall taste.
Turmeric: This warm, earthy spice is used for its vibrant yellow colour and subtle, slightly bitter flavour. Turmeric adds a layer of complexity to the dish and is a signature ingredient in many Persian recipes.
Cinnamon: A sweet and fragrant spice, cinnamon imparts a warm and inviting aroma to Havij Polo. Its delicate flavour balances the other spices and adds a hint of sweetness to the dish.
Ground Cardamom: This aromatic spice adds a unique, slightly sweet, and citrusy flavour to Havij Polo. It elevates the dish by providing a touch of exotic fragrance that sets it apart from other rice dishes.
Saffron: Highly prized for its vibrant colour and rich aroma, saffron adds a luxurious touch to Havij Polo. It infuses the rice with a beautiful golden hue and contributes a subtle, earthy flavour.
Sugar: A small amount of sugar is used to enhance the natural sweetness of the carrots and to balance the flavours of the spices.
Rose Water: This fragrant ingredient adds a delicate floral note to the dish, lending a unique and captivating aroma characteristic of Persian cuisine.
Oil or Butter: Used for sautéing the onions and carrots, oil or butter is essential for creating a rich and flavorful base for the dish. Butter adds a creamy, indulgent taste, while oil provides a lighter, more neutral flavour.
Potato: Peeled and sliced, the potato is used to create the beloved tahdig – a crispy, golden layer of rice and potatoes at the bottom of the pot. This crunchy element adds texture and contrast to the dish, making it more enjoyable.
- Rinse the rice thoroughly to remove excess starch and prevent the rice from becoming sticky during cooking.
- Soak the rice for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight, before cooking to help it become fluffy and tender.
- To enhance the flavour of the spices, you can lightly toast them in a dry pan before adding them to the dish.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning throughout the cooking process to achieve your preferred balance of flavours.
- 4 cups rice
- ½ kg ground lamb or beef
- 1 kg carrots
- 1 large or 2 medium-sized onions
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cardamom
- ½ tsp saffron
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3 tbsp rose water
- ⅓ cup oil or butter
- 1 potato, peeled and sliced
- Rinse the rice thoroughly and soak it in water with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Prepare the carrots by cutting them into julienne strips, and chop the onions.
- In a large pan, sauté the onions until they become translucent. Add the ground meat and cook until browned. Season the meat with cinnamon and ground cardamom.
- In a medium pan, melt the butter and add the carrots—season with sugar, a pinch of salt, and ground saffron. Cook for at least 5 minutes. Add the cooked meat to the carrot mixture and cook on low heat for another 15-20 minutes.
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add the soaked and drained rice. Cook the rice until it is half-cooked, then drain the water.
- In a large pot, layer the sliced potato at the bottom and add some melted butter and a little oil. Add one-third of the parboiled rice to create the first layer. Top this with halfof the carrot and meat mixture. Repeat with another layer of rice and the remaining carrot and meat mixture. Finally, cover with the remaining parboiled rice. Make three holes in the layers of rice using the handle of a spatula or wooden spoon.
- In a small cup, mix 1/2 cup of hot water with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and a pinch of saffron. Sprinkle the mixture over the rice. Once the rice starts to steam,wrap the pot lid with a kitchen towel, lower the heat, and cook for about 45-50 minutes. The towel will absorb the excess condensed liquid, allowing the rice to beme fluffy.