Clive is a master at this Persian rice with the crispy bottom or tah dig. His recipe follows below:
Saffron Steamed Plain Basmati Rice - Persian Chelow
• 3 cups long-grain white basmati rice
• 8 cups cold water
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil, butter, or ghee
• 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground saffron threads, dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water
Pick over the rice carefully to remove its many small solid particles of grit.
Wash the rice by placing it in a large container and covering it with lukewarm water. Agitate gently with your hand, then pour off the water. Repeat five times until the rice is completely clean.
In a large nonstick pot, bring 8 cups of water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil. Add the rice to the pot and boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes, gently stirring twice with a wooden spoon to loosen any grains that stick to the bottom. Once a rice rises to the top of the pot, it is done.
Drain the rice in a large, fine-mesh strainer and rinse with 3 cups lukewarm water.
In a bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons oil, 2 spatulas full of rice, the yogurt, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and 1 tablespoon of saffron water. Spread this mixture over the bottom of the rice pot. This will form the golden crust, or tah dig.
One spatula full at a time, gently mound the remaining rice onto the tah dig layer. Shape it into a pyramid to leave room for the rice’s expansion. Cover the pot and cook the rice for 10 minutes over medium heat.
Mix 1 cup cold water with 4 tablespoons oil and pour over rice. Sprinkle on the remaining saffron water. Place a clean dishtowel or 2 layers of paper towel over the pot to absorb condensation, and cover with the lid to prevent steam from escaping. Reduce the heat to low and cook 50 minutes longer.
Remove the pot from the heat and cool it, still covered, on a damp surface for 5 minutes to loosen the crust.
There are two ways to serve the rice. The first is to hold the serving platter tightly over the uncovered pot and invert the two together, unmolding the entire mound onto the platter. The rice will emerge as a golden-crusted cake, to be garnished with edible flowers and herbs, then served in wedges.
The second serving style is to spoon the rice into a pyramid on the serving platter, taking care not to disturb the bottom crust as you do so. After the pyramid is shaped, detach the crust with a wooden spatula and arrange it in pieces around the pyramid or serve it on a small side platter.
(Clive serves this with small tomatoes, tossed in olive oil, garlic and thyme and put in a 225F oven for 4 to 5 hours. It pairs wonderfully with his Lamb & Apricot Tagine which you can find here.)