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Dark Chocolate Covered Turkish Delights

Rose flavoured chewy sweets dipped in dark chocolate and decorated with a little white chocolate. The dark chocolate perfectly balances the sweetness of the Turkish …

Ful Medames (Egyptian Fava Bean Stew)

This breakfast dish common to North Africa and the Middle East is made with fava beans and warming spices then topped with a citrus-dressed chopped salad. Perfect for scooping up with warm fluffy flatbread.

What is Ful Medames?

This ancient breakfast dish, originating in Egypt and then migrating to other countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Ethiopia, Sudan and Morocco, is traditionally made by mashing fava beans cooked with cumin and then serving with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and chopped fresh parsley.

The recipe below has some some swaps, variations and extra additions to the traditional recipe and is very much loved by my family. My version of this recipe starts by frying onions with garlic and cumin, Pul Biber and oregano. I add chopped tomatoes and then the fava beans before mashing to coarse dip consistency. The final dish is served with a topper – a medley of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, red onions, fresh parsley and coriander dressed in olive oil and lime juice.

Ingredients in Ful Medames

  • Fava Beans  – use tinned fava beans to make the dish super-quick to prepare and cook because you won’t need to soak and cook dried fava beans. You can find tinned fava beans in most supermarkets. I use this variety.
  • Water – a little cooking liquid for the fava beans.
  • Cumin – ground cumin to give the Ful a warm and nutty flavour.
  • Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper – dried dark red pepper flakes with a mild smoky flavour and moderate heat. Alternatively use a little chilli or leave it out completely.
  • Oregano – my addition to the classic recipe for an earthy and peppery profile.
  • Garlic – used to enhance the aromatics in the dish.
  • Onion – one brown onion to cook the fava beans with; and one red onion for the topping.
  • Olive Oil – good quality extra virgin olive oil, used both during the cooking process and for serving the dish.
  • Lime Juice – used during cooking to flavour the fava beans.
  • Lemon Juice – used for the topper dressing.
  • Tomatoes – I cook my fava beans with tomatoes as it gives a further depth to the flavour. Tomatoes are also required for the topper.
  • Cucumber – for the topper.
  • Fresh herbs – I use a combination of fresh parsley and coriander for my Ful Medames topper. Feel free to use only parsley or coriander if you prefer.
  • Salt and Pepper – seasoning for the dish.

How to Serve Ful Medames

Serve Ful Medames with either boiled or fried eggs with a side of fluffy pitta bread or Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread (as pictured above) and tahini to drizzle over as well. Alternatively top further with crumbled feta to add another delicious layer to this dish.

Ful Medames is a vegan dish so a perfect addition to your recipes for vegan friends or family; or for the yearly commitment to ‘Veganuary.’ Just serve the Ful as the recipe sets out below with vegan bread.

Leftovers

Once the Ful has cooled down, store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for no more than 3 days. It can either be reheated gently in a saucepan or a microwave.


Ful Medames

Egyptian fava bean stew
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Egyptian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4 to 6 people
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the Ful Medames

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tins (400g each) fava beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 150 g tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Pul Biber
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Ful Medames Topping

  • 150 g tomatoes (finely diced)
  • 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
  • 1/4 cucumber (finely diced)
  • 1 small bunch parsley and coriander (finely chopped)
  • 1 - 2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to drizzle over the final dish)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Make the Ful Medames:
    Take a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Add olive oil. Once it glistens, add onion. Fry until golden.
  • Add garlic and stir until aromatics released. Add cumin, oregano, Pul Biber and stir into the onion mixture. Add chopped tomatoes to pan and cook until they have broken down and thickened. 
  • Add fava beans to tomato mixture with 1 cup water. Season generously, add lime juice and, using a masher or the back of a fork, press down on the beans and mash until they roughly breakdown. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture thickens (it should look like a coarse dip). Make the toppings while the Ful simmers.
  • Make the Toppings:
    Finely dice cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onions. Add fresh finely chopped parsley and coriander. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and leave to one side until ready to use.
  • Serve the Ful Medames:
    Spoon the Ful into a serving dish and heap the toppings on top. Drizzle with more olive oil and serve with fluffy, warm flatbread.

Other Breakfast Inspiration

 


Meygoo Dopiyazeh (Persian Prawn, Pepper & Onion Curry)

Prawns are cooked in a spicy and fragrant sauce to create this curry-style dish heralds from Shiraz in the South of Iran.

What are Dopiyazeh Dishes?

You may be familiar with dopiaza dishes from South Indian cuisine where this curry-style dish made with lots of onions commonly features. This dish actually originates from  Khorasan (in present-day covering the East of Iran and the West of Afghanistan).  It was apparently introduced to South Asia by the Mughals. It apparently then spread to countries with a South Asian diaspora. Regional variants have evolved in locales such as Hyderabad, India and several regions of Pakistan. The name Dopiyazeh translates into two onions (‘do’ meaning two in Persian; and ‘piyaz’ meaning onion) which makes reference to the amount of onions used in this dish.

Dopiayzeh is now firmly established as a traditional dish from Shiraz. It can be made with cubed or ground lamb/beef, chicken, shrimp, potatoes, and a copious amount of sliced onions.  My recipe is made with prawns (‘meygoo’) and takes both the Persian origins and the South Asian development of this dish with a few extra additions of my own. There is a slight heat to my recipe, which you can leave out if you prefer.

How to Serve this Dish

This dish pairs well with my Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat (vegetable samosas) recipe, rice and some delicious pickles and chutneys such as mango chutney and turmeric pickle as pictured above. The rice I have made is Persian-style rice with naan tahdig but I have flavoured it with turmeric, cardamom pods, some cloves and cinnamon to make it a pilau-style rice.


Meygoo Dopiyazeh

Prawn, pepper & onion curry
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Inspired by....
Keyword: curry, seafood, prawns
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 large brown onion (finely sliced)
  • 6 cloves garlic (minced or crushed)
  • 1 thumb size fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 red pepper (finely sliced)
  • 1 red onion (finely sliced)
  • 800 ml water mixed with 1/8 tsp of ground saffron
  • Juice 1 fresh lemon
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 800 g frozen shelled tiger prawns (defrosted)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • A small bunch of fresh coriander (finely chopped)

Instructions

  • Place a large casserole pan or skillet on medium-high heat and add oil. Add cumin seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds and heat until they sizzle. Then add finely sliced brown onion and cook until they start to caramelise.
  • Add garlic, then ginger and stir into the onion mixture. Follow with turmeric, red chilli flakes, ground coriander and stir until evenly distributed into the mixture.
  • Add tomato purée and stir into the mixture. Then add sliced red peppers and red onion and stir until softened. Add saffron water, lemon juice and garam masala and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to allow the sauce to simmer gently for 30 mins.
  • Add prawns to the sauce and stir. Add chopped fresh coriander and cook for a further 10 mins. Turn the heat off and serve the Meygoo Dopiyazeh with fresh chopped coriander sprinkled on top accompanied with rice and / or naan.

Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat (Persian Vegetable Samosas)

The Persian version of the samosa. This triangular snack takes lavash bread and fills it with a spicy vehetable mixture before frying to crispy perfection! PS they are vegan too!

A Little History on this Triangular Snack

Did you know that the samosa has a Central Asian origin? The earliest recipes are found in 10th–13th-century Arab cookery books, under the names sanbusaksanbusaq, and sanbusaj, all deriving from the Persian word sanbosag. In Iran, we have a version which we call Sambuseh. These delightful little parcels filled with meat and / or vegetables were introduced to the Indian subcontinent in the 13th or 14th century by chefs from the Middle East and Central Asia.

The Persian Version

The key difference with the Persian sambuseh is that we use lavash bread (a thin flatbread usually served with kebabs) as the outer casing. In Iran the lavash bread has large air pockets so it creates an amazing pattern on the Sambuseh that looks a little like bubble wrap in crispy fried bread form.

The fillings for sambuseh vary from meat and vegetable to vegetables only. My preferred filling for a samosa / sambuseh is veggie so the recipe I have developed below is virtuously meat-free. In fact the sambuseh, themselves, are vegan. The accompanying dip can be adapted by using a plant-based yogurt to make this recipe fully vegan. I have also been drawn to spices more common to South Asian cuisine including the use of chilli, mustard seeds, garam masala and ginger. The coriander and mint dip I have accompanied the sambuseh with is also inspired by South Asian cuisine.

Feel free to experiment with vegetables and / or meat fillings. And leave out and / or include spices as desired. I encourage people to experiment with and put their stamp on recipes. What I hope I am providing you is ideas for you to expand your catalogue of recipes, which you can dip in and out of.

How to Serve Sambuseh

The sambuseh can be served with any sauces and pickles you fancy. This recipe has a coriander and mint dip to go with it but I also serve mine with mango chutney and some chopped tomatoes and red onion, dressed with fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime juice.

You can also serve this alongside with Meygoo Dopiyazeh(Persian prawn, pepper & onion curry).


 

You can find a short video of me folding the Sambuseh to help with the recipe through the link to my Instagram below.

 

Just scroll across and you can see the video…

 


Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat

Persian vegetable samosas served with a coriander & mint dip
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Snack, Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Cross-cultural
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 20 (to 25)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Sambuseh

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 red onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 thumb size ginger (grated)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450 g cooked potatoes (boiled and peeled) (finely diced)
  • 85 ml water
  • 1 cup peas
  • 1 cup sweetcorn
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Small bunch fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 10 sheets lavash bread
  • Vegetable oil (to fry the sambuseh)

Coriander & Mint Dip

  • 70 g fresh coriander (stalks included)
  • 10 g fresh mint leaves
  • 6 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp sugar

Instructions

  • Coriander & Mint Dip:
    Add all ingredients to a blender / nutribullet / food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning and / or lime juice to taste. Pour into a container (i.e. jar) cover and place in fridge until you are ready to serve the sambuseh.
  • Sambuseh:
    Place a frying pan or skillet on medium-high heat and add oil. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds and heat until they start to sizzle.
  • Add red onion and cook until they start to caramelise. Add garlic and stir in and repeat process with ginger, turmeric and chilli.
  • Add tomato purée and stir until the mixture is evenly coated. Add the cooked, finely diced potatoes and water and stir into the mixture. Follow with peas and sweetcorn. Lower the heat and stir the mixture until the potato is a little mashed into the mixture.
  • Add garam masala, lime juice, fresh coriander, salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning / lime juice to your preference. Turn the heat off and let it cool before filling the lavash bread pockets.
  • To make the lavash bread pockets - cut into long strips about 10 cm in width. Lay the long rectangle strip on your work surface with the short edge facing you. Fold over the right half of the lavash strip to form a triangle with the long edge facing downwards, then fold the bottom of the triangle up so the long edge faces up. Then take the left corner of the triangle and fold up to the right hand corner to make the final triangle pocket. You will be left with a flap to tuck in after filling the sambuseh. Fill the sambuseh pocket with some filling, making sure not to overstuff. Then trim the flap of the sambuseh pocket and cut diagonal strip off one of the corners of the flap so you can tuck it in. Tuck the flap in and put the finished sambuseh aside until you are ready to cook. Repeat the process until you have used all the filling (makes between 20 to 25 sambuseh).
  • To cook the sambuseh, half-fill a deep, heavy-based pan with vegetable oil and heat until a cube of bread dropped in sizzles and turns golden-brown in 30 seconds (please be careful with the hot oil and do not leave unattended). Fry the samosas in small batches for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown and crisp. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
  • Serve with the mint and coriander dip, mango chutney and some chopped tomato and onion, dressed in fresh lime juice as pictured above.

 

Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo (Chicken, Courgette & Sour Plum Stew)

This sweet and sour chicken, courgette and plum stew, flavoured with cardamom, turmeric and saffron is a great addition to your catalogue of weekday meals. Ready to eat in an hour for you and your family.

Coming to the end of the Summer

Khoresh (Persian stew) season is awakening from it’s summer slumber after an array of kebabs, kuku and salads in my household.

I love this season with the deeply comforting stews to warm us through the colder months and, of course, any excuse to eat more Persian rice and Tahdig. I appreciate that cooking Persian food can appear daunting to some, but as with any recipe after you have cooked the dish say about 3 times, added your own little bit of magic to it too, the whole process is familiar and fairly swift. With all that said I am always looking for ways to produce delicious Persian food for weekday meals at a shorter time than sometimes prescribed for our dishes, particularly our slow-cooked stews.

AKA the 1 hour Stew

Let me introduce you to Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo (chicken, courgette & sour plum stew). This khoresh is ready to eat about an hour from when you start chopping all the ingredients. The use of chicken breast means it doesn’t need to slow-cook and the meat remains juicy. Courgettes (‘kadoo‘) cook in no time at all and a few little tricks with additional spices / condiments means it is perfectly balanced and feels like the khoresh has fallen into place with its flavours (as if it has been simmering for hours). This dish is a great transition dish from summer to autumn as it uses courgettes which are still in season to October.

What is Aloo?

Aloo is the name we give to the dried sour plums (Aloo Bukhara) you can buy them from Asian (for example Indian and Pakistani) supermarkets. If you don’t use all the packet in one go then put the remaining plums in the freezer and they keep for ages until you want to cook this recipe again or try out my other recipe featuring them Khoresh-e Beh ba Aloo (chicken stew with quince, sour plums and apricots). Remember that the sour plums have pips in them which you can remove while you are eating – the plums will fall apart easily once cooked and you can remove them with your spoon and fork while eating.

How to Serve this Dish?

Serve Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo with kateh (Persian easy cook rice) for dinner to be ready within an hour.

How to Store Leftovers?

Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Gently reheat in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.


Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo

Persian Chicken, courgette and sour plum stew (aka the 1 hr stew)
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: easy recipe, stew, Middle-Eastern Food, khoresh, weekday meal
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 medium courgettes (quartered and then halved)
  • 1 large brown onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 medium chicken breast (cut into bite size pieces)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 500 ml vegetable stock plus 1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in the stock
  • 15 to 20 Aloo Bukhara (dried sour plums)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Salt and pepper to season

Instructions

  • Take a large non-stick casserole pan / skillet with a lid and place over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons oil. Fry the courgette on all sides until browned and golden. Remove and place on a kitchen towel on a plate.
  • Add diced onions to pan and cook until golden. Add garlic and stir in, followed by turmeric. Stir until evenly distributed in the pan and you can smell the aromas.
  • Add chicken and stir until the chicken pieces turn white (from pink). Then add tomato purée and stir until the chicken mixture is coated evenly.
  • Throw in cardamom pods and bay leaf and then pour in the saffron infused stock. Add the Aloo Bukhara plums. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime and add honey. Stir the mixture.
  • Gently place the fried courgettes in the stew so they are part submerged. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn the heat down to allow the khoresh to simmer with the lid on (approx 30 mins).
  • Serve with Persian rice and salad.

Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

A lettuce-based salad, with a nod to Persian flavours, jewelled with crumbled feta, ripe cherries, crunchy pistachios and dressed with a pomegranate vinaigrette.

We Persians are not known for our salad recipes. In fact we generally only have two known salad recipes. The first is Salad Shirazi – our chopped cucumber, tomato and red onion salad with a lime, olive oil and mint dressing. The second is Salad Olvieh – our take on a Russian potato salad dish.

This salad is very much a homage to ingredients that are associated with Persian cuisine. It is also a homage to the summer season with its refreshing feel and seasonal ingredients.

What you will need to make this Dish

For the pomegranate vinaigrette you will need the following ingredients:
  • Olive Oil – use extra virgin olive oil. EVOO is a premium product made from cold-pressed olives. Regular olive oil is often a blend, combining processed oils in the mix. EVOO is a healthier choice as it retains vitamins and natural antioxidants, which can be lost during processing. And it has a superior flavour!
  • Pomegranate Molasses – is a thick syrup with a dark grape colour made from reducing pomegranate juice. You can pick up pomegranate molasses from most local supermarkets, Middle-Eastern food shops and online.
  • Red Wine Vinegar – a product made by oxidising red wine. Popular in Mediterranean cooking, it has a distinctive tangy flavour. It is a popular choice for vinaigrettes.
  • Lime – adds a citrus note to the vinaigrette.
  • Honey – a little sweetness to balance the sharpness of the vinaigrette.
  • Za’atar Spice Blend – is a herb and spice blend popular in Levantine cooking. It contains sumac, dried Za’atar leaves, sesame seeds and salt. A staple for Middle Eastern cooks, often sprinkled on hummus, salads, roasted vegetables, and grilled meats and fish. Mixed with olive oil, it becomes the perfect dip or a spread for flatbreads. It has a flavour profile which is musky, citrusy, and nutty. Find my recipe to make a homemade version of this blend here.
  • Salt & Pepper – to season the salad. The Za’atar spice blend and the feta contain salt so you may not need as much salt as you would normally add to a dressing.
For the salad you will need the following ingredients:

Make sure you use fresh ingredients for the salad.

  • Lettuce or mixed leaves – either is fine or a mix of both.
  • Celery, Red Onion, Cucumber – these hero ingredients add a crunchy texture and refreshing taste to the salad.
  • Cherries – are in season between June and July. Make sure they look plump and juicy and remember to pit them before adding to the salad.
  • Fresh Mint Leaves –  complements the other flavours in this salad brilliantly such as the feta and cherries.
  • Feta always use high quality feta sold in blocks and in stored in brine.
  • Pistachios – you can either use the green pistachio kernels or ones in shells. You will need to take the shells off before adding them to the salad!

What to Serve with this Salad

A great accompaniment to kebabs such as Persian saffron chicken kebabs (Jujeh Kabab) or pan-cooked kofte kebabs (Kabab Tabei).

Also great served alongside any of the Persian frittata dishes – kuku!


Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

Prep Time20 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, Inspired by....
Keyword: feta, vegetarian, mint, salad, cherries
Servings: 6 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 70 ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp Za'atar spice blend
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Salad

  • 180 g lettuce / mixed leaves (roughly chop if using lettuce, mixed leaves should remain intact)
  • 1 - 2 celery sticks (medium sliced)
  • 1 red onion (finely sliced)
  • 150 g cucumber (I use baby or Persian cucumbers - quartered then medium sliced)
  • 250 g cherries (pitted and halved)
  • 15 - 20 g fresh mint leaves (small leaves can be kept, roughly chop larger leaves)
  • 100 g feta (crumbled)
  • 40 g pistachios (shelled and roughly chopped or bashed in a pestle and mortar)

Instructions

  • Pomegranate Vinaigrette:
    Make the dressing a minimum of 1 hour before you want to serve the salad to let the flavours infuse. Take a jar with a lid and add all the pomegranate vinaigrette ingredients. Screw the lid on and give it a good shake. Taste and adjust elements to taste. Place the jar in the fridge until ready to serve.
  • Serving the Salad:
    Layer your ingredients for the salad in a bowl. Give the jar of dressing a good shake and pour over the salad. Using salad tongs / spoons, toss the salad to ensure it is evenly coated with the pomegranate vinaigrette. Serve immediately after dressing.

Kuku Loobia Sabz (Persian Green Bean Frittata)

A delicious summer frittata made with eggs, green beans, caramelised onions and flavoured with turmeric, saffron and Persian mixed spice (advieh).

What is Kuku?

Kuku is an Iranian frittata-style dish. It is often vegetarian and is made with beaten eggs and various herbs and / or vegetables folded in. The main difference between kuku and its western counterparts is the ratio of egg to vegetables, with kuku favouring the latter. 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 yoghurt or salad.

The two most well known kuku recipes are Kuku Sabzi (made with herbs and barberries and / or walnuts); and Kuku Sibzamini (made with potatoes). We also have Kuku Kadoo (made with courgettes). Ultimately there are no hard and fast rules about what you should put in your kuku – I have made ones with potatoes, feta and beetroot; curried mushrooms; kale and red pepper; bacon, cheese and tomatoes and the list goes on…

Origins of Kuku Loobia Sabz

This Kuku recipe hails from Tabriz, a city in northwestern Iran, serving as the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. It is the fifth most populated city in Iran and the largest economic hub and metropolitan area in northwest Iran. The population is overwhelmingly Azerbaijani who speak the Azerbaijani language, though Persian is spoken by residents as a second language.

This dish is a gorgeous addition to the summer catalogue of recipes as it is light and easy to prepare. some variations of this recipe include potatoes but the version I prefer is with caramelised onions and sliced green beans as set out in the recipe below. I use garlic, saffron, turmeric and advieh as the aromatics for the dish. You can buy the advieh I use for this recipe and others here.

How to Serve Kuku Loobia Sabz

Serve this dish with a salad like cherry and feta salad, hummus such as beetroot hummus and flatbread.

Leftovers

Store leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container up to 3 days. Cool the kuru down completely before refrigerating.


Kuku Loobia Sabz

Green Bean Frittata
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Course, lunch, Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Iranian, Middle-Eastern
Keyword: vegetarian, frittata, Green beans
Servings: 4 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion (finely sliced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced or crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 250 g green beans (sliced)
  • 1.5 tsp Advieh (persian mixed spice)
  • 1/3 cup saffron water (bloom 1/8 tsp of ground saffron in the water)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 20 g fresh coriander plus a bit extra for garnishing the kuku before serving (finely chopped)
  • 50 g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas mark 4.
  • Place a non-stick skillet or frying pan which can be placed in an oven on medium-high heat on the stove (size of pan anything between approx 10" and 12" i.e. 25 to 30 cm).
  • Add 2 tbsp oil and heat until it glistens. Then add finely sliced onion and cook until golden and caramelised. Stir in garlic, turmeric and advieh.
  • Add sliced green beans, the lime juice and saffron water and stir until the beans have wilted and the liquid has cooked off. Lower the heat if required. Stir in the freshly chopped coriander. Turn off the heat while you prepare the egg mixture.
  • Add flour and baking powder to a bowl. Crack in one egg and whisk until all the flour is incorporated and no flour lumps remain. Then add remaining eggs, the salt and pepper and whisk. Pour in the bean mixture and stir until fully incoprated with the egg mixture.
  • Turn the heat to medium-high on the stove. Place the skillet on the heat and add 1 tbsp oil. Pour the kuku mixture in and tip the pan gently side to side to make sure it is evenly distributed across the pan. Heat on the stove for approximately 3 minutes. Then place in the preheated oven and bake for a further 20 to 25 mins. To check the kuku is done, use a thin skewer and gently poke the middle of the kuku. It should come out clean.
  • Remove the kuku from the pan and serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander alongside a salad, flatbread and yoghurt-style dip and / or mezze-style dishes. Kuku can be served hot, warm or cold. Leftover kuku is a great sandwich filler too!

Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

A beautifully vibrant hummus made with beetroot and topped with a contrasting medley of green vegetables, herbs, feta and nigella seeds. 

This gorgeous hummus with a contrasting and complementary green topper came about by chance one weekend. I love both beetroot and hummus – the combination of the two brings about a delicious hummus with a slightly sweet yet earthy flavour profile. The colour, as you can see, is a vibrant pink and will look incredible at any dinner party as an appetiser for your guests.

What’s in the Topper?

After making a batch, my eyes kept being drawn to green items in my fridge which I felt would look incredible as a topper for the hummus.  Luckily, the green items I had in my fridge all complemented a beetroot hummus perfectly including cucumber, olives, spring onions and dill. With the addition of feta (also a great friend of beetroot) and a few extra sprinkles (nigella seeds) and spice (cumin), a dash of olive oil and lemon juice, this hummus was complete.

Serve this Dish Alongside…


Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

Prep Time30 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Dip, Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, Inspired by....
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option, hummus
Servings: 6 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Beetroot Hummus

  • 1 jar chickpeas (660g / drained weight 425g) (drained and rinsed)
  • 125 g cooked beetroot
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced or crushed)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (60 ml)
  • 1/4 cup tahini (60 ml)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup water (60 ml)
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Topper

  • 2 baby cucumbers
  • 2 spring onions
  • 5 green olives
  • 50 g feta cheese (non-dairy alternative if vegan or preferred)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp nigella seeds
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • Drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice

Instructions

Beetroot Hummus

  • In order to get a smoother hummus (and if you can be bothered), after draining the chickpeas and rinsing, place the chickpeas on one half of a tea towel and rub gently with the other half of the tea towel to agitate the skins off. Then pick out the chickpea skins before blitzing.
  • Add all hummus ingredients, except water, salt and pepper to a food processor / nutribullet. Blend until smooth. Then add water and blend further until you have a creamy texture. Season to taste. Adjust seasoning and / or lemon juice to taste. I leave my hummus in the fridge while I prepare the topper to firm up the consistency a little.

Topper

  • Finely dice cucumbers, spring onions and olives. Crumble in feta and add cumin, nigella seeds and dill. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice and stir gently to mix all the topper ingredients.

To Serve

  • Spoon the hummus onto a serving dish and arrange the topper in the shape of a crescent as pictured above. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve alongside flatbread, crisps / crackers or vegetables to dip into the hummus.

Persian Fried Chicken Burger aka PFC Burger

This crispy Middle Eastern inspired fried chicken burger is marinated in a turmeric and saffron infused buttermilk and then dredged with flour, Persian mixed spice and za’atar to create a real treat that’s finger licking good!

Jump to Recipe

Fried chicken in any form has a special place in my heart (and my belly)! I am continuously looking for ways to bring new joy to me eating crispy fried chicken, from my curried chicken schnitzel recipe to my shwarama flavoured crispy goujons, it was only a matter of time before I found a way to make a Persian version of a fried chicken burger and here it is in all its glory.

What makes PFC so special?

Chicken thighs marinated in a blend of buttermilk, saffron, turmeric, chili sauce, onions and garlic. Then coated with flour flavoured with Persian mixed spice (Advieh), Za’atar, onion and garlic powder and then deep fried to perfection. Served in a toasted brioche bun with lashings of moosir mayonnaise, crispy onions, Persian pickled cucumbers, Thai basil, tomato and lettuce. This amazing variation to the classic crispy chicken burger really is worth going the extra mile to get your hands on three Persian elements which are not readily available in your local supermarket.

Advieh

The Persian equivalent of mixed spice. It is used in many dishes with the combination of spices varying from region to region in Iran. Advieh is a fragrant mix of spices and can be compared in use to garam masala in Indian cooking, whereby its addition seasons the dish and adds a further layer of aromatics. It can simply be sprinkled on a plain rice dish, added to stews and marinades for meat. The one I use is a mixture of nutmeg, rose petals, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper.

I buy it online from a supplier on Etsy. However, advieh can also be picked up from most Iranian or Middle Eastern food shops. This spice forms part of the flour dredge for the chicken thighs and takes the flavour profile to another level of delicious.

Moosir

Described in English as a Persian shallot, it is similar to a Solo or Elephant garlic. It has a flavour profile similar to garlic but slightly sweeter and softer in its spiciness. They grow wild in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, and have to be found and dug out of the earth – a similar process to truffles. It adds an amazingly distinctive flavour to dishes.

You can buy moosir from most Middle Eastern food shops or online. It is available in its dried form and needs to be rehydrated by soaking in water overnight. Whilst we usually use this for our yogurt dip Maast O’Moosir, I started adding it to my mayonnaise and have not looked back. It is so delicious. I am pretty sure once you try it, you will also never want to have mayonnaise any other way. The Moosir Mayo compliments this chicken burger brilliantly.

Khiarshoor

They are baby cucumbers pickled in salt, vinegar and flavoured with tarragon. Our pickled cucumbers are not sweet like British pickled cucumbers and they really compliment this burger. You can buy them online or in most Middle Eastern supermarkets, but if you cannot get your hands on them then normal dill pickles usually used in burgers are absolutely fine.

With the exception of three items above, you should be able to source all the other ingredients from your local supermarket. Both Tescos and Waitrose now have Thai basil available but if you can’t get your hands on Thai basil, then Italian basil is totally fine.

How to Serve this Dish

Serve this burger with some french fries for the perfect fakeaway!


 

See my how to reel on instagram via the link below

 

 


Persian Fried Chicken Burger aka PFC Burger

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Inspired by....
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Buttermilk Marinade

  • 500 ml buttermilk
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 onion (medium sliced)
  • 4 chicken thighs (skinless and boneless)

Moosir Mayonnaise

  • 8 discs dried moosir
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Flour Coating

  • 250 g plain flour
  • 2 tbsp advieh (Persian mixed spice - Cardamom, Black Pepper, Dried Rose Petals, Cinnamon, Nutmeg)
  • 2 tbsp Za'atar spice blend
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Vegetable oil (for deep frying)

To serve

  • 4 Burger Baps (such as Brioche buns)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Thai Basil
  • Pickled cucumbers

Instructions

Marinade the Chicken Thighs

  • Take a large bowl, add buttermilk, ground saffron, turmeric, chill sauce, salt, pepper, garlic, onion and mix with spoon. Add the chicken thighs and ensure they are full submerged in the marinade. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinade anything between 8 hrs to 24 hrs.

Rehydrate the Moosir

  • Rehydrate the moosir by placing n a bowl and adding boiling water. Cover and leave overnight.

Moosir Mayo

  • Drain the rehydrated moosir discs and rinse. Mince finely with a sharp knife, discarding any tough parts. Take a bowl, add mix the moosir and mayo. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for the flavour of the moosir to permeate through the mayo (no less than 3 hours before you want to eat your burger).

Prepare the Flour Coating and Fry the Chicken

  • Make the coating by combining the flour, advieh, za'atar, garlic and onion powder, salt and pepper.
  • Drain the chicken thighs and sliced onion, reserving the marinade. One by one, dredge each thigh in the flour, then dip in the reserved marinade, then dredge again in the flour, pressing on as much as you can to coat. Transfer the coated thighs to a large plate. Do the same with the sliced onions.
  • Heat a 20cm depth of oil in a saucepan or deep-fat fryer until it reaches 175C (please be careful with the hot oil and do not leave unattended). Lower two of the thighs in at a time and fry undisturbed for 3 mins, making sure the temperature doesn’t drop below 160C (it should stay at about 170C). Fry until deeply golden and crisp on both sides. Lift the chicken out and transfer to a tray lined with kitchen paper to drain, then put on a rack and keep warm in a low oven while you fry the remaining thighs and sliced onions. When all the chicken and onions have been fried get ready to build your burger!

Serving the Chicken Burgers

  • Lightly toast your burger buns. Spread the Moosir Mayo on both ends of the buns, layer with lettuce, sliced tomates, Perisan pickled cucumbers, the fried chicken thigh, ketchup, the crispy fried onions and Thai Basil. Pop the top of the bun on and tuck in! A side of fries go very well with this burger and hoepfuly there will be some of the Moosir Mayo left to dip into.

 

 

Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

A Middle Eastern inspired simple no-knead focaccia recipe with the addition of saffron and sun-drenched tomatoes. Wonderfully fluffy and moreish.

What is Focaccia?

Focaccia is a flat leavened oven-baked Italian bread. It can be served as a side dish or as sandwich bread and it can be round, rectangular, or square shape. I love making focaccia in the summer and this recipe feels particularly summery with its warming saffron notes and the use of sun-drenched tomatoes.

What are Sun-Drenched or Sun-Dried Tomatoes?

Sun-drenched tomatoes have had less time in the sun (to remove some of their water content) and are slightly less chewy and more juicy than sun-dried but you can totally substitute with sun-dried tomatoes. Feel free to add rosemary or other herbs to the focaccia. The sun-drenched tomatoes I use come in an oil and basil dressing so I just use that.

The Magic of ‘No Knead’

You achieve a rise from a no-knead focaccia by leaving the dough it in the fridge over night. But if you want the focaccia quicker, then mix all the dough ingredients and knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes. Leave to prove until it has doubled in size (up to 2 hrs) and then follow steps 3 to 5 below.

How to Serve

Serve with a charcuterie-style board of Italian cold cuts and picky bits as pictured above. Also great served as part of a Mezze offering in light of the Middle Eastern flavours.

Picture above – before the focaccia is popped in the oven.

Other Bread Recipes


Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

No-knead focaccia
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish, Appetiser
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Servings: 10
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 400 g strong white bread flour
  • 5 g fast-acting dried yeast
  • 4 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for greasing)
  • 160 g pack sun-drenched tomatoes (I use Waitrose ones which have a basil dressing)
  • 1 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 250 ml tepid water plus 1/4 tsp of ground saffron (bloom the saffron in the water for about 5 minutes before adding to flour)

Instructions

  • Add flour, yeast, 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt into a large bowl. Add 250ml saffron water and mix with a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough. Cover with cling film and put in the fridge overnight or up to 24 hrs.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, remove from the fridge and leave in a warm place for no less than 1 hr to bring up to room temperature.
  • Oil a 23cm (ideally square) roasting tin and scrape the dough in. Oil your hands and push the dough out towards the edge of a tin to create a rough square shape. Cover and leave for about an hour or two in a warm place.
  • After this further proving time, the dough will be very soft and airy and filled the tin comfortably. Scatter and push in the tomatoes, sprinkle the remaining salt over and drizzle with a little olive oil. Use your fingertips to create dimples in the dough, pressing in the tomatoes and spreading the dough to the corners. Cover and leave to rise for another 1 hr.
  • Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 at least 15 mins before cooking the bread. Uncover the dough, drizzle with the remaining oil and bake on the middle shelf for 20 mins or until golden brown. Cool in the tin for about 10 mins before transferring to a wire rack, or eat warm.

Adasi

Persian Lentil Stew

Commonly eaten for breakfast, this dish made with green lentils, onions and spices is often described as a soup by Persians. I personally consider it is closer to the dal recipes from the Indian sub-continent but to compromise between the two I have called it a stew.

I cook this the day before I want to eat it as the flavours intensify overnight. The recipe below yields a big batch (up to 8 people) and lasts up to 5 days if refridgerated, so it is a great dish to make and dip in and out of for various meals during a working week.

I love eating this with some type of flatbread such as Persian Noon-e-Sangak or naan, alongside some eggs (poached, boiled or fried) and some fresh herbs as set out in the picture above. It can also be served with rice (chelo or kateh) for a heartier meal.

Adasi is a wholesome vegan dish and cubed potatoes can be added as a variation to the recipe. I prefer it without potatoes so my recipe excludes them. I also add cumin and a little ginger in my version which adds further aromatic notes to the traditional turmeric and cinnamon. Feel free to add some spicier notes with chilli should you like a little heat. Otherwise this dish is a family friendly dish and loved by children (even the fussiest).


Adasi

Persian Lentil Stew
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Course, Brunch, lunch
Cuisine: Persian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 6 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the Adasi

  • 400 g dried green lentils (washed and soaked in water for 2 hours)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large brown onion (finely diced)
  • 1 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1.2 litres vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

For the Garnish

  • 1 large brown onion (finely sliced)
  • Vegetable oil (to fry the onions)
  • Ground golpar (Persian hogweed - optional)
  • Olive oil (to drizzle on top)

Instructions

  • Place a large saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until it glistens. Then add onions and cook, stirring regularly until they start to turn golden.
  • Add garlic and ginger paste, followed by turmeric, ground cumin, cinnamon and stir until evenly distributed into the onion mixture. Then stir in tomato purée.
  • Drain and add in pre-soaked lentils and stir until evenly mixed with the onion mixture.
  • Pour in the stock, lime juice and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Then turn heat down, put the lid of the saucepan on and let the Adasi simmer for approximately an hour or until the lentils are tender.
  • Whilst the Adasi is cooking fry finely sliced onion in vegetable oil over a high-medium heat until crispy.
  • When the Adasi is cooked take a stick blender and blitz some of the lentil mixture to thicken (about 1/3). Taste and season as required with salt and pepper (stock usually has salt in it so further salt may not be necessary). Squeeze some more lime juice if desired. Then ladle into a bowl, top with the crispy onions, a sprinkling of ground golpar and a drizzle of olive oil.

Havuç Tarator (Turkish Carrot, Walnut & Yoghurt Dip)

First post in a while! And the first since returning from our travels to Türkiye. Other than a long holiday, life and my job as a lawyer taking priority over my recipe development for this site, I’ve been busy writing recipes for other sites and you can find them by clicking these links – The Kitchn and Simply Recipes.

I have cleared my timetable now and can dedicate some time this summer for some lovely additions to my catalogue of recipes, which I hope you will love too. You will be seeing more Persian recipes but also recipes from Türkiye and my own recipes influenced by my cross-cultural upbringing.

Anyway back to my holiday! We travelled to Istanbul and did some sightseeing and most importantly lots of eating before flying to Antalya for the second leg of the holiday to spend most our time sunning by the sea, lazing by the pool and eating more delicious Turkish food.

It was a glorious holiday my first time abroad since late 2018, when I became pregnant with my daughter. I had so many plans to travel once she had arrived and I was off work on maternity leave, but then the world went topsy turfy in 2020 and we were all grounded. So this was our first proper holiday in 4 years. And we were not disappointed! So many beautiful sights were seen and so many delicious dishes were tried. Turkish hospitality is finely tuned to perfection with so many kind people willing to welcome you to their country and talk to you about their incredible history and introduce you to their delicious cuisine.

This is not the first time I have travelled to this wonderful country and will no doubt not be the last time either. We Iranians have a very special place in our hearts for Türkiye and for many of us it is a home away from home as so many aspects feel familiar to us.

I have returned fully inspired to develop and include some Turkish recipes on this site and the first of these is a simple yoghurt-based dip with sautéed grated carrot, crushed walnuts with a hint of garlic. Absolutely delicious, easy to knock up and I guarantee will end up being one of your go-to dips at any time of the year (because who doesn’t have some sorry looking carrots in their veg drawer once in a while). So forget about using those carrots for soup or coleslaw and try this dip and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

It can be served alongside a mezze-style meal with lots of other dishes; as an accompaniment to kebabs or other BBQ dishes; or just with crackers or crisps.


Havuç Tarator

Turkish Carrot & Yoghurt Dip
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Turkish
Keyword: vegetarian, dip
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium carrots (grated on the coarse side of a box grater)
  • 1 large garlic clove (crushed)
  • 500 g Greek yoghurt
  • 30 grams walnuts (coarsley crushed)
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper (red pepper flakes)
  • Squeeze or 2 of fresh lemon juice

To garnish

  • Pul Biber or Aleppo Pepper
  • Olive oil (to drizzle on top)
  • Walnuts halves

Instructions

  • Place a frying pan on a medium-high heat and add olive oil. Once the oil starts to glisten, add grated carrot. Then add crushed garlic and stir until the carrot wilts and the garlic is evenly distributed - this should only take a few minutes. Turn off the heat and let the carrot mixture cool.
  • Take a bowl, add yoghurt, grated carrot, crushed walnuts, lemon juice, salt, Pul Biber and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning or other flavours as desired.
  • Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for the flavours to intensify and mix well through the yoghurt (no less than 1 hour).
  • When you are ready to serve the dip, drizzle some olive oil on top and decorate with walnuts and a sprinkle of Pul Biber. Serve as part of a mezze-style spread of dishes, or as an appetiser.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange, Carrot and Cashew Dressing

A while ago I ate an incredible Middle Eastern inspired salad bowl from Grain Kitchen – a lunchtime salad bar based in London, E1. They had a number of different themed salad bowl options such as the California Bowl or the Mediterranean Bowl but obvs I chose the Middle Eastern bowl!

Part of the salad offering was a charred red cabbage wedge with a cashew and carrot dressing. I fell in love with the vibrant color and taste of this component and set about trying to recreate it in my own home. And after a few goes the recipe below is the one I am happy to share with you. This dish is very versatile, not complicated to make and will really brighten up your plate. The dressing recipe yields a fair bit, we usually use all of it but if any remains just drizzle over a green salad – it will last up to a week if kept in the fridge.

You can eat this dish as part of a mezze-style offering…

Or you can make your own little salad bowl…

You can even eat it as an accompaniment with a pie and chips.. 


Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange and Cashew Dressing

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Inspired by....
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Cashew and Orange Dressing

  • 75 g raw cashew nuts (soaked overnight)
  • 100 ml orange juice
  • 1 large carrot
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Roasted Red Cabbage

  • 1 whole red cabbage (c. 1kg)
  • Olive oil (to drizzle over cabbage before roasting)
  • Finely chopped fresh parlsey (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Prepare the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a blender (if you have a nutribullet then blitz in that as it blends the almonds to a smoother consistency). Blitz until smooth. Pour into a container, cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Cut red cabbage into eighths so you have wedges. Then place in a saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil over a high heat. Cook until tender approx 8 minutes in boiling water.
  • While the cabbage is cooking, preheat oven to 200°C / Fan 180°C / gas 6.
  • When the cabbage is tender, remove from heat and drain water from saucepan. Drizzle the cabbage with olive oil until all the wedges are lightly coated. Place the wedges on a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for approx 20 mins until slightly charred on edges.
  • Remove the cabbage from the oven, plate up, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle the finely chopped parsley. Can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

Hands down, this is the best flatbread recipe I have developed. After a a year of testing various quantities (with milk, without milk, with yogurt, without yogurt, yeast or no yeast – and the list of variations goes on), I am so happy with this fluffy, pillowy yet perfectly chewy flatbread.

This recipe does include yeast so proving time is required, but it makes a better flatbread as no yeast alternatives can be dense and become even more so if you don’t eat them straight away. I have used a combination of strong white bread flour and stone ground strong wholemeal bread flour, but feel free to change the quantity ratios of each if you prefer a more or less ‘wholesome’ bread. The use of Greek yogurt provides a delicious tanginess to the bread and the sesame and Nigella seeds provide a nutty and aromatic pop with each bite.

 

See below for a number of my recipes you can dip this flatbread into – dals, dips and curry!

From top left: Persian-Style Dal; Mirza Ghasemi; Borani Laboo; Maast O’Moosir; Kashke Bademjan; Rose Harissa Aubergines and Hummus; Borani Esfenaj; Coconut and Herb Chickpea curry; Maast O’Khiar.


Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Proving2 hrs
Total Time3 hrs
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Middle-Eastern
Servings: 6 flatbreads
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 425 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting surface if kneading by hand)
  • 75 g stone ground strong wholemeal bread
  • 250 ml tepid water
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 7 g sachet of dried yeast
  • 100 g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to oil proving bowl and to drizzle over dough pre second prove)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp Nigella seeds

Instructions

  • Pour water into a jug, add sugar and yeast and stir to dissolve. Leave loosely covered for 10 minutes until it activates and has a bubbly surface.
  • Sift the white and wholemeal flours into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir in salt, sesame seeds and Nigella seeds. Pour in yoghurt and olive oil.
  • Gently pour in the activated yeast and bring the mixture together (either by hand or slow speed on the stand mixer). Then increase speed and / or knead by hand until smooth-ish and elastic for about 8 to 10 minutes (the wholemeal flour and seeds will not result in a typically smooth dough). If kneading by hand you may need to add a little extra flour for dusting your surface as the mixture is quite wet.
  • Tuck the dough under to form a ball and place in a bowl oiled with a drizzle of olive oil, cover with cling film and then a tea towel and leave in a warm part of your home to prove until it has doubled in size (usually between 1.5 to 2 hrs).
  • Once the dough has proved, knock back gently and remove from the bowl. Divide into 6 pieces, dust with a little flour, and using the palm of your hand roll into balls. Leave the balls of dough covered with a tea towel on your work surface for about 15 mins to prove further.
  • Roll the dough pieces one by one, using a rolling pin, into a circle shape approx 20 cm in diameter.
  • Heat a medium sized frying pan or flat skillet on medium heat (allow for about 1 minute).
  • Brush one side of the uncooked flatbread with olive oil and place that side down into the frying pan and cook until bubbles start to form on top of the flatbread (approx 1 to 2 minutes). Brush the topside of the flatbread with a little olive oil and then flip and cook on that side for about 30 second to 1 minute. The aim is to get the flatbreads golden and bubbly.
  • Remove from the heat and place the flatbread in a tea towel to keep soft and warm, while you cook the others.
  • Serve warm and straight after cooking, or reheat later on either by toasting in a toaster on a low heat or wrapping in foil and warming up in a medium / low oven circa (160°C (fan oven) / 180°C (conventional) / gas mark 4) for about 10 mins.

 

 

 

 

 

Harissa and Lime Chicken Kebabs

Chicken kebabs marinated in harissa & lime

Simple yet delicious, this marinade for chicken can be used whether you are cooking on the BBQ, roasting in the oven, under the grill, on a griddle, in an air fryer or just frying the chunks of chicken in a pan. Either way the result is a powerhouse of flavour with very little effort required.

One of my favorite ways to eat this chicken is an element to a salad bowl (kind of like a Buddha Bowl) with the fragrant and smokey flavors from North Africa and the Middle-East, as pictured below. But it can be eaten with anything or any way you want, whether you want to eat it as a kebab roll with the chicken wrapped in some flatbread with salad, pickles and some garlic and / or chili sauce alongside some chips; or with some rice or Tabouleh or other healthy grain based salad.

The ingredients are simple – chicken breasts, harissa paste (any variety – I use Rose Harissa by Belazu but apricot or just the plain one is absolutely fine); crushed garlic, dried za’atar leaves or oregano and fresh lime juice. Leave the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours but for best results overnight and you will not be disappointed.

For those of you who may not be familiar with za’atar, it is a herb grown in some Middle-Eastern countries, like Lebanon, with a flavour like a cross between thyme and oregano. It is also the name for a spice and herb mixture used like a condiment.

Harissa originates from North Africa. While every region has its own variation and take on the paste, it’s particularly associated with Tunisia. It is a hot chilli pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and olive oil. Rose harissa contains dried rose petals, and, usually, rosewater too. This softens the heat and adds a subtle floral note to the dishes it is added to. The use of yoghurt in the marinade also tempers the heat a little further making this a recipe that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Using a shop bought paste like this really helps to reduce thinking and preparing time so I welcome these shortcuts. A little addition of extras like lime, garlic and yogurt make it more personal.

On a side note – I am slowly putting together recipes for all the other elements of the pictures as they are all too delicious not to share with you so please watch this space!

 

See my how to reel on instagram via the link below…

 


Harissa & Lime Chicken Kebabs

Chicken kebabs marinated in harissa & lime
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Keyword: chicken, kebabs, harissa
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg chicken breasts (about 4 to 5 large chicken breasts)
  • 4 tbsp harissa paste (I use Belazu Rose Harissa)
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 tsp dried za'atar leaves or oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp butter and / or olive oil (Melted - to baste the chicken while cooking)

Instructions

  • Chop your chicken into chunks (fairly large as they will shrink when cooking). Put the chicken pieces into a bowl and then add all the ingredients except the butter and massage into the chicken until all the marinade is mixed in and evenly distributed amongst the chicken pieces. It will be a bright red / orange colour.
  • Cover and leave in the fridge for the flavours to develop for a minimum of 4 hrs but best left overnight. Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 mins before you want to cook to bring up to room temperature.
  • When you are ready to cook the chicken (either on your bbq or under the grill on the highest setting), divide the chicken on to about 4 / 6 skewers and cook, basting with the butter and / or olive oil and turning the skewers until the chicken is a little charred. It takes roughly 15 to 25 minutes on a bbq or grill (depending on how hot your bbq / grill is).
  • Serve alongside chips, rice or lavash bread / flatbread, salad, mezze-style dishes including hummus and yoghurt dips.

 

 

Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

This recipe came about one evening when I had a jar of chickpeas, a can of coconut milk and a pillow of herbs starting to look a little pathetic in my fridge. The resulting dish totally bowled my family over and is now in the top 5 of our go to vegan dishes.

The spices used for this curry are turmeric and coriander seeds with the addition of red chilli, garlic, ginger and coconut milk to give those familiar aromatic curry notes. The use of herbs such as dill, parsley, coriander and fenugreek bring a about a flavour profile more common to Middle-Eastern cuisine. This dish is deeply savoury but with a kick of citrus from the use of fresh lime juice to make it an all-round delightful meal.

The recipe below yields enough to feed 4. If you have fewer people to feed, honestly, don’t revise the measurements down! As with most curry-style or Persian khoresh (stew) dishes, leaving it a day for the flavours to intensify by the ingredients getting to know each other better makes the experience of eating leftovers even more spectacular than your first bite of this dish straight after cooking!

Other than the amazing herbs and spices, the real key to this dish is the type of chickpeas you can get your hands on. I always find that the chickpeas that are available in jars are larger and more buttery than tinned chickpeas. So I recommend finding a good deli or  posh shop somewhere to buy these. I actually buy mine from Amazon – a little pricey but hands down worth it!


Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Keyword: chickpeas, curry, vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • Thumb size ginger (grated)
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 720 g jar of chickpeas (drained weight aprox. 420g)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (dissolved in 250ml water)
  • 30 g fresh dill (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • 30 g fresh parsley (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • 30 g fresh coriander (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • Juice of 1 largish lime
  • 1 red chilli (sliced finely and diagonally along the chilli - remove seeds for a milder version)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Some extra fresh herbs and / or sliced red chilli to garnish (coriander or parlsey or dill or mint - or a sprinkling of all of them)

Instructions

  • Place a medium-sized pan on medium / high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add finely diced onion and cook until it starts to caramelise.
  • Add garlic and turmeric and stir into mixture until the aromas are released. Then add crushed coriander seeds, followed by grated ginger and stir in.
  • Stir in the dried fenugreek and place bay leaf into the pan. Then pour in coconut milk and stir (lower the heat if required to get it to a gentle simmer).
  • Leave to simmer for 5 minutes and then add drained chickpeas and stock. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  • Add chopped fresh herbs, lime juice and sliced red chilli and stir the curry until evenly distributed. Place a lid on the curry and let simmer for a minimum of 20 mins.
  • Taste the curry and adjust seasoning and / or lime juice. Garnish with some more sliced chilli and / or fresh herbs. Serve with rice and / or naan.

Sweet Potato & Leek Bolani with Coriander Chutney

Afghan flatbread filled with sweet potato & leek, served with a coriander chutney

Bolani (also called Periki) is a stuffed flatbread from Afghanistan. It is commonly cooked by frying and it has a thin crust, which can be filled with a variety of ingredients, such as potatoes, lentils, leeks or minced meat. It is usually served with a yoghurt and / or a coriander chutney. Bolani is made for special occasions but is also a popular street food available in Afghanistan.

It can be eaten as an appetiser, accompany a main meal or eaten as a snack. If you have ever eaten a stuffed Indian paratha or a Mexican quesadilla, then you will be familiar with the presentation of this dish. The main differences being that the Bolani is not flaky and layered like a paratha and not cheesy like a quesadilla, however the premise of of a stuffed type of flatbread is the same.

This recipe is one of a series of recipes posted which forms an element of a larger family meal for my lot.  The others are Qorma-e-Lubia (Afghan red kidney bean curry) which I serve with rice, and  Maast O’Khiar (a yoghurt dip made with cucumber, mint and garlic). Whilst Maast O’Khiar is the Persian name for this dip, you may be familiar with the Mediterranean versions such as Tzatziki (Greek version), Cacik (Turkish version), Talattouri (Cypriot version). The Afghan version is called Jaan-e-ama and often eaten with Bolani.

The recipe below is vegan and, despite having to make the dough yourself, is relatively quick and easy. I have developed my Bolani recipe to include sweet potato, leek and coriander for the filling (see picture below). It is flavoured with dried red chillies, garlic, turmeric, ground coriander, cinnamon and fresh lime juice. Although not the traditional filling, the combination of the ingredients for the mixture is delicious and one that I am sure you will love. I have also made Bolani in the past with the more traditional fillings such as (1) leeks, spring onion, chilli and coriander; and (2) potato, spring onions, coriander and chili and you should feel free to experiment with yours.


 

Sweet Potato & Leek Bolani with Coriander Chutney

Afghan flatbread filled with sweet potato & leek, served with a coriander chutney
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Resting time for dough30 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Appetizer, Main Course, Side Dish, lunch, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Middle-Eastern, Afghan
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Coriander Chutney

  • 1 bunch fresh coriander (about 100 grams)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • The green ends of 4 spring onions
  • 1 to 2 green chilli peppers
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Bolani Filling

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (peeled and chopped into medium sized chunks)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 medium leeks (quartered and sliced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Bolani Dough

  • 200 g plain flour
  • 100 g atta (chapati flour) (you can use wholemeal flour instead)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil (plus extra to fry the Bolani)
  • 180 ml water

Instructions

Coriander Chutney

  • Make the chutney ahead (minimum 2 hrs before eating) to let the flavours settle.
  • Add coriander, garlic, walnuts, chillies and scallion ends to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.
  • Add the vinegar and pulse a few more times - the chutney should have a coarsely chopped appearance. Add olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Pour chutney into a sterilised jar with a lid. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use. Any left over chutney keeps for 2 months in the fridge and can be used for other dishes including grilled meats, roast vegetables or curries.

Bolani Filling

  • Steam or boil the sweet potatoes until cooked / soft.
  • Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil to a large frying pan / skillet and place over a medium / high heat. Add leeks and cook until softened. Add garlic and turmeric and stir into the leeks until evenly distributed and aroma released.
  • Add ground coriander, dried red chilli flakes and cinnamon and stir.
  • Add sweet potato and mash into the mixture until the leek mixture is fully integrated into the mashed sweet potato.
  • Add fresh lime juice and the finely chopped fresh coriander leaves. Add salt and pepper and taste, adjust seasoning if required. Take off the heat and set aside to cool until you are ready to stuff the Bolani dough.

Bolani Dough

  • Stir flours and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the vegetable oil and water. Form a shaggy dough with your hands, then turn out onto a clean work surface. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth dough. Place the dough in the mixing bowl and cover. Set aside to rest for 30 mins,
  • Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll one piece of dough on a clean surface until the dough is 15cm in diameter.
  • Divide the sweet potato filling into six and fill half of the round of dough by spreading into a thin layer, leaving a 1cm empty space around the edge. Fold the empty top half of the dough over the filling and press down to seal, stretching parts of the dough to create an even crescent shape. Place on baking paper until ready to cook.
  • Heat a large non-stick frying pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 tsp of vegetable to the pan. When the oil is hot, add 1 Bolani and fry for about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Then place on a paper towel to soak up oil while the others fry. Feel free to keep the cooked Bolani in a low / medium heat oven to keep warm while you fry the others.
  • Serve the Bolanis warm / hot with the coriander chutney and / or yoghurt based (or non-dairy yoghurt) dip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Qorma-e-Lubia

Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

This vegan stew heralding from Afghanistan is a gorgeous dish full of goodness and one that I am sure will become a firm favourite in your household, as it has in mine. With simple ingredients (kidney beans, onions, tomatoes and some herbs and spices), this dish is easy to prepare (especially if you use canned kidney beans as opposed to dried ones).

Afghan cuisine includes dishes and cooking techniques also seen in Persian, Central Asian and Indian cuisines due to Afghanistan’s close proximity and historical cultural connections. As neighboring countries with cultural ties, there has been a long history of population movements between Iran and Afghanistan, indeed parts of Afghanistan formed part of the Persian Empire, which lasted from approximately 559 B.C.E. to 331 B.C.E. Sadly modern day Iran has not treated Afghan immigrants well, with widespread reports of Iranian mistreatment of Afghan migrants and their human rights – the community is very marginalized in Iran. 

The two official languages spoken in Afghanistan are Dari and Pashto. Dari is the official name of the variety of Persian language spoken in Afghanistan. It is often referred to as Afghan Persian. Although still widely known as Farsi (the official language of Iran) to its native speakers, the name was officially changed to Dari in 1964 by the Afghan government. Pashto is an Eastern Iranian language of the Indo-European family. It is also the second-largest provincial language of Pakistan, spoken mainly in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the northern districts of the Balochistan province.

I remember the first time I heard someone speaking Dari (1980 something). I asked my mother why I could understand a language which seemed familiar but unfamiliar at the same time. The words made sense to me but the rhythm the language was being spoken in was different to the Farsi I had grown up with. And that is when I learnt about Afghanistan, their languages and the relationship with Iran. My journey into Afghan cuisine came later in my life but as with learning about our connections in language, their cuisine has brought me great joy and continues to do so. There are many Afghan dishes that feel familiar to me due to my Persian background, but there are also a huge amount of dishes new to me which I have loved learning to cook! And the first I am introducing to you is my version of Qorma-e-Lubia. For those of you familiar with Indian cuisine, you will note this recipe is very similar to the North Indian dish Rajma Masala. Pakistan and Nepal also have a version of this dish.

So what is Qorma? Qorma is the Afghan name given to an onion and tomato-based stew or casserole, usually served with rice (challow, Persians call their rice chelow). First, onion is caramelized, for a richly colored stew. Then tomato is added, along with a variety of meat, lentils, spices, and vegetables, depending on the recipe. The main ingredient, which can be meat, beans or vegetables, is usually added last. There are many different qormas including:

  • Qorma e gosht  – a meat stew usually served at gatherings;
  • Qorma e nadroo – lamb or veal, yogurt, lotus roots and coriander;
  • Qorma e alou-bokhara wa dalnakhod – veal or chicken, sour plums, lentils and cardamom;
  • Qorma e sabzi – lamb, sautéed spinach and other greens;
  • Qorma e lawand – chicken, lamb, or beef, plus yogurt, turmeric and coriander;
  • Qorma e shalgham – a sweet and sour qorma made with lamb, turnips and sugar.

Qorma-e-Lubia is simply made with red kidney beans as the protein element and cooked with an onion and tomato base flavored with garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and dried mint. I also add a little garam masala to mine. Serve it with flatbread, rice (kateh or chelow), a nice crunchy salad with a citrus dressing and / or a yoghurt or non-dairy dip (I have served mine with Maast O’Khiar, the Persian yoghurt and cucumber dip, as pictured below).

The flavour of this qorma (as with many stew style dishes) gets better if eaten the day after cooking. Therefore, I recommend making it a day before you want to serve it and then heating it up. The flavours really fuse together brilliantly with a little more time to get to know each other.

Just as a side note, if you are using dried kidney beans you will need approximately 250 grams. Remember to wash, soak, drain and then cook the beans before adding them at step 7 below. Kidney beans are toxic if not prepared properly when starting with the dried form and can cause tummy upsets, so make sure you follow the instructions on the packet or google it.

The flatbread pictured below is Bolani, an Afghan stuffed flatbread and the recipe will be posted soon – so watch out for it!


Qorma-e-Lubia

Afghan Kidney Bean Curry
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Afghan
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 3 medium tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 600 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 x 400 g cans of kidney beans (or 250 grams of dried kidney beans cooked in accordance with package instructions)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped fresh coriander leaves and sliced sping onions (to stir through / garnish before serving)

Instructions

  • Place a medium to large saucepan (which has a lid) on a medium / high heat and add the oil.
  • Bash the coriander and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and then add to the saucepan. Cook for about a minute. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. Lower the heat to medium, if necessary.
  • Then add chopped onions and cook until they brown / caramelise.
  • Add the garlic and turmeric and stir to distribute evenly into the onions. Then add dried mint and dried chilli flakes (feel free to exclude chilli or revise chilli levels down if half a teaspoon feels a bit too much for you).
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and stir now and again until they break down (roughly 5 to 10 minutes).
  • Add the tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed and follow with the vegetable stock. Give the mixture a good stir and let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low / medium to allow to simmer. Place the lid on the saucepan and let the sauce simmer for a minimum of 30 min or longer - ideally when you start to see the oil form a little round the edges of the sauce.
  • Then add your cooked kidney beans, garam masala, the lime (or lemon) juice, salt and pepper and stir. Leave to simmer with the lid on for a further 15 to 30 mins.
  • Taste and adjust seasoing if required. Before serving, stir through some fresh chopped coriander. Spoon the Qorma into your serving dish and sprinkle with the sliced spring onions. Serve with flatbread and / or rice, yoghurt-style dip and / or salad and pickles (torshi).

 

Maast O’Khiar

Persian yoghurt & cucumber dip

Most of you will be familiar with this dip or similar-style dips eaten across the Levantine / Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean parts of the world.

Maast O’Khiar is the Persian name for this dip, but you may know it as Tzatziki (Greek version), Cacik (Turkish version), Talattouri (Cypriot version), Jaan-e-ama (the Afghan version).

It is made with salted strained yoghurt or diluted yoghurt mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, sometimes with vinegar or lemon juice, and herbs such as dill, mint, parsley and thyme. It is commonly served as a cold appetiser or as a side dish at Persian gatherings or restaurants. It is a creamy and fresh tasting dip, perfectly balancing Persian dishes ranging from the stews to the kebabs.

Yoghurt was introduced to me as an accompaniment to a savoury ensemble of dishes so I have never fully engaged with it as a sweet breakfast option or a dessert.  Although I do eat sweetened yoghurt occasionally (I love Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey), it’s fair to say that 99% of my yoghurt consumption is related to dips like this one or Maast O’Moosir (Persian Shallot & yoghurt dip); Borani Laboo (Persian beetroot and yoghurt dip); and Borani Esfenaj (Persian Spinach and yoghurt dip) – all deliciously garlicky!

There are various ways of preparing this dip when it comes to the cucumber element. Some peel, de-seed and dice the cucumber or grate it. Others use the whole cucumber, including the skin. I prefer the latter method (the whole cucumber, as I hate the waste). Using thick strained Greek Yoghurt compliments the use of the full cucumber as it creates extra liquid for the dip. This helps to loosen the yoghurt to the perfect consistency. I also use a combination of dried and fresh mint, garlic and lime juice to flavour my Maast O’Khiar. If you are using a more watery yoghurt, then I recommend squeezing the liquid out of the grated cucumber. Keep the cucumber liquid and add it to a juice or smoothie. Otherwise just hold your grater over the bowl of yoghurt and grate it straight in.

Persians also vary their Maast O’Khiar by mixing in sultanas and walnuts and / or sprinkling with dried rose petals as a garnish, so feel free to mix it up if you fancy!

This is a super easy dip to make but, in order for the flavours to intensify and settle properly into the dip, I would recommend making it a day before you want to tuck into it. At the very least a 1 hour resting time.

This dip can be eaten with a variety of crudites and crisps, but ultimately if you are making a Persian spread of food, a bowl of this dip will compliment all the dishes as pictured below.


Maast O'Khiar

Persian yoghurt & cucumber dip
Prep Time15 mins
Resting time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Middle-Eastern
Keyword: Tzatziki, Cacik, Talattouri, Jaan-e-ama, mast o khiar
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 500 g strained Greek Yoghurt (I use Total 5%)
  • 1/2 large cucumber (grated with skin and seeds)
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp fresh mint (chopped)
  • 1 large clove garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (and extra to drizzle on top)
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Fresh mint and chopped cucumber (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Take a bowl, add the yoghurt, grated cucumber, dried mint, fresh mint, crushed garlic, 1 tbsp of olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning or other flavours as desired.
  • Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for the flavours to intensify and mix well through the yoghurt (no less than 1 hour). When you are ready to serve the Maast O'Khiar, drizzle some olive oil on top and decorate with fresh mint and / or cucumber and / or dried rose petals and / or dried mint.
  • Serve alongside a Persian spread, as part of a mezze-style spread of dishes, or as an appetiser. Or like some Iranians, sit in front of the telly with a bowl of Maast O'Khiar and a massive bag of crisps and dip away!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simit (Turkish Sesame Encrusted Bread)

Also know as the Turkish Bagel, these beautifully doughy yet crunchy sesame encrusted bread rings are perfect for a Turkish-style breakfast or as sandwich bread.

What Is Simit?

Simit is a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds, which is common to the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and the Middle-East. It is widely known as a Turkish bagel in the USA and Koulouri in Greece. They are commonly eaten at breakfast and are a much loved street food available on many corners in Istanbul. They have a crispy exterior and a soft doughy interior, which can be created using a standard bread dough mixture.

The distinctive taste of Simit comes from a combination of toasted sesame seeds and a grape molasses glaze. Grape molasses can be found online or at Middle-Eastern supermarkets. Sesame seeds are widely available in their raw form, so you will need to toast them in a dry frying pan before coating the Simit rings.

Kahvalti

I was first introduced to Simit during one of our holidays in Turkey. Many of us Iranians love holidaying in Turkey as it feels familiar but with the freedoms we cannot enjoy in our own motherland. In fact, I have travelled to Turkey more than I have to Iran. The hospitality, the food and the weather make for the perfect destination for my family and it feels like home. 

The variety of baked goods available in Turkey is incredible and Simit is no exception. You will often find it offered as part of the Turkish breakfast spread offering known as Kahvalti. The commitment to breakfast is incredible in Türkiye. Kahvalti translates to “before coffee” and is all about gathering and sharing dishes with your family. Turkish restaurants and families at home prepare many little dishes to fill the breakfast table, allowing you to sample them at your leisure .

How to serve Simit

When I bake them at home, we either eat them with feta and halva or with clotted cream and honey. We also love having them as an accompaniment to egg dishes (as pictured below). The recipe for Nargessi (Persian spinach Eggs as pictured) can be found here.

For a traditional Turkish breakfast serve alongside with Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs with tomatoes).

Storing Simit

Simit is at its best fresh out of the oven. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days once it is cool. Just bake in  a medium to hot oven for 5 to 10 mins to refresh or slice and toast.


Simit

Turkish Bagels
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Proving Time x 21 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Turkish
Keyword: Simit, Turkish Bagel, Gevrek, Koulouri
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Simit Dough

  • 500 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for sprinkling on your surface when shaping the Simit)
  • 7 g fast-action yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300 ml tepid water
  • A little olive oil (to oil the bowl the dough proves in)

Simit Topping

  • 100 ml grape molasses (üzüm pekmezi)
  • 50 ml water
  • 2 tsp flour
  • 300 g toasted sesame seeds

Instructions

  • Mix strong white flour, salt and fast-action yeast in a large bowl making sure the salt and yeast are kept apart at this initial stage. Make a well in the centre, then add 300 ml water, and mix well.
  • Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for around 10 mins. Once the dough is smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with cling film. Leave to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  • Mix the grape molasses, water and flour in a large bowl.
  • Prepare the toasted sesame seeds. Take the raw sesame seeds, toast in a dry pan until golden, shaking and stirring the pan regularly. Take care not to burn the seeds. It should only take a few minutes to toast the sesame seeds.
  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / fan 200°C / gas 7 / 425°F. Place a baking tray in the oven.
  • Once the dough has proved, cut into 12 equal sized pieces. Sprinkle some flour on the surface and roll each piece into a long sausage about 25cm long. Take two of the rolled dough pieces and place them alongside each other. Squeeze the ends together and roll the ends in opposite directions, causing them to braid. Squeeze the two ends together to form a ring. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  • Dip the simits into the grape molasses mixture until covered. Cover completely with sesame seeds. Stretch the dough a little as you do this to ensure the Simit is even but don't worry if it is not perfect - rustic is a great look! Place the ready Simits on a piece of baking paper, cover with a tea towel and let prove for a further 30 mins.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 mins until cooked through and golden brown on the outside. Check the Simit occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn and turn the heat down if necessary.
  • Leave to cool on a cooling rack. Simit is best eaten while still warm so if you don't eat them straight away, reheat in the oven before consuming.

Kooie Kaka

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Halloween is nearly upon us and pumpkins are in season and readily available in supermarkets. So why not try these delicious pancakes inspired by those commonly eaten in and originating from Gilan in the North of Iran. In the Gilaki language these pancakes are called Kooie Kaka which means Pumpkin (Kooie) Pancake (Kaka). Despite our love for poetry and romanticising everything that is Persian, we Iranians cut straight to the chase with our food descriptions.

These pancakes are a also great way to make sure there is no waste from the pumpkins you carve for Halloween. All you need to do is to roast a chopped pumpkin with or without the skin (if you are using the remains of your carved pumpkin) in a medium / hot oven (180°C fan oven) for about 30 minutes or until soft. When cooked and cooled down, take the cooked pumpkin flesh and place into a bowl mash into a purée. The pumpkin purée can be used for the Kooie Kaka pancakes as per the recipe below and any leftovers can be frozen to be used at a later date. Alternatively, I am sure most of you will have a favourite soup or risotto recipe to use the remaining pumpkin for. A small / medium sized pumpkin usually yields about 400 grams of purée. 

The pancake batter is a standard American fluffy pancake batter with the addition of the pumpkin and spices (cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg). Traditionally the amount of pumpkin used in Kooie Kaka is more than I use in my recipe below – mine is kid friendly and mostly about ensuring there is no waste from the Halloween pumpkin decoration season. Also the pancake is firmer and keeps better if there are any leftovers. If you do want the pancakes to be more about the pumpkin, then reduce the flour measurement to 200 grams in the recipe below.

Please also feel free to substitute and experiment with your favourite panache batter particularly if you prefer gluten free or are vegan.

We serve ours with either maple syrup, honey or cherry syrup drizzled over and sprinkle with pomegranate arils, crushed pistachios and a dusting of icing sugar as pictured below.


Kooie Kaka

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time30 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, fluffy pancakes
Servings: 4 (to 6 people)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 250 g pumpkin purée (see notes above)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 nutmeg (grated)
  • 1 cardamom pod (seeds removed and crushed)
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 300 g self-raising flour
  • 300 ml milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 2 medium free range eggs
  • Vegetable Oil and butter (for cooking the pancakes)
  • Crushed pistachios, icing sugar, maple syrup / honey / cherry syrup (to serve)

Instructions

  • Place the flour, baking powder, spices, sugar and salt into a large bowl. Crack in the eggs and whisk until smooth. Add the milk while whisking.
  • Then add the pumpkin purée and whisk further.
  • Heat a splash of oil and a small knob of butter in a non-stick frying pan until sizzling. Add spoonfuls of batter to make pancakes the size you prefer (I make mini ones - approx 5 cm diameter). Cook until bubbles start to form on the surface, then flip and cook the other side. Eat straight away or keep warm in a low oven while you cook further batches.
  • Serve pancakes with pomegranate arils, drizzled with honey or syrup of your choice and garnish with a dusting of icing sugar and crushed pistachios.

Advieh Kabab

Grilled Beef Kebabs with Persian Spices

This is a recipe inspired by Persian flavours and one I developed by throwing various things together as a marinade for some cubed rump steak. With echoes of the Levantine shawarma, by using the Persian mixed spice advieh (a mix of nutmeg, rose petals, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, coriander, cinnamon), this kabab will not disappoint. You can use lamb or chicken as an alternative and you can cook it under your grill as opposed to on a BBQ.

The marinade combines yoghurt, garlic, olive oil, onion, lime juice, advieh, saffron, turmeric, sumac and chilli sauce. The meat is marinated for a minimum of 12 hrs to let the flavours fully intensify and be absorbed into the meat. You can get your hands on saffron from most supermarkets and advieh can be bought from most Middle-Eastern food shops – I buy mine online from Freshly Spiced on  Etsy.

I serve this kabab as pictured with flatbreads filled with the meat; lettuce; chopped tomatoes with Thai basil; chopped onion and parsley; pickled chillies; bbq/grilled peppers; and a dollop of Greek yoghurt mixed with dried mint, Aleppo pepper, garlic, a squeeze of lime and a little sea salt. On the side we have home-made fried chips and bbq corn-on-the-cob with a butter, chilli and chive drizzle.


Advieh Kabab

Grilled Beef Kebabs with Persian Spices
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
(Marinating Time)12 hrs
Total Time12 hrs 35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Middle-Eastern
Keyword: kebabs, advieh, bbq
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 - 1.2 kg cubed lamb or beef (I've used beef rump steak)

Marinade

  • 1 large brown onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 50 ml of water)
  • 2 tbsp advieh
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp chilli sauce ( I use habanero)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

To baste while cooking

  • 2 tbsp butter (melted)

Instructions

  • Place the beef (or any other cubed meat you fancy) into a large bowl or tupperware box.
  • Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and blitz until all the onion and garlic is blended. Pour over the meat and rub in until evenly coated. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 12 hrs.
  • Remove the meat from the fridge about 30 mins before cooking to bring to room temperature.
  • Divide the meat on to about 4 skewers and cook on your BBQ or under your grill (on the highest setting). Baste with the melted butter, turning the skewers until the meat is a little charred. It takes roughly 15 to 25 minutes on a bbq (depending on how hot your bbq is).
  • For serving inspiration either serve alongside rice and grilled tomatoes or with flatbreads; lettuce; chopped tomatoes with Thai basil; chopped onion and parsley; pickled chillies; bbq/grilled peppers; Greek yoghurt mixed with dried mint, Aleppo pepper, garlic and a little sea salt; chips; and bbq corn with a butter, chilli and chive drizzle.

Summer Kuku served with a Pea, Mint and Feta Dip

Kale and red pepper kuku with a pea, mint & feta dip

This recipe is pure summer on a plate! A light and easy meal – I often cook it the night before we want to eat it and store it in the fridge. It can be eaten warm or cold and it is a great way to get a hit of goodness into you.

Kuku (also spelled ‘kookoo’) is an egg-based, vegetarian dish from Iran made with beaten eggs, folding in various ingredients. It is similar to the Italian frittata, the French quiche or an open-faced omelette, but it typically has more vegetables than its Western counterparts. It is served either hot or cold as a starter, side dish or a main course, and is accompanied with bread and either yogurt, salad and / or rice. The two most well known kuku recipes are Kuku Sabzi (made with herbs and barberries and / or walnuts); and Kuku Sibzamini (made with potatoes). Ultimately, you can make kuku with any vegetables you like.

This kuku recipe materialised after an Oddbox delivery. Oddbox is a wonderful company that rescues surplus or imperfect vegetables and fruit, which would otherwise not make it to the shopper, and offers it by way of a home delivery subscription services. My medium-sized box of delights is delivered fortnightly. It’s a fantastic initiative that helps me to eat more vegetables and fruit, while helping to save our planet. It is also been great for challenging my recipe ideas as sometimes I can fall into the routine of buying the same ingredients and cooking the same recipes.

One of my Oddbox deliveries had some kale and red peppers, which lead me down the path of experimenting with the medium of kuku. Kale has become very popular in the UK due to the health benefits. Our supermarkets are always well-stocked with kale and red peppers, potatoes and red onions – the vegetables used to cook this dish. I use garlic, smoked paprika and chillies for the aromatic notes, which results in a smoky and gently warming feel to eating this even when eaten cold.

Traditionally kuku is fried and flipped over to brown on the other side, but I prefer to oven bake mine so the recipe below is geared towards baking but feel free to fry it if you prefer, either omelette-style or like fritters.

The beauty of kuku is that you can make a batch one evening and have it as a quick lunch on your working days. It is also a well-loved addition to a mezze-style meal or served with bowls filled with lots of antipasti (as pictured) in my family.

I have paired this kuku recipe with a pea, mint and feta dip, making the overall experience fresh, light and summery.


Summer Kuku served with a Pea and Mint Dip

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Main Course, lunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Fusion
Keyword: light lunch, mezze, frittata, kookoo
Servings: 2 (to 4 people)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Kuku

  • 2 tbsp olive oil (and a little to grease your tin)
  • 200 g potatoes (diced into 1 cm cubes)
  • 1 medium / large red onion (finely diced)
  • 1 red pepper (medium diced)
  • 75 g kale (removed from stalks, washed and roughly chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tbsp tomatoe purée (dissolved in 100ml of water)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 small red chilli (minced)
  • 6 large free range eggs (cracked and beaten in a bowl)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Pea and mint dip

  • 2 cups peas (frozen is fine - blanch them in boiling water before blending into the dip)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 40 g feta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to drizzle on top)
  • 10 leaves fresh mint (plus extra to chop and garnish the dip with)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 4.
  • Take a cake tin (20 cm diameter) (preferably one without a loose base as the egg is likely to seep out unless you properly cover the gaps with baking paper). Grease and line the tin with baking paper. Place the tin in the oven to heat up.
  • Take a frying pan, place on a medium / high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil.
  • Add the potatoes and cook until the potatoes start to turn golden and little crispy.
  • Add the peppers and onions and cook until they soften.
  • Add the garlic, smoked paprika, chilli and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Add the tomato purée and water to the mixture.
  • Then add the kale and cook until wilted and the mixture has little or no liquid. then turn off the heat and let cool for 10 mins.
  • Take the beaten egg mixture and add the vegetable mixture and stir. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Remove the tin from the oven and pour the mixture in. Then place in the oven to cook for about 30 to 40 mins (or until a knife poked into the middle of the kuku comes out clean)
  • To make the dip, blend all the dip ingredients in a food processor and pour into a serving bowl. Feel free to adjust seasoning and lemon juice to taste. Scatter a little finely chopped mint on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.
  • Serve the kuku warm or cold with the dip, flatbreads and other antipasti type dishes or as part of a mezze-style meal.

Spicy Halloumi Pasties served with Borani Esfenaj

Spicy halloumi handmade pies served with a spinach and yoghurt dip

Borani Esfenaj is a delicious Persian dip made simply with yoghurt and spinach and flavoured with garlic, a little lemon or lime juice and some salt and pepper.

I have fond memories of this dip as my khaleh (maternal aunt) would make it regularly when I was a child. This dish and Nargessi (a Persian breakfast / brunch dish made with garlicky spinach and eggs) are the reasons I love spinach so much. Spinach cooked with lots of garlic is a perfect combination and, with the addition of thick creamy yoghurt, makes this dip a lovely addition to a table full of appetisers for your guests to dip in and out of or a mezze-style offering.

Borani Esfenaj can either be made with frozen or fresh spinach. If you are making it with frozen spinach use 500g for the recipe below. Using frozen spinach creates a creamier dip and is perfect if you are serving it alongside crisps or other crudites for people to dip in and out of.  If you are serving it as part of a meal, as in this recipe, then the chunkier dip with fresh spinach works well both in texture and aesthetics.

For the purposes of my recipe offering to you, I have paired the borani with some spicy halloumi pasties. The use of pre-made shortcrust pastry makes this a really simple meal to knock up but with maximum taste. The feel of this meal is very much Mediterranean-inspired and we happily eat this in the warmer seasons for either lunch or dinner. The pasties fare well eaten cold and we often eat the leftovers for our packed lunches on ensuing work days.

The recipe below yields about 8 pasties which, depending on your appetite, could feed between 4 and 8 people with 2 to 4 tablespoons of the borani each. I love serving these two dishes with pickles, olives or salad-type ingredients to pick at too. I have separated the two recipes below in case you want to prepare one of the dishes only and for ease of reference.  If you want some extra carbs with this dish, then roasted sweet potato wedges work really well and can be dipped into the borani as well.

I like to make the borani the day before so the flavours can intensify. The pasties can also be made in advance and reheated in the oven.


Spicy Halloumi Pasties

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Cooling time for pasty filling1 hr
Total Time2 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Cross-cultural
Keyword: vegetarian, pasties, halloumi
Servings: 8 medium sized pasties
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Spicy Halloumi Pasties

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium potatoes (about 250 g - peeled and medium diced)
  • 2 large cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
  • 1 green pepper (medium diced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried orgeano
  • 2 tbsp biber salçası (Turkish tomato and red pepper paste)
  • 200 ml water
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 40 g fresh coriander (chopped finely including stalks)
  • 250 g halloumi (chopped into 1 cm chunks)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • 2 packs pre-rolled shortcrust pastry (2 x 320g sheets)
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • A mix of nigella and sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the pasties

Instructions

  • Take a large frying pan, add the olive oil and place on a medium heat. Add the chopped potatoes and cook until they start to crisp, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the garlic and stir until the aroma is released. Then add the onions and green pepper and cook until softened. Stir in the turmeric and oregano.
  • Then add the biber salçası, water and balsamic vinegar and stir. Then add the chopped coriander and stir until the water has been absorbed into the mixture. Turn off the heat and leave to cool. Once cooled, add the chopped halloumi and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • While your pasty mixture is cooling, take your pre-rolled pastry out of the fridge and leave (as per packet instructions) at room temperature for approximately 45 mins.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C in a fan oven)/ Gas mark 6. Unroll your pastry and using a small side plate or pastry cutter 5 inches in diameter cut 8 discs. You may need to take remaining pastry and roll to make further discs.
  • Place 1/8th of the filling on one side of one of the circles. Brush the edge of half the circle with beaten egg, then fold over the other half to make a D shape. Crimp the edge using a fork or the back of a knife. Then gently push the tips towards each other to create more of a crescent shape. Make a hole in the top to allow some air to escape and place on a lined baking tray. Repeat with the other 7 circles. Brush with the beaten egg, sprinkle with nigella and sesame seeds and bake on a baking tray for 30 to 40 minutes or until they are golden.
  • Leave to stand for 10 minutes before eating. Serve with the Borani Esfenaj and other mezze-style dishes.


Borani Esfenaj

Persian spinach and yoghurt dip
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: dip
Servings: 4 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 400 g baby spinach (roughly chopped)
  • 500 g Greek Yoghurt
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Drizzle of olive oil and nigella seeds for topping / garnish

Instructions

  • Take a large frying pan, add the olive oil and place on a medium heat. After a minute add the garlic and stir untill the aromas are released. Then add the spinach and stir until wilted and it is coated in the garlic infused olive oil. Remove from the heat and place the spinach in a colander over a bowl to drain excess liquid and to cool. Allow all the excess water to run out, pressing it with the back of a spoon or underside of a ladle will help force excess water out of the spinach through the colander.
  • Place the spinach in a serving bowl, add the Greek yoghurt and mix. Add the juice of half a lime and season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle a little olive oil on top of the borani and sprinkle some nigella seeds as a garnish. Serve with the spicy halloumi pasties or as an appetiser or as part of a mezze-style spread with flat-breads (or anything else you want to dip into it).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Persian Homage to the Victoria Sandwich

 

I love cake. My cake love came later in life as I was a real savoury food seeker until my thirties. Then the delightful past-time of cake and coffee on a lazy sunday afternoon developed and it is a ritual I like to keep up. Most of the time I like to venture into my local coffee shop and bakery but once in a while I channel Mary Berry and produce a home-baked goody.

One of my Mary Berry moments resulted in this delight. I really fancied a Victoria Sandwich, mostly because it brings so much joy with very little baking effort! The only problem was I only had Persian sour cherry jam in my cupboard as opposed to strawberry or raspberry. I briefly contemplated heading out to the nearest shop for jam but it was a Sunday, my pyjamas felt snug and frankly I couldn’t be bothered. I rummaged around my kitchen cupboards for flavour inspiration to match with the sour cherry jam. I landed on lime and vanilla for the sponge, rose water flavoured whipped cream and ground pistachios for the decoration. The experiment was a success and my Persian version of the British classic Victoria Sandwich is a firm favourite in my household.

The cake batter is the standard ‘225 grams of  butter, sugar and self-raising flour plus 4 eggs’ mixture. It’s a great cake batter and one where even the novice baker will yield the perfect crumb. I also use this for cupcakes.

You can get your hands on sour cherry jam, rose water and pistachios from most Middle-Eastern food shops or online. The brand of sour cherry jam I use is ‘1&1’ but ‘Anjoman’ is also an excellent alternative. If all else fails just use a good quality cherry jam from your local supermarket which will also have rose water and pistachios.


A Persian Homage to the Victoria Sandwich

A lime and vanilla sponge layered with rose flavoured whipped cream and sour cherry jam
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Persian, British, Cross-cultural
Keyword: cake, victoria sandwich
Servings: 12
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 225 g golden caster sugar
  • 225 g unsalted butter (plus a little extra to grease tins - at room temperature)
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 225 g self-raising flour
  • 1 jar sour cherry jam (290g)
  • 300 ml whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp rose water
  • 1 to 2 tbsp icing sugar (to dust)
  • 2 tbsp ground pistachios

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C conventional / 160°C Fan / Gas mark 4. Grease and line the bottom of two 20cm/8in sandwich tins with a circle of baking paper.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light in colour and fluffy. Crack the eggs one by one and beat each one in before adding the next.
  • Add the vanilla extract and lime zest. Then sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl and gently fold into the mixture.
  • Divide the mixture evenly between the tins, using a spatula to remove all of the mixture from the bowl. Gently smooth the surface of the cakes. Place the tins on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. Don’t open the door while they’re cooking.
  • While the cakes are cooking, add the whipping cream and rose water to a mixing bowl and whip until it forms stiff peaks.
  • The cakes are done when they’re golden brown and coming away from the edge of the tins. Remove them from the oven and set aside to cool in the tins for 5 minutes. You can use a thin skewer or the tip of a sharp knife to check the cakes by gently poking the centre to the bottom. It should come out clean of cake batter. Run a palette knife around the inside edge of the tin and carefully turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack. Set aside to cool completely.
  • To assemble, choose the sponge with the best top, then put the other cake top-down on to a serving plate. Spread with the sour cherry jam (I use the whole jar - reserve some of the jam liquid to drizzle on top of the whipped cream), then spread the whipped cream on top of the jam and drizzle the remaining jam liquid over the cream. Place the other sponge on top and dust with icing sugar and the ground pistachios.

Soupe Jo – Persian Cream of Barley and Chicken Soup

This soup is my medicine. When I am feeling under the weather or need a hug in food form, this is what I cook. Many Iranians are more familiar with our turnip soup for illnesses (Ash-e Shalgham) but for me it will always be our version of the classic concept of chicken soup that I turn to when in need. Creamy, hearty and comforting which is the prerequisite for a medicinal chicken soup – am I right?

I was introduced to this soup during a visit to a ‘Khaleh’ (Persian name for aunt on your mother’s side – ‘Ammeh’ for your dad’s side), who lived in Bognor Regis, a town and seaside resort in West Sussex, on the south coast of England. I loved visiting her for two main reasons: the first being that she lived beside the seaside (where the brass bands play ‘Tiddely-om-pom-pom!‘); and the second being this soup, which she would cook for me as she knew I loved it. In Farsi ‘Jo’ (pronounced ‘joh’) means barley – we like to keep our dish names simple.

This soup is super easy to cook. Unlike most our recipes, it does not include turmeric or saffron. The ingredients, as you can see below, can be easily sourced from most local supermarkets. If you are not a fan of coriander, then replace with parsley, which is the herb more commonly used in this recipe.

You can convert this into a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable stock and using mushrooms as an alternative to the chicken. I recommend frying the mushrooms in a little butter and garlic and then adding them to the soup for the last 10 mins of simmering and before serving. 

Traditionally this soup is thickened with a bechamel, which I feel is unnecessary and makes the soup too thick and gloopy. With the availability of the handy stick-blender you don’t need to use a bechamel and can thicken the soup by blending a little bit of it. Also cream makes for a luxurious addition to the soup so my variations to the traditional recipe actually results in a velvety and lighter soup. It is such a  hearty soup you don’t need to have bread with it but do feel free to have a buttered crusty roll or whatever you fancy to dip into the soup.


Soupe Jo

Persian cream of barley soup with shredded chicken
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Soup, Main Course, lunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: chicken soup
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion or medium leek (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 2 celery sticks (finely diced)
  • 1 large carrot (or 2 medium carrots grated)
  • 200 g pearl barley (washed and then soaked in cold water for a minimum of 1 hr)
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1.8 litres chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbsp single cream
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Take a large stock pot or saucepan and place on a medium / high heat. Add the olive oil and follow with the onion and cook until it turns golden.
  • Add garlic, the celery and 1/2 the grated carrot to the pan and stir. Cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan.
  • Drain the pearl barley and add to the pan with the bay leaves and the stock. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.
  • Add the chicken breast to the soup and place a lid on the pan. Poach for approximately 15 mins, or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the breast. Remove the chicken breasts from the soup and set aside to cool. Once cooled, shred the chicken and put to one side.
  • Add the juice of a lemon to the soup and leave to simmer for a further 30 mins or until the pearl barley has cooked with the lid of the pan partially off. Check and stir the soup on occasion.
  • Take a stick-blender and blend a little of the soup on one side of the pan to thicken. Then add the cream, the shredded chicken breast, the remaining grated carrot, the chopped fresh coriander and season to taste. Simmer the soup for a few minutes to ensure the shredded chicken is warmed through.
  • Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little more cream, chopped fresh coriander and olive oil to serve.

Rose Harissa Aubergines & Hummus

This is one of my ‘inspired by…’ recipes. In other words it is dish I have developed but one that has been inspired by all that I have learnt from the rich tapestry of living in a time where we can tap into many different cultures across the world by the people we meet, the restaurants we have eaten at, the ever expanding offerings from supermarkets, and / or the information and education we can access.

It is a really easy dish to prepare and one that can easily be cooked up after work. It is vegan so a great option for a ‘Meat Free Monday’ meal. Served with other mezze-style offerings such as bread, olives or, as pictured, a fresh herb and feta cheese platter, this dish can generously feed 4 people and more if offered up as a dip. It keeps well, if there are any leftovers, for a few days so we often make wraps or sandwiches with it too.

The aubergine mixture is simply aubergines and onion cooked in vegetable oil with the addition of rose harissa, garlic, tomato purée, balsamic vinegar and fresh coriander to create an aromatic dish with a little heat. The aubergine mixture, which you can either have cold or warm, is then layered on hummus and served with some bread to dip into it. You can buy your favourite brand of hummus as opposed to making it from scratch but the recipe for hummus below is so easy, resulting in a beautifully creamy and smooth hummus, I can’t recommend it enough.

For those of you who may not know, harissa originates from North Africa, while every region has its own variation and take on the paste, it’s particularly associated with Tunisia. It is a hot chilli pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and olive oil. Rose harissa contains dried rose petals, and, usually, rosewater too. This softens the heat and adds a subtle floral note to the dishes it is added to.

Hummus is a savoury Middle-Eastern dip made from cooked, chickpeas blended with olive oil, tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice, and garlic. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of hummus as multiple different theories and claims of origins exist in various parts of the Middle-East but apparently the earliest known written recipes for a dish resembling hummus bi tahina are recorded in cookbooks written in Cairo, Egypt in the 13th century.

This dish is becoming one of our family favourites and I hope you find it as delicious as we do! Please do tag me in your Instagram pictures of this or any of my other recipes you cook.


Rose-Harissa Aubergines & Hummus

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course, Appetiser
Cuisine: Middle-Eastern, Cross-cultural
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4 (as part of a mezze-style meal or appetiser)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the Rose Harissa Aubergines

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large aubergines (chopped into 2 inch chunks. If you have time salt them and leave them for 30 mins to extract water - this will reduce the amount of oil needed to cook them)
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 2 tbsp rose harissa paste
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 250 ml water
  • 20 g fresh coriander (finely chopped including stems)
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Olive oil (to drizzle on top before serving)
  • Finely chopped fresh herbs (to garnish - you can use any herb you like including coriander or parsley)

For the Hummus

  • 720 g large chick peas in a jar (drained weight approx. 400g)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 tbsp tahini
  • 40 ml olive oil
  • 40 ml ice cold water
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Instructions

For the Rose Harissa Aubergines

  • Place a large frying pan on a medium / high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add the aubergines and cook until soft all the way through. After 5 minutes of cooking the aubergine, add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil. Stir occasionally to ensure all sides of the aubergine cook through.
  • Add the onions to the pan. The pan may be dry as aubergine has a tendency to absorb oil. Do not be tempted to add more oil as the rose harissa paste contains oil. Stir and cook the mixture until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Add the rose harissa and stir into the mixture. Then add the tomato purée and stir in. Follow with the water, then the fresh coriander and finally the balsamic vinegar. Cook and stir until the liquid reduces and you have a lovely sticky mixture - some of the aubergine chunks will be mashed into the mixture and that is absolutely fine. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting and season to taste. You can turn the heat off and leave in the pan until ready to serve the dish. Alternatively you can leave it on a low flame but make sure the mixture does not dry out / burn - add more water if necessary.

For the Hummus

  • Add all the hummus ingredients, except the water, salt and pepper to a food processor / nutribullet. Blend until it is smooth. Then add the water and blend further until you have creamy texture. Season to taste.
  • Spoon the hummus onto a serving dish and top with the rose harissa aubergine mixture. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Serve as part of a mezze-platter with bread.

Loobia Polo (Rice with Green Beans & Beef)

Loobia polo is an Iranian dish made with rice, green beans, and beef or lamb. Loobia means beans in Farsi and ‘polo’ indicates it is a rice-dish layered with meat and / or vegetables. Loobia polo can also be made by using chicken, turkey or without meat if you are vegetarian / vegan.

Think of that dish that represents the ultimate comfort food for you, Loobia Polo is the equivalent to that to most (if not all) Iranians. Even the fussiest of kids will love this dish and that stays with them through to adulthood. Everyone squeals with delight when Loobia Polo is served with its warming cinnamon notes, tomato flavour, chunks of meat and green beans. In light of the love for this dish, I felt it was apt to make tahdig (the crunchy bit at the bottom of the pot) with a tortilla wrap cut into the shape of hearts! 

The rice I use for Loobia Polo is Kamran Basmati Sella Rice as opposed to Tilda Basmati rice. Kamran rice is very forgiving as it is a thicker kernel and holds its integrity against the bean and tomato mixture, which releases liquid into the rice. For this reason, if you are using the more delicate Tilda grain you have to remove it from the parboiling stage a little earlier than you would with the normal Chelow recipe. Alternatively buy yourself a packet of Kamran rice and be less exact and turn out a perfect Loobia Polo each time you cook it.

The recipe below includes the steps to make flatbread tahdig (using a tortilla wrap) but you can make tahdig with rice or potato should you prefer. Just prepare a layer of saffron rice at the bottom of the pan at step 3 under the heading ‘For the rice’  below for rice tahdig; or layer your potato slices for potato tahdig.


Loobia Polo

Rice with green beans and beef
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: rice, comfort food, basmati rice, tahdig, Lubia Polo, Green beans
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the loobia mixture

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500 g stewing steak (diced into 1 inch chunks)
  • 1 large onion (diced finely)
  • 1 large clove garlic (minced or crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée (heaped tablespoons)
  • 500 g frozen runner beans (defrosted and sliced into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 200 ml of water)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

For the rice

  • 500 g white basmati rice (rinsed until the water runs clear and soaked overnight in water plus 2 tbsp of salt - ensure the water covers the rice by a minimum of 2 inches)
  • 1 white tortilla wraps cut into heart shapes using a cookie-cutter or any other shape you prefer
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Water (as directed below)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (plus extra if you are making flatbread tahdig as pictured)
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 2 tbsp melted butter or ghee

Instructions

For the loobia mixture

  • Place a large frying pan or equivalent on a medium / high heat and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Seal the beef and them remove from the pan and set aside for now.
  • Add the remaining 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook until they turn golden. Then add the garlic, turmeric and cinnamon and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Add the beef back into the pan and the tomato purée and stir in. Add the green beans and bloomed saffron water and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Lower the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has a stickier texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then turn the heat off and leave the mixture for when you are ready to mix with your rice.

For the rice

  • Fill a large non-stick saucepan with water and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring the water to a boil.
  • Drain the rice and then add to the saucepan. Gently stir the rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. Every minute give the rice a gentle stir and take a grain of rice and check the texture – either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is the rice to be soft on the outer layer but still firm in the centre. It can take any time from 3 to 7 minutes with the quantity of rice in this recipe. Once the parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn your heat off and drain the rice in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water on the rice to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice – if it is very salty then rinse the rice further with a little water.
  • Place the empty saucepan on the stove. Add 2 tbsp of oil and your bloomed saffron to the pan and give it a mix. Then arrange your oiled tortilla wrap shapes on the bottom of the pan making sure they do not overlap. Spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan.
  • Then layer your rice and loobia mixture and mix gently. Build up the layers into a pyramid shape away from the sides of the pot. Make 5 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon. Pour 2 tbsp of water and the melted butter / ghee over the rice. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on a high heat until the rice starts steaming. Then lower the heat to the minimum flame, wrap the lid of the pan with a tea towel and place on the pan and steam for another 45 minutes.
  • Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off. Gently fluff the rice a bit to combine the loobia mixture and rice and spoon out onto a serving dish. Place the heart-shaped tahdig and and rice tahdig around the rice or on a separate dish. Pairs well with Salad Shirazi, fresh herbs and / or yoghurt or Torshi.

Khoresh Karafs – Ghermez (Chicken, Celery & Tomato Stew)

A Persian stew made with chicken thighs slow-cooked with celery in a tomato sauce. Wonderfully simple to prepare but with maximum flavour from the combination of garlic, turmeric and saffron with the tomato sauce.

A Familiar Stew

This stew is the lesser-known of the Persian celery stews. The famous one being Khoresh Karafs made with lamb, mint, parsley and celery. This version can be made with chicken, lamb or beef with the stew being tomato-based.

In my family, we distinguish between the two by referring to the colour: ‘Sabz,’ which translated means green in Farsi, for the herby version; and ‘Ghermez,’ which means red, for the tomato-based version. In fact, this version is probably the most popular among my mother’s side of the family, who primarily come from Mashhad in the Khorasan Province of Iran.

With tomatoes apparently only being introduced to Iran in the late 19th century, this stew is inevitably fairly young in the longstanding history of Iran and the Persian Empire. Some Iranians have never heard of this stew!

How to Serve Khoresh Karafs – Germez?

Serve with this stew with Kateh (Persian rice cooked the easy way). A simple salad with a citrus dressing, or fresh herbs, or pickle / olives also make complementary side dishes.

I cannot recommend this recipe enough with it being so easy to prepare and cook, using only a handful of ingredients but maximising on flavour. It is a comforting yet light stew so I love eating this in the earlier part of Spring as we make the gentle transition away from eating the heartier dishes and move towards salads, BBQ’s and a Mediterranean feel to our dishes.

Other Chicken Recipes


Khoresh-Karafs (Ghermez)

Chicken stew with celery and tomatoes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: easy recipe, stew, slow cooked, comfort food
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs on the bone
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 red chilli (minced - optional)
  • 1 medium leek (medium sliced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 650 ml water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice of 1 lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 1 head celery (chopped in 2 inch chunks)
  • 5 small / medium tomatoes (halved)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped fresh parsley (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Place a shallow casserole pan or equivalent on a medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Seal the chicken thighs on both sides, remove from the pan and leave to one side until ready to use.
  • Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan and add onions. Cook until the onion turns golden. Then add garlic and chilli and stir in until evenly distributed.
  • Add leek to the pan and and cook until softened. Add turmeric and stir. Follow with tomato purée and stir in until evenly distributed. Then add water, bay leaf, lemon juice, saffron water and stir.
  • Add chopped celery. Then evenly arrange the chicken thighs in the pan so that they are just submerged in the liquid of the stew. Place the tomato halves evenly in the stew.
  • Bring stew to a boil and then lower the heat to allow to simmer with a lid on the pan for about an hour or until the chicken is practically falling off the bone. If the stew is too watery, allow to simmer further without the lid on to thicken the sauce.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving. Serve with saffron Kateh.

Sholeh Zard Overnight Oats

This healthy overnight oats recipe, inspired by a Persian dessert, is made with chia seeds, almonds, pistachios, strawberries and is flavoured with cinnamon, saffron and rose water.

Inspiration for this Recipe

Sholeh Zard is a Persian rice pudding dessert flavoured with saffron, rose water, sugar and decorated with almonds, pistachio and cinnamon. It is a delicious and comforting dessert and loved by Iranians.

After a light bulb moment, I decided to experiment with the flavours of Sholeh Zard with the concept of overnight oats. Overnight oats have become very popular over the last decade. A quick, healthy and delicious way of preparing rolled oats. With no cooking required, it is prepared by mixing rolled oats, liquids and other ingredients and leaving them in the fridge overnight.

How to Make this Breakfast Delight?

The process is simple. Soak oats and chia seeds in milk, Greek yogurt, saffron, rose water and honey. Leave in the fridge overnight. Add flaked almonds and some strawberries the next day and give it a good stir. Serve it in a bowl topped with more strawberries, crushed pistachios and a sprinkle of cinnamon. The resulting breakfast dish is fresh, light and delicious. My family love it and it is one of our regular breakfast options. It’s so low maintenance to knock up and washing up is easier than the mess cooked porridge creates!

I have included chia seeds in the recipe due to the nutritional benefits including adding fibre and protein. Feel free to leave them out if you are not a fan. You can also make this with non-dairy milk and yogurt and replace the honey with maple syrup if you are vegan. If you would prefer to substitute the honey / maple syrup with a wholesome way to sweeten the oats, then grate pear or apple into the oat mixture prior to leaving in the fridge overnight.

Other Breakfast Recipes


Sholeh Zard Overnight Oats

Overnight oats flavoured with saffron and rose water
Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Cross-cultural
Servings: 1
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 50 g rolled oats
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 200 ml milk or non-dairy alternative
  • 1 tbsp Greek yoghurt or non-dairy alternative
  • 2 tbsp rose water (use only 1 tbsp if you want it less floral)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron
  • 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tsp flaked almonds
  • Strawberries (to mix through and garnish when ready to serve)
  • Small pinch of cinnamon (to garnish)
  • 1 tsp ground pistachios (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Mix oats, chia seeds, milk, yoghurt, rose water, saffron and honey in a bowl. Cover and leave in fridge overnight to soak.
  • Prior to serving, add and stir through flaked almonds and some chopped strawberries. Spoon into your bowl and top with more chopped strawberries, a sprinkle of cinnamon and ground pistachios.

Persian-Style Dal with Persian Mixed Spice & Dried Limes

A deeply comforting dal cooked in a rich tomato sauce with warming spices. The combination of the dried limes and Persian mixed spice creates an incredible savoury dish. A great vegetarian dish to eat with rice and or flatbread.

I discovered a love for dal over the last ten years. My husband introduced me to the world of dal during one of our early dates. He is a big fan of Indian cuisine and always orders a dal dish to accompany his meal. I was reluctant at first but, after a spoonful, I fell in love with the creamy texture and the aromatics of the dish. I wanted to make a dal dish with a Persian twist so I started experimenting!

Ingredients in this Dish

This dish is made with yellow split peas (Channa Dal) using the holy trinity of Persian cooking – onion, turmeric and saffron. I also added other familiar flavours from our cuisine during the recipe development including limoo amani (dried lime), advieh (Persian mixed spice) and nigella seeds. The resulting dish is deliciously savoury, packing an umami punch and satisfying even the die-hard carnivore.

Limoo amani can be bought online or from most Middle-Eastern food shops. It adds a musky and citrusy flavour to the dish. Be careful when piercing a hole into the dried lime as you do not want the seeds to fall out while it is cooking as it can make the dish bitter – just a gentle shallow poke into the lime with the end of a sharp knife.

Advieh can also be bought from most Middle-Eastern food shops – I buy mine online from Freshly Spiced on  Etsy. The combination fo spices are nutmeg, rose petals, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, goriander, and cinnamon.

I like a little heat in my food so I add red chilli to my dal, but feel free to leave it out.

How to Serve This Dish

Serve it with roti or naan, rice if you want a hearty meal with fresh herbs, torshi or a yoghurt dip on the side such as Maast o’Moosir (yoghurt and Persian shallot dip) or Maast O’Khiar (Persian yoghurt and cucumber dip).

Leftovers

This dal dish will last in the frisge up to 5 says if kept in an airtight container. Always cool dishes completely before refridgerating.


Persian-Style Dal with Persian Mixed Spice & Dried Limes

Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Fusion
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option, dhal, dahl, daal
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the dal

  • 250 g chana dal (split yellow lentils) (rinsed with water until it runs clear and left in a bowl of water to soak overnight)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole red chilli (finely chopped - please feel free leave out / reduce amount or deseed if you would prefer it less spicy)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 900 mls vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 to 2 limoo amani (dried lime)
  • 200 g fresh tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • Juice from half a fresh lime
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

For the temper and garnish

  • 2 tbsp ghee (non dairy alternative, if vegan)
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp advieh (Persian mixed spice)
  • 1 tsp nigella seeds (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Blend onion and garlic into a paste in a food processor or equivalent.
  • Take a large saucepan and add 2 tbsp oil and place on medium-high heat. Add chilli and coriander seeds. Toast lightly for 30 seconds to release flavours. Be careful not to burn otherwise it will be bitter. Add onion and garlic paste to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add turmeric and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Drain channa dal and rinse. Then add to the pan with stock, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and bloomed saffron.
  • Pierce imoo amani 3 to 4 times around the lime gently with the tip of a sharp knife and add to the pan - only a shallow piercing is required. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down, add a lid and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
  • When the channa dal has cooked, remove from heat and remove the bay leaf and limoo amani. Stir to break down. Squeeze some fresh lime juice and season to taste. Leave the mixture to thicken.
  • To make the temper, place a small frying pan on high heat. Add ghee and fry mustard seeds for 30 seconds. Turn heat off, add advieh and mix and then pour into the dal mixture and stir. Sprinkle nigella seeds to garnish.
  • Serve with chapatis or roti and/or rice with yoghurt or torshi.

Maast O’Moosir (Yoghurt & Persian Shallot Dip)

 A relative of the garlic but milder and a ittle sweeter, moosir makes for an extraordinary and delicious dip. Perfect for dipping flatbread, crackers or crisps.

What is Maast O’ Moosir?

Maast O’Moosir is a yoghurt dip commonly served as an appetizer or accompaniment in Persian cuisine. You may have eaten this dip at a Persian restaurant as it is usually offered as part of our mezze-style appetiser platters.

Moosir is described in English as a Persian shallot and similar to a Solo or Elephant garlic. It has a flavour profile similar to garlic but slightly sweeter and softer in its spiciness. They grow wild in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains. Moosir have to be found and dug out of the earth – a similar process to truffles. It adds an amazingly distinctive flavour to dishes. You can buy moosir from most Middle-Eastern food shops or online. It is available in its dried form and needs to be rehydrated by soaking in water overnight.

How to Serve this Dip?

Serve this dip alongside Persian main meals. It goes particularly well with kababs (Persian or other cuisines). Alternatively serve it as a dip with crudités, or crisps, or flatbread. I have served the one in the picture above with pitta chips (cooked by drizzling olive oil and toasting in a hot oven). We Iranians often just sit with a bowl of this dip and crisps, happily dunking away and it is loved by the young and the wise in our families.

If you are going to make this dip, remember that you will need to soak the moosir over night and also to leave the dip, once made, for no less than an hour for the flavours to fully infuse and intensify.

Storing Maast O’Moosir

Store this dip in an airtight container and in the fridge up to 5 days.

Other Great Dip Recipes


Maast O'Moosir

Yoghurt dip with Persian shallot
Prep Time10 mins
Resting time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: dip, musir
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 8 heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt (preferably 5% fat)
  • 8 discs dried moosir (rehydrated in water overnight)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste) (pepper is optional)
  • Drizzle of olive oil, dried rose petals and dried mint (to garnish - optional)

Instructions

  • Drain the rehydrated moosir discs and rinse. Mince finely with a sharp knife, discarding any tough parts.
  • Take a bowl, add yoghurt and the moosir. Stir, add salt and pepper (pepper is optional) to taste. Cover the bowl and leave in the fridge for the flavour of the moosir to permeate through the yoghurt (no less than 1 hour).
  • When you are ready to serve the Maast O'Moosir, decorate with dried rose petals, a sprinkle of dried mint and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with pitta chips as pictured, crisps, vegetables or part of a mezze-style spread.

Sabzi Polo ba Mahi (Persian Herbed Rice with Salmon)

Commonly served during Norooz, rice is layered and steamed with fresh herbs, saffron and garlic butter to create a delightfully aromatic dish. Grilled salmon, marinated in saffron, lemon, garlic and honey, is served alongside the Sabzi Polo to create the ultimate Persian meal.

A Special Dish

This dish is synonymous with Norooz – Persian New Year. Rice is steamed with saffron, garlic and chopped herbs. It is usually served with fish and Kuku Sabzi (a herb and egg frittata).

In Persian, Sabzirefers to herbs or vegetables; ‘Polorefers to the fact that the rice is cooked with another element mixed in, in this case the fresh herbs. The herbs used in Sabzi Polo vary, but typically include dill, coriander, parsley, Persian chives or the green ends of spring onions and in some cases fenugreek.

Iranians traditionally eat Sabzi Polo with a fried or smoked ‘mahi sefid’ (‘white fish’, the Caspian kutum or Caspian white fish which inhabits the Caspian Sea). It’s usually served with pickled garlic, other traditional pickles, Salad Shirazi and ‘Naranj’ – a tart and slightly bitter orange, which we squeeze over the fish and rice like a lemon adding a citrus note to the dish. You can buy Naranj from your local Middle-Eastern supermarket. Sainsbury’s also stock Naranj (bitter Seville marmalade oranges) during the season. Kuku Sabzi is also served alongside the rice on the day, a great alternative should fish not be your thing.

What are the Ingredients?

Below is my family recipe for Sabzi Polo. We tend to use a greater amount of fresh herbs compared to others. The herbs use in this recipe are fresh coriander, parsley and dill. In Iran chives are also used but the chives available in the UK are not as spicy so we replace these with the green ends of spring onions. The herbs and greens are mixed in while the rice is parboiling. After draining the rice, it is steamed with garlic butter drizzled over with a little saffron to add further aromatics to this dish.

The accompanying fish is grilled salmon marinated in a simple saffron, honey, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil infusion and smoked sea salt. You can make the Sabzi Polo with any fish you want, including smoked fish like many in Iran will eat on the day. You can pan fry, BBQ, grill, oven bake, poach or steam your fish if you prefer.

Your Choice of Tahdig

Due to the herbs, the tahdig (crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot) will come out a dark green-brown as you can see in the first picture so do not panic when you flip the crispy stuff out – it’s meant to be that dark!

However, should you prefer you can prepare the dish with a saffron layer of Tahdig as you can see in the pictures above and below. All you need to do is parboil the rice without adding the herbs, drain it and then take 2 cups of rice and add to a little saffron water (1/4 teaspoon ground saffron bloomed in 3 tablespoons water). Mix the rice until fully coated and then line the bottom of the pan, following the addition of the oil/butter, as set out at the step entitled ‘Preapre the Tahdig Layer’ below. Then pat it down and layer the cooked rice with the fresh herbs and the garlic butter layer by layer on top.

You can also have potato or bread tahdig as an alternative. Just replace the rice layer with slices of potato or flatbread.

Serving and Storing Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi

Serve this dish alongside all or one of the following.

  • Salad Shirazi (Persian chopped tomato, cucmber and red onion salad dressed with lime, olive oil and mint).
  • Borani Laboo (Persian beetroot and yoghurt dip).
  • Maast O’Moosir (yoghurt and Persian shallot dip).
Storing Leftovers

Store in an airtight container, once cooled down, and in the firdge. The rice will last up to 5 days. The salmon will last up to 3 days. you can reheat the rice and salmon in a microwave. Or you can reheat the rice in a saucepan. Remember to add a tablepoon or so of water to rehydrate the rice if reheating. The salmon can also be reaheated in a medium oven.

Norooz – Persian New Year and the First Day of Spring (Northern Hemisphere)

Norooz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month of the Iranian calendar (Farvardin). The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year. Families gather together to observe the rituals. Due to this calculation, the day Persian New Year falls upon can vary but generally it is either on the 20th or 21st March. The Persian name translated means ‘New Day.’

The festivities and rituals we observe are focussed on letting go of the winter and all the negativity that may be associated with it. We look forward to new life, prosperity and have great optimism which is brought by spring and then the summer months.

In the lead up to the the New Year celebrations, many Iranians will undertake a ritual familiar to many – the ‘Spring Clean.’ I always do a major spring clean and this year was no exception. By day 3 into my efforts my house was messier than when I started, but by the end of the process I felt physically and mentally lighter from the purge of the clutter and the deep clean of the house.

The evening of the last Tuesday before Norooz is the night we celebrate Chaharshanbeh Soori – a festival of fire where we gather together and jump over bonfires. The tradition of jumping over the bonfire originates from people believing that the fire would take their problems, sickness and winter pallor and be replaced by energy and warmth, contributing towards their success for the upcoming year. As we jump, we chant the following words: ‘Zardiye man az toh (my pallor to you); Sorkhiye toh az man (your redness to me).’ See my post about Chaharshanbeh Soori and the dish we eat on that day here.

Haft-Seen

  1. Sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish) – symbolising rebirth and growth.
  2. Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ) – symbolising strength and power.
  3. Senjed (Persian Olive / oleaster) symbolising love.
  4. Serkeh (vinegar) symbolising patience.
  5. Sib (apple) – symbolising beauty.
  6. Seer (garlic) – symbolising health and medicine.
  7. Somagh (sumac) – symbolising sunrise.

The Haft-Seen may also include a mirror (self-reflection), candles (enlightenment), eggs (fertility),  goldfish (progress), coins (wealth), hyacinth (spring’s arrival), and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran (religious text of Islam), or the Book of Kings – the Shanameh of Ferdowsi (an epic and long poem on the Persian Empire), or the Divān of Hafez (an anthology of the famous Iranian poet Hafez’s poems) may also be included.

Music will play and we will eat Sabzi Polo ba Mahi and Kuku Sabzi. Many of us continue the celebrations by having a separate organised event for the wider family and friends at a hotel or restaurant where we dress up and dance the night away.

During the Norooz holidays, we make short visits to the homes of family and friends. Typically, young people will visit their elders first. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Gifts are given from the elders to the younger members of the family.

On the 13th day of the Norooz celebrations we celebrate Sizdah Bedar. Iranians spend the day outdoors. Many will go out for a family picnic in a local park. Come rain or shine we will gather outdoors and celebrate this day – throwing our sabzeh into a nearby river or stream marking the end the Persian New Year celebrations.


Sabzi Polo ba Mahi

Herbed rice served with grilled salmon
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Rice Dish, Fish Dish
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: coriander, parsley, dill, salmon
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the Sabzi Polo (herbed rice)

  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 100mls of water)
  • 400 g white long grain basmati rice
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 80 g fresh coriander
  • 80 g fresh dill
  • 80 g fresh parsley
  • The green ends of 5 spring onions
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp melted butter mixed with 3 crushed or minced cloves of garlic

For the mahi (salmon)

  • 4 salmon fillets (or 1 side of salmon circa 600g to 800g)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/8 Small pinch of ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced or crushed)
  • Smoked Sea Salt and Pepper (to taste - you can use normal salt)

Instructions

Marinade the Salmon

  • Mix olive oil, lemon juice, bloomed saffron, honey, smoked sea salt, pepper and garlic and pour it over fish. Massage the marinade into the fish. then pleace fish flesh side down into marinade. Cover and place in fridge for a minimum of 12 hrs. I find the best results are to marinade the salmon for 2 nights.

Wash and Soak the Rice

  • Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Then place with 1 tbsp of salt in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover with 2 inches clear above the rice. Soak overnight.

Prepare the Herbs & Greens

  • Wash all the herbs and spring onions. Remove tough woody stems from the herbs and cut the spring onions to remove the green ends. In batches, pulse the herbs and spring onion ends in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Place in a bowl until ready to use.

Make the Garlic butter

  • Melt butter mixed with 3 crushed or minced cloves of garlic over medium heat in small pan. Put to one side until ready to use.

Parboil the Rice

  • Fill a large non-stick saucepan with approximately 1.5 litres of water and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring the water to boil. Drain rice and add to the saucepan. Gently stir the rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. cook rice until al-dente.
  • Stir in herbs and greens, turn heat off and immediately drain rice in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water on the rice to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice - if it is very salty then rinse the rice further with a little water.

Prepare Tahdig Layer

  • Place the empty saucepan on stove. Add 2 tbsp of oil. Add 1 tbsp of the bloomed saffron to the saucepan and mix with the oil to distribute evenly. To make rice tahdig spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan and gently stir to mix with the saffron oil to ensure colour is distributed evenly. Pat down flat with spoon.

Layer and Steam the Rice

  • Reserve 5 tbsp of rice and layer rest into a gentle sloping pyramid shape in the saucepan, drizzling garlic butter on each layer of rice spooned in. Mix reserved rice with remaining saffron water and then spread on top of the rice. Pour any remaining saffron water over the rice. Poke 5 holes, evenly distributed, into the rice to the bottom of the pan with the end of a spoon.
  • Place glass lid on saucepan over high heat. Once steam rises from rice lower heat to the minimum flame or equivalent. Cover the lid with a tea towel (making sure it is not a fire risk) and place on saucepan. Allow to steam for a minimum of 45 mins to get a crunchy and thick layer of tahdig.

Cook the Salmon

  • Remove salmon from fridge to come to room temperature prior to cooking.
  • Heat grill to high. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish, then grill for 5 to 7 mins until cooked through, but still a little pink in the centre, cover and set aside.

Serve the Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi

  • When the rice is cooked, spoon the saffron coloured rice separately in a bowl and reserve for the garnish. Spoon the rest of the Sabzi Polo on to your chosen dish and plate up your tahdig separately. Garnish with the saffron-coloured rice and serve with the grilled salmon, fresh naranj (or lemons or limes) to squeeze over the fish and rice, Salad Shirazi and torshi.

Ash Reshteh (Persian Noodle Soup with Herbs & Beans)

A hearty soup made with legumes, fresh herbs and noodles. This beloved Persian soup is one of the dishes eaten during Persian New Year celebrations (Norooz) and is basically a hug in a bowl!

What is Ash Reshteh?

Although we have translated this dish to be described as a soup, Persian ash (pronounced ‘aash’) recipes tend to be a hearty bowl of goodness. Ash Reshteh is no exception to the rule. A wholesome bowl packed full of Persian noodles (‘reshteh’), kidney beans, chickpeas, green lentils, cooked with fresh herbs and greens and flavoured with kashk (a fermented / preserved food made with the whey left over from cheese-making). The texture of this ash is less soup and more like a chilli.

My version of this recipe differs to my maman’s recipe. I don’t use flour to thicken my ash. I also use slightly more herbs than her. The resulting ash feels fresher and lighter than the traditional recipe / method. If you cannot get your hands on Persian noodles, the closest alternative are udon noodles. You can also use spaghetti or linguine. If you are vegan, leave the kashk out and add some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice to taste. You can also use a dairy-free yoghurt  in addition to the fresh citrus.

This dish is served during the winter time and at special Iranian events like Chaharshanbeh Soori; and Sizdah Bedar. The noodles in the ash are supposed to symbolize good fortune for the new year.

See my next post which is about Norooz and the dish Sabzi Polo ba Mahi (rice layered with herbs and served with fish) which we Persians eat on the day. This post focusses on Chaharshanbeh Soori and Sizdah Bedar, when my family come together to celebrate and eat Ash Reshteh.

Chaharshanbeh Soori

The first event in our Norooz festivities takes place on the evening of the last Tuesday before Persian New Year. It is a Festival of Fire. People in all parts of Iran and those of us who live outside of Iran celebrate this festival by setting up bonfires in almost all the public places in Iran – in our gardens or at organised events for the diaspora community.

We eat Ash Reshteh and other Persian delights and jump over the bonfires. The tradition of jumping over a bonfire originates from people believing that the fire would take their problems, sickness and winter pallor and be replaced by energy and warmth, contributing towards their success for the upcoming year. Therefore, jumping over fire on Chaharshanbeh Soori night is like a purification rite or a phrase familiar to the West  ‘out with old, in with the new.’

As we jump, we chant the following words: ‘Zardiye man az toh (my pallor to you); Sorkhiye toh az man (your redness to me).’

Another tradition is to bang on pots and pans with spoons that are named as ‘Ghashogh Zani,’ with the objective of beating out the last Wednesday of the year.

It is a celebration of good health and light – the end of winter and the beginning of Spring. It is believed that the ritual guarantees the dissipation of the misfortunes and evils and the materialization of hopes and desires for the next year.

Sizdah Bedar

Sizdah Bedar is considered the final day of the Persian new year celebration. It is celebrated on the thirteenth day of Norooz. The festival’s name translated means ‘getting rid of the thirteenth.’ As with many cultures, the number 13 was considered bad luck by Iranians and so they believed that by being outside with nature the bad luck would dissipate. Therefore, on Sizdah Bedar, Iranians spend the day outdoors. Many will go out for a family picnic in a local park. One family member will be entrusted with bringing a pot of Ash Reshteh and the rest of us the sandwiches and other Persian treats!

Come rain or shine we will gather outdoors and celebrate this day – throwing our sabzeh (sprouted lentils or wheat and one of the symbols of Norooz representing rejuvenation and new life) into a nearby river or stream. Other than eating, another ritual for the day is knotting greens. Usually, the young unmarried people knot the green of the sabzeh to find their soulmate prior to throwing it into the water.


See my how to Instagram Reel below:

 

 

 


Ash Reshteh

Persian noodle soup
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 50 mins
Course: Soup, Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: spinach, coriander, parsley, dill, ashe reshteh, legumes
Servings: 6 (to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the ash

  • 125 g chickpeas (soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
  • 125 g red kidney beans (soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
  • 125 g green lentils (soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
  • 1 large bunch fresh coriander (between 100 and 150 g)
  • 1 large bunch fresh parsley (between 100 and 150 g)
  • 1 large bunch fresh dill (between 100 and 150 g)
  • 1 bunch spring onions (green ends only)
  • 200 g fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 litres vegetable stock (you can use water which is traditionally used but I like the extra depth of flavour stock brings to the dish)
  • 150 g Persian noodles - reshteh (you can use udon noodles, spaghetti or linguine as an alternative)
  • 3 tbsp kashk (mine are heaped tablespoons - add 1 tbsp at a time and mix and taste each time to see what amount suits your tastes)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

For the garnish

  • 100 ml vegetable oil
  • 1 to 2 large onions (finely sliced)
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp kashk (diluted with some water to make it runny for drizzling on the ash)

Instructions

For the Ash

  • Soak your beans, lentils and chickpeas in a bowl of salted water overnight. The morning after, cook the beans and lentils in water by bringing to the boil and then simmering for 30 mins (this aids with making them digestible). Drain and leave to one side until you are ready to cook the Ash Reshteh.
  • Wash all the herbs, spinach and spring onions. Remove all the tough woody stems from the herbs and spinach. Cut the spring onions to remove the green ends for the Ash.
  • In batches, pulse the herbs, spinach and spring onion ends in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Place the greens in a bowl until you are ready to add to the Ash.
  • Take a large stockpot or equivalent and place on a medium / high heat. Add 3 tbsp of vegetable oil. After a minute or so add the finely diced onion and fry until it is tender and turning golden brown.
  • Add the garlic and turmeric and stir until evenly distributed and you can smell the aroma.
  • Drain the bean and lentil mixture and add to the stockpot. Cook for about a minute, stirring gently to coat with the onions, oil and spice.
  • Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to allow the beans to simmer. Place the lid on the pot and cook for approximately 30 mins to 1 hr. Skim off any foam which may rise to the top and stir now and again. To check if the bean mixture is cooked test a chickpea, as they take the longest to cook. The chickpea should be tender with no grainy or chalky texture to it.
  • Once the bean mixture is cooked, add the chopped greens and allow the Ash to simmer for about 30 mins for the greens to wilt. If the Ash is too thick after the greens have wilted, add some water. The texture of the Ash should be thicker than soup like a chilli but not so thick it feels like there is no liquid in it.
  • Then add the noodles - you can snap these to the length you desire. I like mine fairly long so I snap mine in half, if at all. Allow the Ash to cook with the noodles for about 20 to 30 mins. Test a noodle to see if cooked to you preferred texture - we tend to have ours very soft.
  • Then add the kashk 1 spoonful at a time and mix it fully into the Ash. Taste as you go along. Some put less kashk into their Ash and add more to their liking by way of a garnish.
  • As kashk is salty, add any extra salt to your taste and a generous amount of pepper. Then give the Ash a gentle stir and simmer on a low heat until it is evenly heated through.

For the Garnish

  • You can prepare the mint oil and fried onions in advance of / or during the cooking of the Ash.
  • For the mint oil - place a frying pan on a low heat and add 2 tbsp of oil and 2 tsp of dried mint and let the mixture heat through for only 1 minute. Then pour it out into a bowl and set aside for when you are ready to garnish the Ash.
  • For the fried onions - wipe the frying pan used to make the mint oil and place it on a medium heat. Add the remaining oil and let it heat through for about 1 minute. Then add the finely sliced onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly until it turns golden brown and caramelized - about 20 mins. Place the onions on a paper towel to absorb the oil and set aside for when you are ready to garnish the Ash.
  • When you are ready to serve, ladle into bowls, drizzle with some of the diluted kashk, the mint oil and a sprinkling of onions.

Notes

*You can use pre cooked tinned beans and lentils. Use 1 x 400 gram tin of each.

Zeytoon Parvardeh (Persian Marinated Olives)

Green olives are marinated in a herb, garlic, walnut and pomegranate paste to create an incredible and deliciously tangy appetiser.

Origins of Zeytoon Parvardeh

This delightful appetiser heralds from Gilan Province in the North of Iran, a region I visited in my mid twenties and one my family has become more familiar with over the last 20 years. Gilan Province lies along the Caspian Sea bordering Russia. The Province is lush and green with many delicious dishes, particularly vegetarian, originating from the Province, including Mirza Ghasemi (smoked aubergines and eggs) and Baghali Ghatogh (eggs with broad beans and dill).

What are the Ingredients?

The North of Iran loves walnuts and pomegranates and a number of their dishes use this combination including Zeytoon Parvardeh.

The ingredients are olives; pomegranate juice, molasses and arils; walnuts; garlic; and a herb called chuchagh. Chuchagh is a rare herb and is found in certain areas In Iran. In order to emulate its flavour for this dish we replace it with mint in the UK. I have also added a bit of coriander and parsley to my recipe.

I use large pitted green olives like gordal  or karyatis olives. By using pitted olives, it allows for the marinade to seep into the olives and also makes it easier to eat them.T he flavour profile of this dish is sweet and sour and incredibly moreish.

How to Serve Zeytoon Parvardeh

It is an easy and quick dish to prepare and ideally made the night before so that the flavours blend and intensify. I often make a small bowl of this appetiser and slowly work my way through it with cheese and crackers – I hasten to add that eating it as an accompaniment with cheese is not authentically Iranian but it works!

Zeytoon Parvardeh can be eaten with pre-dinner drinks (wine, cocktails or hard liquor – whatever you fancy), as part of a mezze-style platter or array of dishes, or with cheese and crackers which is my favourite way to eat it.


Zeytoon Parvardeh

Prep Time15 mins
Course: Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 7 whole walnuts (or 14 halves)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10 g fresh mint
  • 10 g fresh coriander
  • 10 g fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (extra virgin preferably)
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate juice (squeeze this out of the pomegranate or use 2 tbsp of the arils)
  • 350 g large pitted green olives (drained weight approx 160g)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp pomegranate arils (to stir through and garnish)
  • Ground walnuts (to sprinkle as a garnish)

Instructions

  • Add walnuts and garlic to a food processor and blitz until walnuts are finely ground.
  • Remove mint leaves from the stems. Remove the tougher parts of the stems from coriander and parsley. Then add herbs to walnut and garlic and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped.
  • Add pomegranate molasses, olive oil and the pomegranate juice. Pulse in the food processor until it is a coarse paste.
  • Mix the paste with the olives in a bowl. Stir through some pomegranate arils, reserving some for a garnish. Cover and leave in the fridge to marinate (preferably overnight).
  • Serve with ground walnuts and pomegranate arils sprinkled on top.

Kashke Bademjan (Persian Aubergine Dip with Kashk)

Deliciously moreish, you only need a few ingredients to make this traditional garlicky Persian aubergine dip. A great addition to a mezze or as an appetiser.

What is Kashke Bedemjan?

This dish literally translates as ‘kashk and aubergine.’ It is a dip make with aubergine, which is cooked and flavoured with turmeric, onion and lots of garlic. Kashk is mixed through to give a slightly tart and creamy flavour. The dip is then topped with mint oil, kashk, crushed walnuts and cispy onions. It is a unique tasting dip with its rich and earthy tones.

What is Kashk?

Kashk is a range of fermented dairy products used in Iranian, Turkish, Balkan and Arab cuisines. Kashk has been a staple in the Persian diet for thousands of years.

Persian “kashk” is a fermented / preserved food that comes in liquid or dried form. It is traditionally made with the whey left over from cheese-making. It is used in dishes like Ash Reshteh (a herb, lentil, bean and noodle soup) and Kaleh Joosh (a soup made with walnuts, onions and mint). In its dried form it needs to be soaked and softened before it can be used in cooking.

The taste of kashk is distinctive and almost indescribable. It is well worth purchasing and not substituting with an alternative, such as yoghurt. Kashk provides a sour, salty, creamy and slightly cheesy flavour to the dishes it is added to.

When I was growing up, my maman used dried balls of kashk which she would soak in a bowl before adding it to a recipe. Apparently before she knew she was pregnant with my sister, a relative surmised she was as she saw her sucking on kashk like they were sweets! Nowadays, you can buy kashk in liquid form in jars from Middle-Eastern food shops or online. I use Kambiz Kashk and buy it online here or by popping into a local Middle-Eastern supermarket.

Variation to the Recipe Below

I fry the aubergines, as do most Iranians when they cook this dish. But you can oven roast the aubergine, if you prefer. Brush them with a little oil and roast for 30 – 40 minutes or until they are cooked through and soft (oven temp – 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6). If you roast your aubergine, you will need to add a little oil to your frying pan to cook the garlic step 5 and 6 below).

How to Serve this Dish

In our family we tend to serve it as a starter with flatbread at our larger family gatherings. At home, as a family of 3, we eat it as a main course with a hearty salad like tabbouleh, Nan-e Barbari (Persian Flatbread) and some fruit for afters as pictured.

Other Delicious Dips

Check out these other great dip recipes.


Kashke Bademjan

Aubergine dip with kashk
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: kashk-e bademjoon, kashke bademjan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Vegetable oil (plus more if required)
  • 3 large aubergines
  • 2 large onions (sliced very finely)
  • 5 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 250 ml water
  • 2 tbsp kashk (plus a little more diluted in a little water for the garnish / topping design)
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp ground walnuts (for garnish)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tsp of water - for decorating the dish - optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

Prepare the Aubergines

  • Peel the aubergines and cut them lengthwise (approximately 1 inch thick slices). Salt them and leave them in a colander for 30 minutes to remove some of the water content.

Make the Mint Oil & Crispy Onions

  • In the meantime, take 2 tsp vegetable oil and heat in a small pan on low heat with 1/2 tsp dried mint. Let it infuse on low heat for 10 seconds and then remove and leave until ready to garnish the dish. Be careful not to burn the mint.
  • Place a large frying pan on medium-low heat. Add 2 to 3 tbsp oil and add onions with a pinch of salt. Fry them gently until they caramelise and start to turn a little crispy. Be careful not to burn them otherwise they will be bitter. Once cooked, remove them and place them on an absorbent paper towel for use later.

Cook the Aubergines

  • Add half of the remaining oil to the frying pan and fry aubergines in batches until they are golden brown. Top up the oil in the pan, if required. Using the back of a fork press down on the aubergine while it is frying to aid the process. When cooked, remove the aubergines from the pan and place them on an absorbent paper towel on a plate for use later.
  • You can re-use the pan you fried the aubergines in for cooking the next stages but if you do, make sure you give it a wash. Place pan on medium-low heat. Some oil will have formed on the top of your aubergine, drip this into the pan - just enough to sauté the garlic.
  • Add the garlic and let it sauté for only 10 seconds. Then add aubergines and stir until it has mixed with all the garlic. Add turmeric and 125 ml of water and stir. Then mash the aubergines using a fork or potato masher. Add the rest of the water (125ml) and mash and stir further until it has a stringy texture.
  • Add 1/2 tsp dried mint, half of the onions (reserve some of the fried onions for the topping / garnish) and 2 tbsp kashk. Mix until everything is fully incorporated. Taste the mixture and then season further with salt (if required) and pepper. Let mixture gently heat through and stir occasionally. The dish only needs to be warm for serving.

Garnish & Serve the Dish

  • Turn heat off and spoon aubergine mixture into a serving dish. Spoon off any extra oil which may have formed on top before garnishing. Garnish with fried onions, diluted kashk, saffron water (you can mix some of the kashk with the saffron water to make a yellow kashk as I have in the picture above), mint oil and ground walnuts in any design you like. Serve with flatbreads and salad.

Kateh-e Estamboli (Persian Easy Cook Tomato Rice)

A simple and comforting vegetarian dish made by steaming rice layered with an aromatic tomato, onion and potato mixture. A great mid-week meal option when served with fried eggs and yoghurt.

What is Kateh-e Estamboli?

This recipe is an adaptation of the dish ‘Estamboli Polo.’ A rice dish that comes in many different iterations. Some do a vegetarian version. Others include meat. Some include green beans. Some don’t use potatoes. My version is a vegetarian version with onions, potatoes and tomatoes layered through the rice. In addition, as found in most Persian cooking, turmeric and saffron provide the rich flavour to this rice dish. I have added some extras to my version including garlic, parsley and coriander for extra flavour.

I wanted a quick version of this dish for my family. Instead of using the traditional method of cooking Estamboli Polo by draining the rice after par-boiling, I used the kateh method. Simply boiling and steaming the rice without draining the water. The resulting rice is delicious, quick and involves less washing up. Also it still creates tahdig – the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot.

How to Serve this Dish

Perfect when accompanied with a salad like Salad Shirazi, or Maast O’Khiar (Persian yoghurt, mint and cucumber dip), or torshi and/or fried eggs.

How to Store Leftovers

Make sure the rice has completely cooled down, then store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 5 days.


Kateh-e Estamboli

An easy-cook vegetarian rice with potatoes, tomatoes, onions
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Side Dish, Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 g potatoes (peeled and diced into small cubes)
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed) (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 350 g fresh tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 15 g each of fresh chopped parsley and coriander (optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to season potato and tomato mixture)
  • 2 cups white long grain basmati rice (approximately 400g of rice)
  • 650 ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt (for the rice)
  • 1 tbsp butter / ghee / vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Gently wash rice in cold water until water runs clear. Place in a bowl and fill with cold water to 2 inches above the rice. Let the rice soak for a minimum of 30 mins (preferably overnight).
  • Take a saucepan and add 2 tbsp vegetable oil and place on a medium / high heat. Add diced potatoes and fry until they turn golden and a little crispy. Then add onions and fry until they soften and turn translucent.
  • Then add the garlic, turmeric and tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture. Add chopped fresh tomatoes, the bloomed saffron, fresh herbs and seasoning. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Turn heat off and leave mixture until you are ready to add to rice.
  • Drain and put rice in a saucepan and add vegetable stock and 1 tsp salt (I use a standard UK 20 cm saucepan with a glass lid, 2.5 litre capacity).
  • Put the saucepan on high heat until water starts to boil. Once water comes up to the boil, turn heat to medium and add butter /ghee / oil and stir gently to mix. 
  • Once you start to see holes forming in the rice (as the water is evaporating), take the temperature down to the lowest setting. Take potato and tomato mixture and pour into the rice. Gently stir into the rice mix whilst trying to avoid breaking the rice grains.
  • Take a clean tea towel and wrap the lid of the saucepan, making sure it is not a fire hazard. Place the lid on the saucepan. The tea towel will help the steaming process and soak up the water, preventing it from falling back into the rice and making it mushy. Leave the rice cooking for 45 mins or more. The longer you leave it, the better the crispy layer that forms at the bottom of the pot (tahdig).
  • Once you have come to the end of the cooking time (45 mins or more with the lid on), turn off heat and dish up the rice on to your plates or serving dish. Plate up your tahdig as well. Serve with salad or yoghurt, and / or eggs.

Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

Indulgent and fudgey brownies made with luxardo cherries and pistachios. A lovely accompaniment to a cup of Persian chai (tea).

Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

This brownie recipe is one I created to add to the selection of tea-accompanying sweet treats for the chocolate lovers in my family. I have adapted a standard brownie recipe and added Luxardo Maraschino Cherries and fresh pistachios to add a little Persian touch to a familiar friend.

For those of you who have not come across Luxardo Maraschino Cherries, these are candied cherries soaked in Luxardo marasca cherry syrup. Often used by mixologists for their cocktails, replacing those bright red cocktail cherries, with a deep purple, slightly sour cherry. They are incredible in cocktails, but also an amazing addition to baking recipes or just being poured (with the syrup) over a vanilla ice cream. Using them in a brownie recipe adds to the gooey texture and balances the sweetness with a subtle sour note.

These brownies can be eaten as a dessert with cream or custard, should you fancy. I break mine down into little bites and enjoy them with a glass of hot Persian tea.

The Art of Making Tea

We Iranians love our tea (chai).  As far back as I can remember my maman has always had a samovar in her kitchen. Samovars are traditionally used to make tea. Originating in Russia, the samovar has spread through Russian culture to other parts of Europe and the Middle-East, including Iran. Samovars are typically crafted out of metal such as plain iron, copperp or polished brass. It usually consists of a body, base and chimney, steam vent and teapot. The body shape is usually like a barrel and the water is boiled in this section.

Many samovars have a ring-shaped attachment around the chimney to hold and heat a teapot filled with tea concentrate (tea leaves with water). The tea pot is placed on the chimney and is steamed by the boiling water in the body of the samovar. The tea is then poured into a glass and then hot water is poured in to dilute the tea to your liking i.e. the right colour. No milk is added to our tea. Modern samovars now look like giant kettles and are made using plastic.

Most Iranian households will have a special blend of tea leaves that they mix themselves from varieties such as Early Grey, Darjeeling and Assam. I remember my maman pouring all her chosen tea leaves into a large bowl and mixing them by hand with the aroma of the leaves filling the kitchen. That aroma is amplified into another level of joy while it steams in the little tea pot on the samovar. Then when the fragrance hits your nose before you take your first sip.

What Iranians Serve with Tea

Part of tea drinking ritual is having sugar cubes or sweet nibbles served alongside our tea. The veteran tea drinker will place a sugar cube in their mouth and sip their tea, with the cube breaking down and sweetening each intake of the beverage. Some of us like our tea with the well-known Middle-Eastern sweet treat, Baklava. With a table full of Persian treats ranging from biscuits to nougat, we are often spoiled for choice.

Despite the array of these Persian delights my heart always belongs to chocolate! Being born and brought up in the UK, chocolate was introduced to me at a young age and if it is on offer I always choose it first over other sweet treats. Whether it is the posh stuff that a Swiss-based relative has brought over as soghati (a gift from their travels) or the cheap stuff we gorged on as kids – I am not picky!

Other Sweet Delights

Check out some other sugary treats!


Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: Dessert, Sweet Treats
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Servings: 12 portions
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 175 g unsalted butter (cut into cubes)
  • 200 g dark chocolate (good quality - 70%+ cocoa)
  • 325 g caster sugar
  • 130 g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 125 g Luxardo Cherries (chopped) (plus 2 tbsp of the syrup)
  • 2 tbsp ground fresh pistachios (the pistachios do not need to be finely ground as you want some texture in the brownie mix) (plus extra to decorate)
  • 1 tsp icing sugar (to decorate)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas mark 4. 
  • Line a baking tray (33cm x 23cm x 5cm) with baking paper / grease-proof paper.
  • Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Leave mixture to melt. Stir to ensure there are no lumps and the butter and chocolate are fully incorporated.
  • Remove from heat. Add sugar and stir until incorporated. Add flour and salt and stir until well incorporated. Stir in eggs and mix until smooth. The mixture will have a thick consistency.
  • Add chopped cherries, cherry syrup, ground pistachios and mix in. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray.
  • Place tray in oven for about 30 to 35 mins. The brownies are done when they are flaky on top but still gooey in the middle. Be careful not to over-cook as the edges will become crunchy and hard.
  • Once baked, leave to cool before dusting with the icing sugar and sprinkling with ground pistachios.

Borani Laboo (Beetroot, Yoghurt and Feta Dip)

A delicious and vibrant pink Persian dip made with cooked beetroot, grated into yoghurt with crumbled feta and flavoured with garlic. Serve with flatbread as part of a Mezze offering or as a side to a Persian feast.

What is Borani?

Borani is an Iranian appetiser, which is a dip made with yoghurt. The most well-know of these dips are Borani Esfenaj (spinach, garlic and yoghurt dip) and Borani Laboo. But you can make borani with any vegetable you want including roasted aubergines and courgettes.

Borani Laboo Ingredients

This dip is made using cooked beetroot, Greek yoghurt, garlic, nigella seeds, dried mint, feta, toasted argan oil and red wine vinegar. My go-to Greek Yoghurt is Total by Fage – 5%. It is thick and creamy which is perfect for Persian dips.

Beetroot is of exceptional nutritional value with it being an excellent source of folic acid and a very good source of fibre, manganese and potassium. But it can taste too earthy to some or as my husband puts it – ‘It’s like eating soil.’ In fact, beetroot isn’t the most loved vegetable in my family unless I make it into this dip. Then it gets devoured at a rate of knots with me barely getting a look in! The combination of ingredients brings out the best in beetroot.

I recommend buying raw beetroot and boiling them yourself. But if you do want to use pre-boiled ones then avoid the ones cooked in vinegar. Otherwise your borani will be too tart. You can make a vegan version by substituting the yoghurt and feta below with a plant-based alternative.

How to Serve Borani Laboo

The recipe for Borani Laboo below is an add-on recipe to my Kuku Sabzi post (seen pictured around the borani dip bowl). You can, of course, make and eat this dip without Kuku Sabzi. It is delicious with crisps or flatbread and makes a great addition to a mezze-style meal. The colour of the borani is stunning and has an eye-catching presence on your table of appetisers or other Persian delights.

Storing Leftovers

Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and this dip can last up to 5 days.


Borani Laboo

Betroot Borani
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Dip, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, beetroot, yoghurt, vegan option
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 4 small raw beetroot
  • 5 tbsp Greek yoghurt (heaped tablespoon)
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 50 g feta crumbled
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp toasted argan oil or olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
  • 1 tbsp nigella seeds (plus extra for sprinkling on top)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Wash beetroot, put in a pan (unpeeled), cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender (approx. 40 mins), topping up water, if necessary. The beetroot is ready when a sharp knife goes through easily.
  • Drain and leave to cool. Peel beetroot and grate using the coarse side of a grater.
  • Transfer to a bowl, add yoghurt, garlic, oil, mint, vinegar, feta, nigella seeds, salt and pepper and mix well.
  • Top with a sprinkling of nigella seeds and a drizzle of oil. Serve with Flatbread.

Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata )

A traditional Persian frittata dish, densely packed with fresh herbs with a crunch provided from walnuts and a little tartness from barberries in each mouthful. This delightful dish is commonly eaten during Persian New Year celebrations (Norooz).

What is Kuku Sabzi?

Kuku Sabzi is a frittata-style dish traditionally made with eggs, turmeric, coriander, parsley, dill, chives, barberries and crushed walnuts. It is usually fried and then sliced into triangles. You can serve it either hot or cold as a starter, side dish or a main course. It can be 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.

Kuku Sabzi and Norooz

Kuku Sabzi is eaten during the celebrations for Persian New Year (‘Norooz’). Norooz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It usually falls on 21 March each year. This festival dates back over 3000 years and is rooted in the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism.

It is estimated that Norooz is celebrated by over 300 million people including communities in Afghanistan, the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Turkey, Parsis in India, and their related diaspora around the world.

The herbs in Kuku Sabzi symbolise rebirth, and the eggs symbolise fertility. We serve it alongside Sabzi Polo ba Mahi (Persian herbed rice and fish).

How this Recipe Differs

  • This version of Kuku Sabzi is baked, which makes for a healthier dish.
  • British chives are not as spicy as Iranian chives so replace these with the green ends of spring onions.
  • The addition of baby spinach leaves results in a bright green kuku.

As with the traditional recipe, barberries are added to the kuku mixture. This gives a tart burst of flavour from the berries with each bite. You can buy barberries from most Middle-Eastern food shops or, alternatively, buy them online. I also add coarsely ground walnuts to the mixture to give a little crunch to the kuku.

Some Tips for cooking Kuku Sabzi

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.

Silicon baking moulds are excellent for baking kuku but if you don’t have any, use a standard muffin tin but make sure you grease and line it properly.

How to serve Kuku Sabzi

Serve alongside vibrant Beetroot Borani (yoghurt and beetroot dip) as pictured. You can find the recipe for this delicious dip here.


Kuku Sabzi Instagram Reel

 

 

 


Kuku Sabzi

Persian herb frittata
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, egg recipes
Servings: 12 (mini kuku)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 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 leaves
  • 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)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 4.
  • Take a 12-hole muffin tin, grease (using 1 tbsp olive oil) and line holes with baking paper. Brush a little olive oil into each recess after lining and leave to one side until ready to use.
  • Put herbs, spinach and spring onion ends into food processor and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped. Then add eggs, turmeric, garlic, lime zest, olive oil, self-raising flour, salt and pepper and pulse food processor until fully incorporated.
  • Add barberries and coarsely chopped walnuts (if using) to the mixture and stir.
  • Take muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 holes.
  • Place in 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 and barberries alongside a salad, dips and bread as part of a mezze-style meal.

 

Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo (Potato & Beetroot Mini Frittatas)

These Persian mini frittatas made with potatoes, beetroot and feta are full of flavour and incredibly easy to make. Serve either warm or cold with flatbread and yoghurt as part of a mezze platter.

What is Kuku?

Kuku is a Persian frittata-style dish. Usually vegetarian, it is made with beaten eggs, herbs or vegetables folded in. The main difference between kuku and its western counterparts is the ratio of egg to vegetables, with kuku favouring the latter.

Types of Kuku

The two most well known kuku recipes are Kuku Sabzi (made with herbs, barberries and walnuts); and Kuku Sibzamini (made with potatoes). We also have Kuku Kadoo (made with courgettes). There are no hard and fast rules about what you should put in your kuku. I have made ones with curried mushrooms; kale and red pepper; cheese and tomatoes; and the list goes on.

What is in Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo?

The traditional Kuku Sibzamini recipe is made using mashed potatoes, grated onion, turmeric, saffron, dried mint and egg. The mixture is then made into patties and fried.

This recipe is my variation to Kuku Sibzamini. I have added beetroot, garlic and feta to the recipe. The resulting kuku has a vibrant colour and delicious depth to the flavour. I also bake the kuku instead of frying.

Always use fresh and good quality ingredients. Make sure the feta you use is block feta in brine and not crumbled. My favourite brand is Aytac.

How to Serve Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

It is a great addition to a mezze platter or a sandwich filler. You can serve it either hot or cold; as a starter, side dish or a main course. Serve kuku with flatbread, yoghurt and/or salad. The picture below is one of our kuku platters.


Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

Potato & Beetroot Mini Frittatas
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, egg recipes
Servings: 12 (mini kuku)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp olive oil (1 tbsp for greasing the muffin tin and 2 tbsp for the kuku mixture)
  • 500 to 600 g potatoes (peeled, boiled and mashed - use potatoes suitable for mashing such as Desiree or Maris Piper)
  • 1 medium / large beetroot (boiled, peeled and grated with excess water squeezed out)
  • 80 g feta or equivalent (crumbled or cut into small chunks)
  • 1 small / medium onion (grated with excess liquid squeezed out)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 to 2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 4 large free-range eggs
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat 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 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.
  • Mix all ingredients for the kuku (mashed potato, grated beetroot, grated onion, crumbled feta, garlic, mint, turmeric, eggs, remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper) in a mixing bowl.
  • Take muffin tin and spoon mixture evenly between the 12 holes.
  • Place in oven for 25 mins. To check if 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 with salad, dips and flatbread as part of a mezze platter / meal.

Khoresh Beh ba Aloo (Persian Chicken & Quince Stew)

A seasonal stew made with slow cooked chicken, quince, sour plums and apricots. Deliciously sweet and sour and warming from the saffron and cinnamon aromatics.

What is Khoresh Beh ba Aloo?

Chicken is slow-cooked in a saffron and turmeric-infused sauce with apricots, sour plums and quince to give an amazing sweet and sour flavour.

This khoresh (stew) is not as well-known as other stews from Iran such as Ghormeh Sabzi (lamb stew with herbs and dried limes) or Fesenjoon (chicken stew with pomegranate molasses and walnuts). This is probably due to the hero ingredient of the stew – quince. Quince is in season between October and January in the UK and during these months I suspect most Iranian households (like my family) will try to cook this dish a few times before the season ends.

What is Quince?

Quince is the fruit from a deciduous tree. It has a similar appearance to a pear but the fruit is generally not eaten raw but processed. Many of you may be familiar with quince being used to flavour gin, eaten as a paste with cheese or made into jam.

For those of you new to quince, let me tell you about this lovely fruit. It is a member of the apple and pear family. It has a yellow, lumpy hard flesh with a bitter flavour when raw. Due to the unpalatable flavour when raw, quince is generally consumed after cooking. When cooked, quince becomes soft and dense and develops a sweet, slightly tart flavour with hints of apple, pear, and citrus. Quince can last up to several weeks if stored in a fridge.

Origins of this Dish

The best quince is grown in Esfahan in Iran and unsurprisingly the dish originates from this beautiful city. There are a few variations of this khoresh  with some cooking it with lamb; using tomato purée; adding lentils. The recipe I have shared below results in a sweet and sour stunning golden stew, an unusual colour by comparison to the other stews we Iranians cook.

Ingredients in Khoresh Beh ba Aloo

This dish is delightfully easy to cook with minimal preparation. The final dish is comforting and loved by adults and children alike, so it is a great family recipe.

  • Butter / Ghee and Vegetable Oil: to cook various elements of the stew such as the quince and onions.
  • Quince: available at most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets when in season.
  • Chicken Thighs: skinless chicken thighs on the bone are the best cut for stews.
  • Onion: used as the basis of most stews including meat.
  • Turmeric, Saffron and Cinnamon: provides a warming and earthy flavour profile to the stew. The turmeric and saffron also provide the golden hue to the dish.
  • Water: the cooking liquid. Vegetable or chicken stock can also be used.
  • Corn flour: to thicken the stew.
  • Honey: to sweeten and balance the tartness of the quince and sour plums.
  • Dried Apricots: available in local supermarkets. Soak them before adding them to the stew.
  • Dried Bukhara Sour Plums: deliciously tart and will need to be soaked overnight before adding to the stew. You can buy them online or from most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets.
  • Salt and Pepper: to season the dish.

How to Serve Khoresh Beh ba Aloo

Serve this khoresh with Chelow (Persian steamed rice) and Salad Shirazi. Alternatively, serve it with a parsley mash and steamed green vegetables or just eat it with crusty bread.


Khoresh Beh ba Aloo

Chicken stew with quince, sour plums and apricots
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: chicken, quince, apricots, sour plums
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter or ghee
  • 2 medium quince (halved, sliced 1.5 inch thick and with core taken out)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 8 chicken thighs or a whole large chicken (approx. 2 kg - quartered) (on the bone, skin removed)
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 500 ml water
  • 1 heaped tsp corn flour (dissolved in 1 tsp of cold water)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 15 small dried apricots (soaked in hot water overnight)
  • 20 dried bukhara sour plums (soaked in hot water overnight)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Take a frying pan, add butter and place on medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, fry quince until caramelised on each side. Place them on a plate and put to one side.
  • Season chicken. Add 1 tbsp oil to the same frying pan and seal the chicken. Then place on a plate and put to one side.
  • Take a large casserole dish with a lid (minimum 3.5 litre capacity). Add 2 tbsp of oil and place on a medium / high heat. Then add diced onions and fry until translucent.
  • Add turmeric and stir until evenly distributed. Add chicken thighs, then add water and bloomed saffron. Add the corn flour paste. Season sauce to taste. Add cinnamon stick.
  • Drain apricots and sour plums from the water they have soaked in and add to pan with honey. Stir gently and distribute the fruit evenly across pan.
  • Arrange quince in the saucepan. Quince cooks very quickly and can be quite mushy so arrange the quince so it partially rests on the thighs. Once the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and place the lid on the pan. Let the stew simmer for 40 mins to 1 hr or until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Prior to serving, taste the stew and season further if required.
  • Serve with chelow and Salad Shirazi; or mashed potatoes and some steamed green vegetables; or crusty bread.

 

Zereshk Polo ba Morgh (Barberry Rice & Saffron Chicken)

Steamed rice with a layer of sweetened barberries served with a saffron roasted chicken. This dish is a real Persian classic and one that most Iranians cherish!

It definitely tops my list of Persian comfort foods, reminding me of my childhood and the big family gatherings my mother would host.

What is Zereshk Polo ba Morgh?

Zereshk polo is Persian steamed rice, layered and/or topped with barberries. It is a sweet and sour dish. The barberries are gently sautéed on a low heat with sugar and bloomed saffron water before being added to the rice.

Where rice dishes are referred to as ‘polo’ (pronounced ‘pawlaw’) it usually indicates that the rice has been mixed with some other ingredient. Our plain white rice, served with our kebabs and khoresh (stews) is referred to as ‘chelow.‘ In the case of this dish, barberries are the additional ingredient. 

Barberries are edible red berries which grow in the wild in Europe and West Asia. They are rich in vitamin C and tart in flavour. They are called ‘zereshk’ in Persian and are bought and used in their dried form. You can buy zereshk from most Middle-Eastern food shops or online.

‘Morgh’ means ‘chicken’ in Persian and refers to the accompanying protein served with the rice. It is commonly served with poached saffron chicken or chicken stewed in a saffron sauce and either layered through the rice or on the side. Some Persian restaurants serve it with Jujeh Kabab (grilled chunks of chicken, marinated in onion, lemon juice and saffron). Either way, you must be getting a sense that some kind of saffron flavoured chicken complements this sweet and sour rice dish! 

My Version of Zereshk Polo ba Morgh

My mother and other members of our family would always poach chicken breast and layer it in the zereshk polo. I appreciate now that, when cooked for too long, this cut of meat can be quite dry. My recipe below uses chicken breast but the cooking method ensures it remains juicy. I generally source chicken from a butcher (online or the old-fashioned method of dropping into a local establishment).

For this recipe I bought chicken breasts with the skin left on and a partial wing (the drumette) in tact. I marinate the chicken overnight, pan fry them and then finish it off in the oven as per the recipe instructions below.

You can also eat this rice with saffron stewed chicken (see picture below). I will post a recipe for this in due course, but for now the recipe below is a homage to the dish I grew up with. The recipe below will also result in the delicious crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot (tahdig). Tahdig adds a lovely crunchy texture to the dish.

How to Serve Zereshk Polo ba Morgh

Because of the layer of barberries and saffron rice, the key to serving this dish is to spoon the rice out on to a platter (as seen in the pics). The tahdig is usually served separately as a side dish.

Serve this dish with:
  • A mix of fresh herbs (coriander, parsley, mint, chives, tarragon and Thai basil).
  • Torshi (Persian pickles).
  • Maast O’Khiar (Persian yoghurt and cucumber dip).
  • Salad Shirazi (Persian chopped cucumber, tomato and onion salad).


Zereshk Polo ba Morgh

Barberry Rice and Saffron Chicken
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time1 hr 15 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course, Rice Dish
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian