September 13, 2011

Kateh - Persian Style Plain and Simple Rice

We are in the last days of summer and even though I am savoring each and every day that's left I am very grateful and excited for the beginning of fall season and yet another school year. The days of holding my daughters little hands and joyfully walking them to the line outside of their classrooms have been long gone. I vividly remember my eldest daughter's first day of first grade when she walked into the classroom cheerful and I walked away with tears rolling down my face realizing at that moment that this was the beginning of a long journey in life for her and that I wouldn't be able to hold her hands forever. I have always wanted them to be independent, to stand on their own two feet and roam the world freely but sometimes letting go is not that easy.

 I remember my first day of first grade very well, but it's the night before the first day of school that stands out in my mind. In Iran, the first day of school starts on rooz-e aval-e mehr (the first day of the month of Mehr) according to the Persian solar calendar which is also the first day of fall (September 23rd, the autumnal equinox). It was the night before the start of school, with my three older siblings in high school, a sibling in elementary school and a new born baby brother, the house was in such a chaos that as I was getting ready for bed I realized that I had no book bag, no lunch box and no school uniform to go to school with the next day. That night I went to bed with the jitters, worrying about not having everything ready. However, when I woke up in the morning I was amazed to see a brand new lunchbox, a beautiful new book bag and a hand-sewn uniform by my mother next to my pillow. I never asked my parents about how they were able to acquire those things so late at night but I guess I didn't want to ruin the special moment in my mind.

 First Grade Lesson, (Persian Alphabet)
کته Kateh is the easiest and quickest way of  preparing rice. In fact, this was the first recipe I learned to cook as a child. My mother taught all of us to make kateh as a child. The simple no-fuss recipe involves adding about two parts of water to one part cleaned and rinsed rice in a pot, adding salt and oil and letting it simmer on low heat. I have posted many rice/polow recipes and almost all of them except one (dami baghali) are made by bringing lots of water to a boil, adding rice, draining the water and steaming the parboiled rice with or without other ingredients. In making kateh we use the absorption method where the water is not thrown out and the rice cooks until the water is fully absorbed. The rice in kateh may not be as fluffy as the rice in polow but it's definitely tastier. Also, kateh does not have a crispy and crunchy tah-dig.

Depending on the type of rice, you may need to adjust the water and rice ratio. I prefer using basmati rice for it's flavor and aroma and because it's somewhat similar to the very flavorful and aromatic rice from the northern region of Iran. For a less sticky and more fluffy and firm rice use 2/3 cups of water for a cup of rice. There's also the old Persian method of measuring the needed amount of water for rice by covering the rice with enough water in the pot to reach up to the first joint of your index finger. An easy option instead of making kateh on your stove is to use a rice cooker that also makes tah-dig!  Personally, I wouldn't recommend it simply because there's a joy in preparing a meal the old-fashioned way by taking the time, care and effort  to cook whenever possible.

Kateh - Persian Style Plain and Simple Rice

Serves 4

2 cups dry basmati rice
4 cups water
Salt to taste
butter or vegetable oil

  1. Rinse the rice 2-3 times with cool water or until it becomes clear, discard the water. 
  2. Place the rice in a medium-sized pot, add 4 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat.
  3. When the water starts boiling add 2 tablespoons oil or butter depending on your preference, gently stir once or twice with a wooden spoon.
  4. Wrap the lid with a clean dishcloth, cover the pot and cook on low heat for about 30-40 minutes.
Serve the rice on a platter with yogurt, salad or your favorite khoresh.

Enjoy! Happy Autumn!


  1. My Persian husband has always preferred Kateh, so that is what I cook 90% of the time. I never knew what the measurements were though, since my mother-in-law taught me and we used subjective measurements for the size pot I had. Now when people ask how to cook this tasty rice, I can point them to your blog for very precise instructions. Sorry to say I am a "little of this, little of that" kind of cook and it drives my daughter, daughter-in-law and friends nuts that I don't have precise measurements to give them. I love to look at your blog -- the pictures are lovely and it is wonderful to see things that I don't cook often anymore as my nest is now empty!! Thank you Azita June --
    JJ (this is what my grandchildren call me -- short for "Janet June"

  2. We love to eat rice but can't get basmati rice cheaply enough here in Algeria. I'm waiting for some to come from the UK with my husband next week insha'allah. :)

  3. What an adorable photo! Kateh, a comfort food. Perfectly done!

  4. LOL ... this is how I always cook our rice and my Persian husband and family love it ... however they always look at me funny when they watch me prepare it as it wasn't the way they were taught (they always cook rice with lots of water technic). Thank you for posting this and letting me know that I am doing it right ... at least for this style!

  5. jkanaz, thank you so much Janet June!
    Kate, you can use any type of rice you want for kateh.
    Belinda, thanks so much!
    Anonymous, thank you! Kateh is simple and delicious.

  6. your rice photo makes me hungry hehehehe

    thanks sweety ... its looks perfect

    i agree with you that the amount of water needed is subject to the type of rice you want :D

  7. oh Azita,thank you so much for kabab tips, i already posting a recipe from you on my blog.The tips are so helpful for beginner like me.

    Kateh is always become our fav.rice ever, my daughter have today luch box with kateh and left-over kabab. What I notice was, no other American kindergarten kids bring kabab for lunch LOL

  8. What a lovely and nostalgic post and pictures. Thanks for sharing this 'simple' recipe. I love rice in all forms and I'm always on the look for new tips.

  9. Azita Khanoom, forgive me for asking an unrelated question here. I am -for the first time in my life- trying to make some Torshis (i have successfully made Torshi Sib-e-Kuhi before, but that is pretty straight-forward). I varguely remember eating amazing walnut torshis back in Iran, but for the life of me can't find any recipes anywhere (online, or in Daryabandari or Roza Montazami or Batmanghlij)... Any ideas about how to make walnut torshi?

  10. Laleh Khanoom, I've heard of torshi-e gerdoo (walnut torshi)but I've never tasted it and I don't have a recipe for it. I'll ask around and see if anyone has a recipe for it. If I find an authentic walnut torshi recipe I'll definitely post here on my blog.

  11. It does bring tears to my eyes when I read your 'first day of school' girls are all grown up too and it is hard to 'let go':(

  12. Love the memories also that you shared. Thanks for sharing the rice recipe- looking forward to trying this.

  13. Azita June, I am originally from north of Iran and your technique for measuring the water with your finger tip has been used there all the time and it works, but I've never heard of anyone referring to it.I have just recently found your blog by accident and I love your style of writing.Its as good as Nigella if not better! I also had tears in my eyes when I read your first day at school,Very much reminded me of my own.BTW Walnut torshi is available in shops here in London,don't know about other places but I know you 'd need to have fresh green walnuts to make it, which I think is available only in certain shops and in season. Can't wait to read more of your experiences and recipes.

  14. Thank you so much for this simple recipe! This is my first recipe that I made myself! Your instructions were simple and great. I am so happy that I've started cooking, using YOU as an instructor!

  15. Beautiful way of cooking rice. just started exploring Persian cuisine and Is so delicious!!!