"Disclaimer: I am not Persian. This recipe my mother learned from Fatima in Tehran when we lived there in 1973. I grew up eating this dish and learned it at my mother's elbow. It was also a company dish and many people claiming to hate eggplant enjoyed this dish."
Rinse rice in a sieve until water runs clear. Pour into a bowl, cover with water. Leave to soak for 1 hour or overnight.
Toss eggplant with salt in a separate bowl; let set for 1 hour. Rinse salt from eggplant in a colander; cut into 1-inch cubes.
Toss stew meat with cinnamon and turmeric in a separate bowl.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add stew meat and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan; set aside. Add eggplant, onion, and diced tomatoes to the skillet; cook and stir until onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Return stew meat to the pan; add tomato sauce. Cover skillet and lower heat to medium-low; cook until meat is tender and sauce has thickened, about 40 minutes.
While the beef is cooking, prepare the rice. Bring 4 cups water to a rapid boil in a saucepan; drain rice. Add rice and 1 teaspoon salt to saucepan; boil until partially cooked, about 11 minutes. Drain rice in sieve; return saucepan to medium heat. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon water together in the saucepan. Spoon rice back into saucepan a spoonful at a time. Dot remaining butter on top of the rice, cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low; cook for 30 minutes.
Remove both the rice and the eggplant mixture from heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Before serving, carefully place a serving dish on top of the saucepan and invert rice onto serving dish. Transfer stew into a serving bowl and serve with rice.
The rice is cooked Chelo-style; producing a crispy coating of rice called tahdig. This is intentional and a prized item at the Persian table. Gaining skill with this technique will allow the rice to turn onto a plate as if a cake and makes a lovely presentation.
Salting the eggplant removes moisture and bitterness from the fruit, improving the taste and texture.
Dry the eggplant and the beef by blotting with a clean kitchen towel or paper towel make sure you are drying the eggplant first. I prefer the kitchen towel to the paper towel so as to not end up with paper in the dish.
To achieve a tight cover on the rice, some cooks will wrap the lid in a kitchen towel.