This recipe is perfect all year round since most pantries are always stocked with fresh tomatoes and canned tomato products. However, I waited for the weather to warm up and for the peak tomato season to arrive to hopefully cook with vine-ripened tomatoes and not the dull and tasteless tomatoes that are picked green. This recipe is loosely based on my grandmother's recipe who was known for her delicious cooking. For a more tart استامبولی پلو - estamboli polow recipe, I searched the vegetable markets for a good torsh (tangy) tomato but to no avail. Among all the different varieties of tomatoes that were available I settled on the beefsteak tomatoes due to their great flavor. I prefer outdoor cooking in the hot summer months and try to minimize my standing in the kitchen as much as I can but this tomato rice is a perfect summer dish that goes well with grilled chicken, fish or vegetables.
There are many recipes for estamboli polow from plain tomato rice to a rice complete with meat and green beans, depending on what part of the country you are from and how this was prepared in your home. For us, growing up in Khuzestan, estamboli meant کته تماته/گوجه فرنگی - kateh-ye tamate which is slow-cooked rice in tomato puree with the addition of small cubed potatoes using the long and narrow type of potato called estamboli in Iran. For a simpler estamboli you can even make it without adding the cubed potatoes. If you prefer a less acidic dish you can skip the tomato paste. Ultimately, it depends on your taste, diet, and food restrictions.
2 cups long-grain rice, rinsed well and drained
7 ripe medium tomatoes, blanched and peeled
6 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small onion, diced
1-2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (for added color and a bit of an extra sour flavor) *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
A good pinch of crushed red pepper
Vegetable oil or butter
- In a pot of boiling water blanch the tomatoes for 5 minutes or until the skin comes off. Let cool, remove the skin, core the tomatoes and puree using a food processor. Yields about four cups.
- In a medium bowl wash the rice thoroughly until completely clean, drain completely.
- In a mixing bowl combine the well-drained rice with the tomato puree, mix well and let it soak for 20-30 minutes before cooking the rice. Do not drain.
- In a large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat, add the onions, cook until golden.
- Add the potatoes, cook for about 5-7 minutes or until golden on all sides. add turmeric and a pinch of salt. Stir well.
- Push the potatoes to the side and add the tomato paste in the center of the pan and cook for about 5 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently using a wooden spoon until it changes color.
- Remove the pan away from the heat source, add the rice and tomato mixture to the pot, add 1/4 cup of water, 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of red pepper, stir well.
- Return the pan to the heat and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil. Stir. Reduce the heat, cover the lid with a paper towel or a clean dish cloth, close the lid tightly and cook on low heat for 40 minutes. Over cooking and adding too much water makes the rice too mushy.
Serve with plain yogurt or mast o khiar, sabzi khordan with a bunch of fresh mint, and salad shirazi.