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Chelo Kebab

Photo: Oxmoor House
Hands-on time 1 hr
Total time 9 hrs, 20 mins
Yield Serves 6
Iran takes rice to new heights. For chelo, the rice is parboiled, and then fried in a pan, covered with a cloth, and steamed with butter and salt, creating a crispy, golden crust on the bottom. I cut back on the butter and salt, but the rice still forms a good crust, known as tah dig. Use a nonstick pan here so you can invert the whole pan of rice and show the golden brown crust.


  • Kebabs:
  • 2 onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 18 grape tomatoes
  • Cooking spray
  • Chelo:
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

Nutrition Information

  • calories 441
  • fat 16.3 g
  • satfat 6.3 g
  • monofat 7.5 g
  • polyfat 1.3 g
  • protein 26.7 g
  • carbohydrate 49 g
  • fiber 2.4 g
  • cholesterol 88 mg
  • iron 3.8 mg
  • sodium 654 mg
  • calcium 21 mg

How to Make It

  1. To prepare kebabs, place onions and garlic in food processor; process 2 to 3 minutes or until pureed. Combine pureed onion mixture, lemon juice, 3 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add lamb; seal and marinate in refrigerator 8 hours, turning bag occasionally.

  2. Preheat grill to medium-high heat or broiler.

  3. Remove lamb from bag; discard marinade. Thread lamb onto 6 (10-inch) metal skewers; thread tomatoes onto 2 or 3 (10-inch) metal skewers. Place skewers on grill rack or broiler pan coated with cooking spray; cook tomatoes 4 to 5 minutes and lamb 10 to 12 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning occasionally.

  4. To prepare chelo, place rice in a fine sieve; rinse 1 to 2 minutes with warm running water. Drain. Bring 6 cups water and 2 teaspoons salt to a boil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over high heat. Add rice; boil, uncovered, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Rice will be slightly crunchy.) Drain rice through a sieve into a bowl, reserving rice and cooking liquid. Rinse rice with warm running water.

  5. Combine 2 tablespoons reserved rice cooking liquid, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon oil, and saffron in nonstick skillet; place over high heat. Add one-third of rice, stirring to coat. Spread evenly over bottom of pan. Add remaining rice (do not stir), spreading evenly. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon melted butter. Place a clean dish towel over rice, folding towel to fit within perimeter of pan. Cover pan with lid. Cook over high heat 3 to 4 minutes or until rice begins to brown on bottom. Reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes or until rice is tender and a crisp, browned layer forms on bottom of pan. Remove lid and towel; invert rice onto a plate.

  6. Spoon about 1/2 cup rice onto each of 6 plates. Remove tomatoes from skewers. Place a lamb skewer and 3 tomatoes on each plate. Combine green onions, mint, and cilantro; sprinkle 1 tablespoon over each serving. Serve with lemon wedges.

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