Tahchin, literally means “arranged at the bottom”, owing to the way this dish is made. There are many different kinds of Tahchin. Pre-cooked rice is mixed with saffron, yoghurt, eggs, and spices and a filling is arranged at the bottom, often chicken or spinach. The Tahchin is then baked, turned upside down and sliced into pieces. It is truly divine.
Honestly, the flavours are second to none. In my vegan Tahchin, you’ll find a layer of mushrooms, aubergines, caramelised onions and barberries, cooked with garlic and cumin, as well as orange zest. The rice is mixed with thick vegan yoghurt, mixed with milled flaxseeds instead of eggs and infused with saffron, cumin, cardamom and rosewater, before being arranged and baked.
The flavours might sound overpowering, but they are anything but. The result is incredible layers of rich and subtle flavour profiles. The rice is moist and fluffy, whilst the top and sides of the Tahchin are perfectly crispy and crunchy. There is really nothing I’d put above this dish (apart from ghorme sabzi actually…). It has taken me so many attempts to finalise the perfect recipe and I’m so excited to share it with you.
The saying goes that in the olden days, a cook was making rice and saffron chicken for the head of the kingdom. The chef overcooked the rice by accident, and in fear of getting into trouble, added in the chicken, as well as some saffron, eggs and yoghurt mixed it all up and hoped for the best. The king was overjoyed, and the result is what we now know as tahchin, which is a staple dish and most often served at big parties and functions.
- 2 Oatly Greek Style Oatgurt (400g each) or any other very thick greek-style vegan yoghurt, however this is what I found works best
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt
- 0.5 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1/6 cup of boiling water
- 0.5 tsp cardamom
- 1 cup cooking oil
- 3 tbsp rosewater golab
- 3 flax-eggs 3 tbsp flaxseeds mixed with 12 tbsp water
- First prepare the flax-eggs. Mix 3 tbsp of flaxseeds with 12 tbsp of water and leave it on the side to set.
- Cut the peeled aubergines into 1cm thick slices. Place them on a rack in the oven to grill for around 3-4 minutes on each side, keeping the oven door open. The aim here is not to bake them but to dry them out slightly so they will absorb less oil. Put them aside.
- Wash the basmati rice until the water runs clear. Fill a large saucepot with around 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add in the washed rice with 2 tbsp of salt. Bring to a boil again then turn to medium heat and let boil for around 8 minutes. Normally, we stop the rice cooking halfway to ensure it does not get mushy. For Tahchin, don't worry too much if the rice overcooks. After 8 minutes, drain the rice and wash it with cold water to stop the cooking process, and put it aside.
- While the rice is boiling, fry the 3 onions in 2-3 tbsp of oil on a medium heat, until they are slightly translucent. Then add in the turmeric and minced garlic and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Add in the roughly chopped mushrooms and 1 tsp of cumin, 0.5 tsp of cardamom, and a sprinkle of salt and black pepper. Fry the mixture for another 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked down. Then add 1 cup of barberries, the optional orange zest and 2-3 tablespoons of oil to the mixture. Fry this for a further 1 minute on a medium-low heat until the barberries have puffed up slightly. They burn very easily so be careful.
- Meanwhile, fry the aubergines in 1/4 cup of oil, flipping them over when the aubergine is soft and browned on one side. When browned on both sides, lay the slices out on a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the oil and sprinkle with a little salt.
- Now, in a large mixing bowl, mix all of the rice ingredients together, including the flax-eggs which have now set. Check the taste, and add more salt if desired.
- In a large non-stick oven proof dish or pot* (see notes), oil the bottom and sides of the pot very well. Spread a layer of the rice mixture at the bottom around 2cm thick. Add some more rice mixture in a circle around the diameter of the dish around 2cm thick. This is so that when we add the filling, it is enclosed within the tahchin and the juices will not seep out.
- Using all of the barberry and mushroom mixture add a flat layer in the well you have made, and place the sliced aubergines on top. Cover the rest of the tahchin with the rest of the rice mixture and press down so that it is compact.
- Cover the pot with foil and pierce a few holes into the foil with a fork. Leave it to bake on 200C for 1 hour, and the remaining 15 minutes uncovered.
- To serve, take the pot out of the oven and let it cool down slightly. If you shake it from side to side, you should be able to hear the tahchin move slightly in the pot, indicating that the tahchin is detatched from the pot. To help the crust detach from the bottom of the pot, you may run the bottom of the pot under cold water under the tap.
- Place a serving platter larger than the pot on top of it. In one swift motion, holding both the platter and the handles of the pot, flip them upside down and the tahchin will come out of the pot in one piece.
- Decorate with some extra fried barberries (only fry them for max 1 minute remember!) and slivered pistachios or almonds.