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Sea bass with saffron, orange, walnuts & sour cherry with herbed pilaf sabzi polo

Sea bass with saffron, orange, walnuts & sour cherry with herbed pilaf sabzi polo

Leyli Homayoonfar will be celebrating Nowruz – Persian New Year – with a big family feast, including this sea bass dish.

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  • Serves4
  • CourseMain meal
  • Prepare30 mins
  • Cook1 hr 15 mins
  • Total time1 hr 45 mins

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For the rice sabzi polo

  • 350g white basmati rice, rinsed until the water runs clear
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 4 salad onions, finely sliced
  • 100g pack flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • ⅔ x x 100g pack coriander, chopped
  • 3 x 20g packs dill, chopped
  • 2 tbsp Greek-style natural yogurt
  • Pinch saffron, finely ground and bloomed in 50ml warm water (see tip)

For the fish

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little for drizzling
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 echalion shallots, halved and finely sliced
  • 2 clove/s cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • Pinch saffron, finely ground and bloomed in 50ml warm water (see tip)
  • 1 small orange, scrubbed, zest and juice, plus thin slices, optional
  • 1 tsp Cooks’ Ingredients Tamarind Paste
  • 1 tbsp walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Cooks’ Ingredients Sour Cherries, finely chopped
  • 360g pack 4 Mediterranean sea bass fillets, descaled and lightly slashed
  • 1 tbsp Cooks’ Ingredients Crispy Fried Onions, to serve
  • 1 tbsp Cooks’ Ingredients Rose Petals, to serve
  • 3 tbsp pomegranate seeds, to serve
  • ¼ x 25g pack flat leaf parsley, chopped, to serve
  • ½ x 20g pack dill, leaves picked, to serve


  1. The first stage of cooking the rice is to parboil it. Drain the rinsed rice and place in a medium, heavy-based nonstick pan. Cover well with water and add a large pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, stir once, then cook for 5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain in a colander, then run under cold water to completely cool and stop it from cooking further. Set aside.

  2. Start the herb mixture (sabzi) using the same pan. Melt 2 tbsp butter over a medium heat, then add the leeks and salad onions and gently sweat for 4-5 minutes until softened. Fold through the chopped herbs, then remove from the pan to a bowl and set aside.

  3. For the second stage of cooking the rice, wipe out the pan, then melt the remaining butter over a low to medium heat. Add the yogurt and 1 tsp of the bloomed saffron water, mixing well. Spread this mixture to cover the whole base of the pan. Carefully spoon in the parboiled rice, layering it with the herb mixture and drizzling teaspoons of saffron water in stages, creating different levels of rice, herbs and saffron.

  4. 4 Once the prepared ingredients have been layered into the pan, use the back of a wooden spoon to dot holes around, poking down to the bottom of the pan (this will allow steam to rise). Turn up the heat, cooking for 1 minute until steam begins to rise. Place a lid on top and reduce the heat to low. Leave to cook gently for 1 hour.

  5. While the rice cooks, prepare the fish. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Add the oil and butter to a nonstick frying pan and place over a medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and fry gently for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Add the turmeric, all but a few drops of the bloomed saffron, the orange zest and juice. Remove from the heat and fold through the tamarind paste, walnuts and sour cherries.

  6. Line a large baking tray with parchment. Place 1 sea bass fillet, skin-side down, at one end, season, then spoon on ½ the mixture from the pan. Place a second fillet on top, skin-side up, and repeat for the remaining fillets. Brush any excess saffron oil and butter in the pan over the top of the fish skin, then finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Tuck a few orange slices here and there, if liked. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, until the fish is opaque, cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.

  7. To finish the rice, remove from the heat and lightly shake the pan to feel the rice crust separate from the side of the pan. Remove the lid from the pan and place a plate upside down, using kitchen cloth. Flip the pan of rice over, turning the tah-dig (crisp bottom) out in all its glory. Garnish with the crispy onions and rose petals, then finish the fish by scattering over the pomegranate seeds and herbs.

Cook’s tip

Blooming the saffron is a traditional way to extract flavour and beautiful yellow colour from just a little saffron, ready for cooking. Finely grind a pinch of saffron threads using a pestle and mortar, then add 50ml warm water and leave to stand for a few minutes, or longer if you have time.


Typical values per serving when made using specific products in recipe


3,475kJ/ 830kcals



Saturated Fat












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