Persian Kalam Polow with meatballs

An easy one-pot dish.


You may know this type of one-pot rice dish under other spelling variations used around the Balkan and Middle East, like pilaf, polov, or pilau. Persian Polow is rice that is pre-cooked, and then mixed and steamed with vegetables, herbs, and/or meat. In this recipe small beef meatballs are pan fried in separately and added to the rice for the final steam. Layering the ingredients in such a way and cooking it on a low heat results in a beautifully browned bottom layer of rice, called tahdig. Creating the perfect tahdig may take some practice – take care not to burn the rice.

Ingredients (serves 6)

• 2 cups rice

• 1 large onion, sliced thin

• 1/2 green cabbage, shredded

• 1 tbsp turmeric

• 1/2 tbsp ground coriander

• 1/2 tbsp ground cardamom

• 1 tsp cinnamon

Ingredients (for meatballs)

• 1 lb ground beef

• 1 tbsp dried parsley

• 1 egg

• 1 tsp dijon mustard

• 1 tsp garlic powder

• salt and pepper


1. Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. In a medium sized pot, boil the rice in ample, salted water for about 10 minutes or until almost cooked. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop from cooking further.

2. In a large heavy bottomed pot, sweat the onion in some vegetable oil until translucent. Add spices and cook until fragrant. Add shredded cabbage and cook until slightly softened. Season with salt.

3. For the meatballs: Mix all ingredients by hand and form small, golf ball-sized meatballs. Sear the meatballs in a bit of vegetable oil and butter. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, mix rice and vegetable/spice mix. Layer the rice and the meatballs back into the heavy bottomed pot, starting with a centimetre of water and a layer of rice. When the layering is done, pour any leftover meatball grease over the rice. Use the back of a wooden spoon to poke about 5 holes in the surface of the rice, almost reaching the bottom of the pan – this is to assist in the steaming process.

5. Turn the heat down to the lowest possible setting. Cover with a lid and cook for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and wrap the lid in a clean and dry dishcloth. Put the lid back on the pot and leave for another 10 minutes on the stove, but with the heat turned off. Transfer to a serving platter with the tahdig on top. Serve hot.