Persian herb frittata
Kuku Sabzi is a frittata-style dish traditionally made with eggs, turmeric, coriander, parsley, dill, chives, barberries and crushed walnuts. It is usually fried on one side and then flipped over and cooked on the other-side and then sliced into triangles. It is served either hot or cold as a starter, side dish or a main course, and is accompanied with bread or rice and either yogurt or salad.
The key difference between a kuku and a frittata is the egg to vegetable ratio, with the kuku favouring the latter. Besides being delicious, I am fond of this dish for two other reasons.
The first is that it reminds me of the preparation leading up to the parties (mehmoonis) my mum would host. My mum would place a large sheet on the floor of our living room and pile the fresh herbs on top of each other and call my sister and I over to sit with her on the floor and help her pluck the leaves off the bunches. Initially, I would be annoyed at my mum for asking me to help but after a few minutes the peacefulness of the process would absorb me into a sphere of mindfulness. Afterwards, my mum would wash and chop the herbs by hand with the kitchen being filled with the aroma of the herbs. My process, and one my daughter will witness as she grows up, is a lot less peaceful but much quicker with the use of a food-processor!
The second, and one I suspect resonates with most Iranians, is that it is a dish we eat at Persian New Year (‘Norooz’). Norooz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, usually falling on 21 March each year. The herbs symbolise rebirth, and the eggs symbolise fertility. I will write a post focussing on Norooz including the symbols in more detail soon but for now let’s celebrate this delightful dish!
My version of Kuku Sabzi is baked as I find the fried version more and more difficult to digest as I get older. British chives are not as spicy as Iranian chives so we tend to replace these with the green ends of spring onions. I have also added some baby spinach leaves which results in a bright green kuku as opposed to the darker green colour usually associated with this dish. I use barberries by including them in the kuku mixture so when you bite into them, you get a tart burst of flavour from the berries. You can buy barberries from most Middle-Eastern food shops or, alternatively, buy them online. They are not essential but rather a nice touch. I also sprinkle ground walnuts as a garnish.
To prepare the herbs, wash them and remove the toughest parts of the stems. There is no need to remove all the leaves from all the stems if you have a food-processor to chop the herbs finely for you. Dill and parsley will require a bit more time removing the tough stems unlike coriander which you can usually chuck in and blitz.
I serve mine with a vibrant Beetroot Borani which really modernises the presentation of Kuku Sabzi and you can find the recipe for this delicious dip here.
- 100 g fresh parsley (washed and tough stems removed)
- 100 g fresh coriander (washed and tough stems removed)
- 100 g fresh dill (washed and tough stems removed)
- 5 spring onions (green ends only)
- 1 handful baby spinach
- 3 tbsp olive oil (1 tbsp for greasing your muffin tin, 2 tbsp for the kuku mixture)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 cloves garlic
- Zest of 1 lime
- 6 large free range eggs
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 1 tbsp self-raising flour (heaped tbsp)
- 1 tbsp dried barberries (optional)
- 1 tbsp ground walnuts (to garnish - optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 4.
- Take a 12-hole muffin tin, grease (using 1 tbsp of olive oil) and line the holes with baking paper. Brush a little olive oil into each recess after lining and leave to one side until you are ready to use.
- Put the herbs, spring onion ends, spinach, eggs, turmeric, garlic, lime zest, olive oil, self-raising flour, salt and pepper into a food processor and blitz until the herbs are finely chopped.
- Add the barberries (if using) to the mixture and stir.
- Take the muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 holes.
- Place in the oven for 25 mins. To check if the kuku are done, use a thin skewer / tip of a knife to check one by gently poking to the bottom. It should come out clean.
- Serve warm or cold sprinkled with ground walnuts alongside a salad, dips and bread as part of a mezze-style meal.