Loobia polo is an Iranian dish made with rice, green beans, and beef or lamb. Loobia means beans in Farsi and ‘polo’ indicates it is a rice-dish layered with meat and / or vegetables. Loobia polo can also be made by using chicken, turkey or without meat if you are vegetarian / vegan.
Think of that dish that represents the ultimate comfort food for you, Loobia Polo is the equivalent to that to most (if not all) Iranians. Even the fussiest of kids will love this dish and that stays with them through to adulthood. Everyone squeals with delight when Loobia Polo is served with its warming cinnamon notes, tomato flavour, chunks of meat and green beans. In light of the love for this dish, I felt it was apt to make tahdig (the crunchy bit at the bottom of the pot) with a tortilla wrap cut into the shape of hearts!
The rice I use for Loobia Polo is Kamran Basmati Sella Rice as opposed to Tilda Basmati rice. Kamran rice is very forgiving as it is a thicker kernel and holds its integrity against the bean and tomato mixture, which releases liquid into the rice. For this reason, if you are using the more delicate Tilda grain you have to remove it from the parboiling stage a little earlier than you would with the normal Chelow recipe. Alternatively buy yourself a packet of Kamran rice and be less exact and turn out a perfect Loobia Polo each time you cook it.
The recipe below includes the steps to make flatbread tahdig (using a tortilla wrap) but you can make tahdig with rice or potato should you prefer. Just prepare a layer of saffron rice at the bottom of the pan at step 3 under the heading ‘For the rice’ below for rice tahdig; or layer your potato slices for potato tahdig.
For the loobia mixture
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 500 g stewing steak (diced into 1 inch chunks)
- 1 large onion (diced finely)
- 1 large clove garlic (minced or crushed)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp tomato purée (heaped tablespoons)
- 500 g frozen runner beans (defrosted and sliced into 1 inch pieces)
- 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 200 ml of water)
- Salt and Pepper (to taste)
For the rice
- 500 g white basmati rice (rinsed until the water runs clear and soaked overnight in water plus 2 tbsp of salt - ensure the water covers the rice by a minimum of 2 inches)
- 1 white tortilla wraps cut into heart shapes using a cookie-cutter or any other shape you prefer
- 1 tbsp salt
- Water (as directed below)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil (plus extra if you are making flatbread tahdig as pictured)
- 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
- 2 tbsp melted butter or ghee
For the loobia mixture
- Place a large frying pan or equivalent on a medium / high heat and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Seal the beef and them remove from the pan and set aside for now.
- Add the remaining 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook until they turn golden. Then add the garlic, turmeric and cinnamon and stir until evenly distributed.
- Add the beef back into the pan and the tomato purée and stir in. Add the green beans and bloomed saffron water and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Lower the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has a stickier texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then turn the heat off and leave the mixture for when you are ready to mix with your rice.
For the rice
- Fill a large non-stick saucepan with water and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring the water to a boil.
- Drain the rice and then add to the saucepan. Gently stir the rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. Every minute give the rice a gentle stir and take a grain of rice and check the texture – either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is the rice to be soft on the outer layer but still firm in the centre. It can take any time from 3 to 7 minutes with the quantity of rice in this recipe. Once the parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn your heat off and drain the rice in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water on the rice to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice – if it is very salty then rinse the rice further with a little water.
- Place the empty saucepan on the stove. Add 2 tbsp of oil and your bloomed saffron to the pan and give it a mix. Then arrange your oiled tortilla wrap shapes on the bottom of the pan making sure they do not overlap. Spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan.
- Then layer your rice and loobia mixture and mix gently. Build up the layers into a pyramid shape away from the sides of the pot. Make 5 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon. Pour 2 tbsp of water and the melted butter / ghee over the rice. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on a high heat until the rice starts steaming. Then lower the heat to the minimum flame, wrap the lid of the pan with a tea towel and place on the pan and steam for another 45 minutes.
- Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off. Gently fluff the rice a bit to combine the loobia mixture and rice and spoon out onto a serving dish. Place the heart-shaped tahdig and and rice tahdig around the rice or on a separate dish. Pairs well with Salad Shirazi, fresh herbs and / or yoghurt or Torshi.