Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange 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
  • 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.

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.

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 Bagels

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.

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. My local artisan bakery has Simit sandwiches available to be toasted and eaten with a strong Turkish coffee to follow, which has become a favourite weekend brunch option for my husband and I. 

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


Simit

Turkish Bagels
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Proving Time x 21 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 15 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)
  • 2 tsp 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

  • Preheat the oven to 220°C / fan 200°C / gas 7 / 425°F. Place a baking tray in the oven.
  • 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 300ml water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add another 1-2 tbsp 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.
  • Once the dough has proved, cut the dough 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 in two batches until cooked through and golden brown on the outside, 20 - 25 minutes. 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.