Chelo means rice and shibit means dill, in Dari, one of the national languages of Afghanistan. Basmati rice in Afghanistan and Iran is prepared in what is known in Dari as the 'sof' method. The rice is parboiled, the water discarded and then the rice is placed back in the pan and allowed to cook in its own steam. Dill is used widely in Persian and Afghani cooking. It lends a lovely herbal quality to the rice- which can be paired with an eggplant casserole or a roast chicken.I have learnt that the trick with this rice is to move very fast- once the rice has been parboiled and drained, the layering with the dill has to be done very quickly so the temperature of the rice doesnt drop too fast. —shayma
Soak the Basmati for 30 minutes minimum, (preferably for at least an hour.)
Boil 6-8 cups of water, when it comes to a rolling boil, add the Basmati. Let it cook for 13-15 minutes.
To test when the rice is ready for steaming, take a grain and if it is soft on the outside but breaks between your finger and thumb, remove from the flame. It should be al dente.
Drain the water. Place pan on the stove on low heat and add olive oil. With a wide-rimmed spatula, add a thin layer of rice to the pot. Sprinkle with dill, and keep layering the rice and dill in a towering dome shape; like a pyramid. This ensures the rice cooks evenly.
To release the steam, make 2-3 holes (one in the middle and two on the side) with a wooden spatula.
Cover the pot with a tea towel, replace the lid and let it cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
Decant with a wide-rimmed spatula. In our home we use a teacup saucer.
Shayma Saadat is a cookery teacher, food writer, stylist and photographer who focuses on the food of her heritage - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, which she refers to as Silk Route cuisine. Shayma lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey on Instagram @SpiceSpoon.