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Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

Dime sized meatballs that are nestled into warm cabbage rice infused with saffron and cooked to finish! Kalam Polow, a Persian meal for meat lovers!
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs
Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte or what can be called as the Persian Cabbage rice with saffron and meatballs happened without much planning unlike my usual way of extensive research and trying the most popular dish of the cuisine. I still am passionate about culinary history and the cooking techniques but this time I skipped all that and jumped right into recreating the recipe of Kalam Polow with meatballs.

But you know by now, I wouldn't post a recipe if even one of us didn't enjoy! Sharing this recipe for our #MFBChallenge. And by now I am sure you guessed the challenge theme - COOKING FROM A COUNTRY – IRAN
Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs
Kalam polo one of the many delicious Persian rice you can have. Kalam translates to cabbage and polo to rice in Farsi. Like all traditional recipes out there this one also has different versions extending from easy daily version to more elaborate festive versions!. Though different techniques are used in preparing this rice, the basic ingredients like cabbage, meat, and rice are used in all versions. 

So how did I decide on this dish? I am on Instagram for at least 3 hours a day (that's the time I set up) but I just have a handful of favourite accounts that I enjoy and go to for inspiration. One of them is @faridah88 who doesn't share recipes for all that she posts but her pictures make you want to google and find! So all those mini meatballs studded on the plate of rice made me look for Persian Polow recipes. Then I came across Sanam's My Persian Kitchen's Kalam Polow which was so apt as I had fresh cabbage! I didn't want to look any further and get confused... so went ahead and made the same day.

Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

Update July 2020: new image but the same recipe
When I made this again to capture the steps for the blog, I did the pending "read up" about this dish. I learnt that the meat used in the different versions of this polo varies from bite-size cubed meat to small meatballs, and also some use ground meat as is. So it is obvious preparing Kalam Polo with ground meat would have been the easiest but I stuck with the meatballs because they stand out and grabs our attention! Don't you agree? 

How to make Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte?

The three primary ingredients of Kalam Polow are Cabbage, Rice and Meatballs. We prepare each separately and then cook together to finish. Not to forget the Saffron that lends the colour and flavour. But if you don't have it, you can mimic the colour by using turmeric. The first thing you will do is brew the saffron so we get maximum out of it. Then make tiny meatballs and keep aside. Cook the cabbage and keep aside. Brown the meatballs and keep aside. Parboil the rice and mix with cabbage and saffron. The petite koftes are browned in fat and then nestled into the rice along with the cabbage and slow-cooked to finish. Served with any salad and yoghurt.

Should we wash the ground meat?

There is always the question of "Should we wash the ground meat?" I don't know. I have tried both ways and the only difference post-cooking is the colour of the meat. The one without washing tends to get darker brown because of all the blood I suppose. I usually don’t wash ground meat. But if I find it too much blood then I quickly rinse. So the method I use to wash ground meat is using a colander under a running water tap. Then let it drain, squeeze out any remaining moisture using hands or spoon. Before you mix other ingredients, make sure the ground meat is completely drained off the excess water. In the images here, the ground meat was not washed. 

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Step by Step Recipe for Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Brew Saffron

Take a pinch of saffron and pound to a powder using mortar pestle or back of the spoon with a dash of sugar. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of boiling water and cover it. Let it sit overnight or at least 2 hours. The sugar is used for its crystal property that will help to breakdown the saffron strands to fine powder easily. Recently I came across another method of adding the fine saffron on ice cubes and let it sit overnight to brew. Both methods works and the flavour always comes from the quality of the saffron. You may make a bigger batch and store in the fridge for later. 
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Make the Meatballs

Wash and drain the ground meat if you want to, else skip this step and use the meat as is. Take a large bowl, add the chopped onion, grated garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper and the ground beef. Mix thoroughly using your hands until well incorporated. Make small meatballs about the size of a cherry (makes around 40 meatballs). Keep aside until needed.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Prepare the Cabbage mixture

Chop the onions and cabbage to the same size preferably diced thinly. Heat a tablespoon of any cooking oil in a thick bottomed pan (you will use the same pan to fry the meatballs too). Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent. Add the chopped cabbage, salt and turmeric. Sauté until cabbage is cooked for about 15 minutes. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Pan-fry the meatballs

Add two tablespoons of oil to the same pan while still hot. Place all the meatballs carefully or do in batches. Pan-fry the meatballs on medium to high flame for about 20 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Remove the meatballs and reserve the leftover juices from the meatballs in the pan for deglazing.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Parboil the Rice

Bring to boil 4 to 5 cups of water in a pot. Add the drained rice and enough salt (more than usual). Bring to a rolling boil once again and then reduce the flame to low and let it boil for 2 to 5 minutes and switch off. We want the grains to be al-dente or par-boiled, meaning not completely cooked. Drain the rice into a colander. Transfer the drained rice into the bowl of cabbage.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Prepare Kalam Polow with Saffron

Add around 2 tablespoons of brewed saffron to the rice bowl and gently mix all together. (Gently, because you don't want to break the grains). 
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Take the same pot to prepare the Polow and add 2 tablespoons of water. Swirl the pan to ensure the surface is covered with the water. Layer the pot with rice, place all the meatballs, then cover with the remaining rice. Create four to five deep holes with the back of a ladle in the rice.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Place the pot over a medium flame and cover and cook for 10 minutes. (you may use a heat diffuser). Meanwhile, add some hot water to the pan where the meatballs were sautéed and deglaze the pan on low flame. Open the pot and pour the broth over the rice. Cover the pot with foil or cloth and close with the lid tightly. Turn the flame to lowest and let it cook for 20 or 30 more minutes. Serve hot with cold salad and yoghurt or Laban.
Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs


Kalam Polo | Persian Cabbage Rice with Meatballs

Kalam Polo Recipe | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

Serves: 2 to 3

INGREDIENTS

For the meatballs
400gms ground beef or lamb
1 large onion, very finely chopped (100 gms)
4 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil to pan fry

For the Cabbage mixture
160gms shredded cabbage, (half of a medium-sized cabbage)
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
oil to stir-fry

For the Polow
1 cup basmati rice, washed and soaked for 30 minutes 
4 cups water to parboil the rice
Salt to taste

For the assembling and cooking further
2 tablespoon brewed saffron
1/4 cup water to deglaze the meatballs fried pan

METHOD

  1. Brew saffron 
  2. Make meatballs
  3. Chop ingredients 
  4. Cook one by one as directed in the recipe
Brew saffron
  1. Take a pinch of saffron and pound to a powder using mortar pestle or back of the spoon with a dash of sugar. 
  2. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of boiling water and cover it. 
  3. Let it sit overnight or at least 2 hours. 
Make the Meatballs
  1. Wash and drain the ground meat if you want to, else skip this step.
  2. Take a large bowl, add the chopped onion, grated garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper and the ground beef.
  3. Mix thoroughly using your hands until well incorporated.
  4. Make small meatballs about the size of a cherry (makes around 40 meatballs).
  5. Keep aside until needed.
Prepare the Cabbage mixture: 15 to 20 mins
  1. Chop the onions and cabbage to the same size preferably diced thinly.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of any cooking oil in a thick bottomed pan (you will use the same pan to fry the meatballs too). 
  3. Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent.
  4. Add the chopped cabbage, salt and turmeric. 
  5. Sauté for about 20 minutes or until cabbage is cooked (you may cover and cook during the last few minutes).
  6. Transfer into a large mixing bowl.
Pan-fry the meatballs: ~20 mins
  1. Add two tablespoons of oil to the same pan while still hot.
  2. Place all the meatballs carefully or do in batches.
  3. Pan-fry the meatballs on medium to high flame for about 20 minutes or until cooked all the way through. 
  4. Remove the meatballs and reserve the leftover juices from the meatballs in the pan for deglazing.
Parboil the Rice:
  1. Bring to boil 4 to 5 cups of water in a pot. 
  2. Add the drained rice and enough salt (more than usual).
  3. Bring to a rolling boil once again and then reduce the flame to low and let it boil for 2 to 5 minutes and switch off. We want almost cooked but not completely cooked rice. 
  4. Drain the rice into a colander.
  5. Transfer the drained rice into the bowl of cabbage.
  6. Add around 2 tablespoons of brewed saffron to the rice and gently mix all together. 
Prepare Kalam Polow with Saffron:
  1. Take the same pot to prepare the Polow and add 2 tablespoons of water and swirl the pan to ensure the surface is covered with the water.
  2. Layer the pot with rice, place all the meatballs, then cover with the remaining rice.
  3. Create four to five deep holes with the back of a ladle in the rice.
  4. Place the pot over a medium flame and cover and cook for 10 minutes. (you may use a heat diffuser).
  5. Meanwhile, add some water to the pan where the meatballs were sautéed and deglaze the pan.
  6. Open the pot and pour the broth over the rice. Cover the pot with foil or cloth and close with the lid tightly. Turn the flame to lowest and let it cook for 20 or 30 more minutes. 
  7. Serve hot with cold salad and yoghurt or laban.
Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

I am not too happy with the photography here. I was frantically trying to dig out the meatballs with my hands to garnish the rice... lol... what was I thinking?? I could have made it easier by using a spoon but the hungry brain works worst. I thought too much time will make the food cold which is the last thing I want. So the pictures don't do much justice to the beauty of the dish! Update 2020 July - New images with strategically placed meatballs 😂

You can always increase the rice quantity to suit your family needs. I made less rice and more meat to keep it low in carb. I made some tangy salad to go with Kalam Polow with whatever I had - mix some finely chopped onions, parsley and tomatoes dressed with salt, vinegar and olive oil. - Highly recommended!

Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

TRIED THIS RECIPE? 

I would love to hear from you. If you have made this recipe then do leave a comment below. If you like this recipe then do share the recipe link on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Follow me on Instagram and mention @butfirstchaai or tag #butfirstchai so that I can see your creations!

Check out what my blogger friends shared for this challenge An InLinkz Link-up

Have you checked my Persian Jewelled Rice recipe? If you are looking at ways to use up Pomegranate Molasses, then do check my Fesenjan recipe!

Thank You! 

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