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

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 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.

I was also eyeing to recreate Persian Halwa with flour but these days I stay away from making desserts too often. When I get the urge to make a sweet dish, I remember Rafeeda's words "I baked basically when there was a need, not when I wanted to." So I ask myself the question and often get away not doing it... curbing the craving. :-)

Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs
When I was deciding on the title for this post, I got confused and still am - when to use Koofteh and Kebab? To my understanding kofte or koofteh are meatballs in sauce and kebabs are the dry version. But I went with Kofte as it sounded more Persian. :-) Correct me if you know the answer. 

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. 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.

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

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

Recipe Adapted from Sanam's My Persian Kitchen

Serves: 2


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

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

For the Polow
1 cup basmati rice (long grain)
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


  1. Brew Saffron 
  2. Make meat balls
  3. Chop ingredients 
  4. Cook one by one as directed in the recipe

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. 

How to 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 until needed. 

Make the Meatballs:
  1. Wash and drain the ground meat. If you don't want to, then skip this step. 
  2. Grate the onion and place in a mixing bowl big enough to hold all the meat
  3. Mix in the minced garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper
  4. Add the ground beef and mix using your hands until are well incorporated.
  5. Make small meatballs about the size of a cherry (makes around 40 meatballs)
  6. Keep aside until needed
Prepare the Cabbage mixture:
  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 to fry the meatballs too) 
  3. Add the chopped onions and saute until translucent
  4. Add the chopped cabbage, salt and turmeric 
  5. Sauté until cabbage is cooked
  6. Transfer into a large mixing bowl
Stir fry the meatballs:
  1. Add another two tablespoons of oil to the same pan while still hot
  2. Place all the meatballs carefully 
  3. Sauté the meatballs 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
  4. Drain the rice into a colander
  5. Transfer the drained rice into the bowl of cabbage
Kalam Polow Ba Zafaran and Kofte | Cabbage Rice With Saffron and Meatballs

Prepare Kalam Polow with Saffron:
  1. 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)
  2. Take the same pot to prepare the Polow and add 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Swirl the pan to ensure the surface is covered with the water
  4. Layer the pot with rice, place all the meatballs, then cover with the remaining rice
  5. Create four to five deep holes with the back of a ladle in the rice.
  6. Place the pot over a medium flame and cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, add some water to the pan where the meatballs were sautéed and deglaze the pan.
  8. Open the pot and pour the broth over the rice. 
  9. Cover the pot with foil or cloth and close with the lid tightly
  10. Turn the flame to lowest and let it cook for 20 or 30 more minutes 
  11. Serve hot with cold salad and yoghurt or Laban
Take the time to make your choice of salad and prepare the table. :-)

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!

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



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