Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat

Vegetable samosas served with a coriander & mint dip

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 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.

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 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 the fridge until you are ready to serve the sambuseh.

Sambuseh

  • Place a frying pan or skillet on high / medium 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.

Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

We Persians are not known for our long list of 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 salad dish, which we make with chicken, potatoes, egg, pickled cucumbers, peas, carrots and mayo (recipe coming soon).

This salad is very much a homage to ingredients that are associated with Persian cuisine (cherries, feta, mint, pistachios and pomegranate molasses). It is also a homage to the summer season with its refreshing feel and seasonal ingredients. 


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: vegetarian, mint, salad, cherries, feta
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 flavors 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

Green Bean Frittata 

Kuku (also spelled kookoo) 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 yogurt 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… 

This Kuku recipe hails from Tabriz, a city in northwestern Iran, serving as the capital of East Azerbaijan Province. It is the fifth most populous 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.

 


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 the 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 of 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

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.

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. It went down a treat with my chief taster (husband), who often turns his nose up at beetroot, so I knew I had hit the jackpot with this recipe.

So here it is – my beetroot hummus with feta and anything-green topper. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and I do.


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.

Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

Saffron in everything! Well I am Persian and it is important to us as garlic is to the Italians. Here is my simple no-knead focaccia recipe with the addition of saffron and sun-drenched tomatoes.

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.

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

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.

I usually serve mine with a Charcuterie-style board of Italian cold cuts and picky bits as pictured above.

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


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 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: mast o khiar, Tzatziki, Cacik, Talattouri, Jaan-e-ama
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)
  • 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 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.
  • 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 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.

Mirza Ghasemi

Smoked aubergine dip

After a little hiatus from writing recipes, I am back and ready to pick up where I left off with a gem of a recipe.

Mirza Ghasemi is a probably one of my favorite Iranian dishes. I remember the first time I ate this delightful dish. I had never tasted anything like it.  The smoky aubergine, extraordinary amount of garlic, tomatoes and eggs were comforting and moreish. I found I couldn’t stop eating it, scooping up this warm dip-style appetiser with Persian flat-bread (Sangak or Barbari – as pictured). And I still do the same when people serve it at their homes or when we go to our favourite Iranian restaurants.

As a family, we were quite late to the party with Mirza Ghasemi being one of our go-to dishes. The dish is from the Northern and Caspian Sea region of Iran (specifically Gilan), where there tends to be more vegetarian dishes such as Kal Kabab and Baghali Gatogh. My mother and father had left Iran to travel west in the 60’s and 70’s and had brought with them their family favourite recipes, which tended to be meat orientated. So it didn’t feature in our lives until I was a teenager. As our Iranian community diversified in the 90’s with friends and extended family being from different regions such as Gilan, Shiraz, Tabriz and Esfehan, so did our dishes. 

Mirza Ghasemi is not just eaten as an appetiser with bread but also as a main dish served with rice, therefore feel free to upgrade it to a regular main meal in your household. The recipe below would provide two generous portions or four humble portions to be eaten with rice. To make it heartier, make four holes in the Mirza Ghasemi, while it is simmering, and crack four eggs into the holes. Then place a lid on top to cook the eggs to your liking. Otherwise serve it, as I love it, with a platter of fresh herbs, feta and flat-bread (as pictured above).

If you are vegan then leave out the eggs and replace with scrambled style silken tofu. Equally delicious!


Mirza Ghasemi

Persian smoked aubergine dip
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs
Course: Main Course, Dip, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option, smoked aubergine, Middle-Eastern Food
Servings: 4 (as an appetiser or 2 as a main)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 3 large aubergines (or 5 medium aubergines)
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 medium brown onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 medium whole garlic (peeled and cloves crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 medium plum tomatoes (chopped)
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 tsp Maple Syrup or Sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 2 large free-range eggs (beaten) - plus more if eating as a main course
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped fresh chives and/or crushed walnuts (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Smoke the aubergines whole over an open flame (gas hob or BBQ) until blackened and the flesh has softened.  The idea is to get the smoky flavour into the final dish.  Alternatively, grill the aubergines to get the same effect - charred skin and soft flesh. Place the cooked aubergine in a large dish and cover with clingfilm for about 10 to 20 minutes. This will help when peeling the charred skin off.
  • Peel the skin / scoop the aubergine flesh out of the skins and leave to one side.
  • Put a frying pan on a low / medium heat and add your olive oil and your chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook the onion until it has turned translucent / caramelised. Then add the garlic, gently stirring into the onion mixture making sure the garlic cooks slowly and does not burn. Then add and stir in the turmeric.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook until tomatoes have softened and broken down.
  • Stir in the aubergine flesh and mash the mixture gently. Add the tomato purée, water, maple syrup and seasoning and cook for approximately 10 mins, stirring gently now and then.
  • Make a few holes in mixture and add the beaten eggs. Once eggs start to gain a little colour and firm a little, stir them in until evenly distributed through aubergine mixture. Let the mixture simmer gently on a low heat and with a lid on the pan for a further 10 mins.
  • [If you are serving as a main dish, feel free to bulk up with extra eggs, cracked and poached in the Mirza Ghasemi while gently simmering - cover with a lid to cook the egg through. See notes above].
  • Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of chopped fresh chives and / or crushed walnuts as a garnish alongside fresh herbs, feta and flat bread like Barbari / Kateh or Chelow.  Ideally served warm and not piping hot.  

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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sholeh Zard Overnight Oats

Overnight oats flavoured with saffron & rose water

Sholeh Zard is a Persian rice pudding dessert flavoured with saffron, rose water, sugar and decorated with almonds, pistachio and cinnamon. I love the flavour but, more often than not, it follows a Persian feast, which has had rice served as one of the accompaniments or main dishes. So the last thing I want is a dessert with rice in it.

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.

The process is simple, soak some oats and chia seeds in milk, Greek yogurt, saffron, rose water and honey and 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.


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 the oats, chia seeds, milk, yoghurt, rose water, saffron and honey in a bowl. Cover and leave in the 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

Dal with limoo amani & advieh

I discovered a love for lentils over the last ten years. As a child I avoided the Persian dishes that contained them, disliking their texture or the flavour of the dish they were mixed in. But as many of us grow older we find our tastes change and lentils are now having their day in my cooking. My husband introduced to me 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 with 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. I like a little heat in my food so I add red chilli to my dal, but feel free to leave it out. Serve it with roti or naan, rice if you want a hearty meal with fresh herbs, torshi or yoghurt on the side. 


Persian-Style Dal

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: 2 (if served as a main; 4 when served a with other dishes)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the dhal

  • 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 the onion and garlic into a paste in a food processor or equivalent.
  • Take a large saucepan and add the 2 tbsp of oil and place on a medium / high heat. Add the chilli and coriander seeds and and toast lightly for 30 seconds to release the flavours. Be careful not to burn otherwise it will be bitter.
  • Add the onion and garlic paste to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Drain the lentils and rinse. Then add them to the pan with the stock, chopped tomatoes, bay leaf and bloomed saffron.
  • Pierce the limoo 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 lentils have cooked, remove from the heat and remove the bay leaf and limoo amani. Stir to break the lentils 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 a high heat. Add the ghee and fry the mustard seeds for 30 seconds. Turn the heat off, add the 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

Maast O’Moosir (or musir) 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 and, like the Solo and Elephant varieties, 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.

You can serve this dip alongside 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.


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 the yoghurt and the moosir. Stir and 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.

Ash Reshteh

Persian noodle soup with herbs & beans

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 and are more of a main meal unless eaten in small portions, as many Persians do when offered as a precursor to the main event.

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 and it is not a soup that we eat bread with.

My version of this recipe differs to my maman’s recipe – I don’t use flour to thicken my ash and also I 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 (the eve of the last Wednesday before Norooz – Persian New Year); and Sizdah Bedar (a festival held marking the end of the Norooz holidays in Iran). The noodles in the ash are supposed to symbolize good fortune for the new year. My next post will cover more details 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 cooked by our host and jump over the 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. 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 where 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: ashe reshteh, legumes, spinach, coriander, parsley, dill
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

Olives marinated in a herb, walnut & pomegranate paste

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). 

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 olives. By using pitted olives, it allows for the marinade to seep into the olives and also makes it easier to eat them. The flavour profile of this dish is sweet and sour and incredibly moreish.

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 the walnuts and garlic to a food processor and blitz until the walnuts are finely ground.
  • Remove the mint leaves from the stems. Remove the tougher parts of the stems from the coriander and parsley. Then add the herbs to the walnut and garlic and pulse in the food processor until finely chopped.
  • Add the 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

Aubergine dip with kashk

This dish literally translates as ‘kashk and aubergine.’ Although it is described as a dip, as with many dip-style dishes from the Middle-East, it is substantial and can be eaten as either an appetiser or a main dish. In our family we tend to serve it as a starter with flatbread before the main event 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, Noon-e Barbari and some fruit for afters as pictured.

We have other delicious aubergine dip-style dishes like Mirza Ghasemi (tomato based with beaten eggs folded through) and Kal Kabob (made with walnuts and pomegranate molasses) both from the North of Iran. But my heart belongs to Kashke Bademjan as it is the one I grew up eating regularly and the depth of flavour that comes from the ingredients coming together is incredible.

There are various iterations of this recipe but the one I have shared with you is the one I have developed and includes aubergines, garlic, turmeric, caramelised onions, dried mint and kashk.

So what is kashk, I hear you ask. Kashk is a range of fermented dairy products used in Iranian, Turkish, Balkan and Arab cuisines. Kashk has been a staple in the Iranian diet for thousands of years.

Persian “kashk” is a fermented / preserved food that comes in liquid or dried form and is traditionally made with the whey left over from cheese-making. It is used in dishes like Ash-e Reshteh (a herb, lentil, bean and noodle soup), Kashke Badamjan (recipe below) 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. I may not be selling this to you but I promise if you make this dish you will not be disappointed.

When I was growing up, my maman used to have the dried balls of kashk which she would soak in a bowl in preparation for using them in one of dishes above. 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.

I fry the aubergines, as do most Iranians when they cook this dish. But if you would prefer not to, instead of following step 2 to 5, you can oven roast the aubergine, after brushing them with a little oil, for about 30 – 40 minutes or until they are cooked through and soft (oven temp – 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6). Also, if you roast your aubergine, you will need to add a little oil to your frying pan at step 6 to cook the garlic.

We garnish the dish with fried onions, a mint-infused oil, diluted kashk mixed with saffron and ground walnuts.


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: 2 (generous portions as a main or 4 as an appetiser)
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
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tsp of water - for decorating the dish - optional)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • 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. This will help to reduce the amount of oil that is absorbed and to reduce the cooking time required. When you are ready to cook them, dab them with a paper towel to remove the moisture.
  • In the meantime, take 2 tsp of vegetable oil and heat in a small pan on a low heat with 1/2 tsp of dried mint. Let it infuse on the low heat for 10 seconds and then remove and leave until you are ready to garnish the dish. Be careful not to burn the mint.
  • Place a large frying pan on a medium / low heat. Add 2 to 3 tbsp of oil and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Fry them gently until they caramelise and start to turn a little crispy (they will get crispier once removed from the oil). Be careful not to burn them otherwise they will be bitter. Once cooked, remove them and place them on an absorbent paper towel on a plate / bowl for use later.
  • Add half of the remaining oil to the frying pan and fry your aubergines in batches until they are golden brown. Top up the oil in the pan, if required, after frying each batch. You want to make sure the aubergines do not have a green tinge to them and are fully cooked through. 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 / bowl 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 the pan on a 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 your aubergines and stir until it has mixed with all the garlic.
  • Add the 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 of dried mint, half of your onions (reserve some of the fried onions for the topping / garnish) and 2 tbsp of kashk. Mix until everything is fully incorporated. Taste the mixture and then season further with salt (if required - as kashk is quite salty you may not require any) and pepper. Let the mixture gently heat through and stir occasionally. The dish only needs to be warm for serving.
  • Turn the heat off and spoon the aubergine mixture into a serving dish of your choice. Spoon off any extra oil which may have formed on top before garnishing.
  • Garnish with the 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noon-e Barbari

Persian flatbread with nigella & sesame seeds

Barbari is a yeast-leavened Iranian flatbread. It is one of the thickest flatbreads we have and is commonly topped with sesame and nigella seeds. The top layer of the bread is similar to a pretzel due to a glaze made of baking powder, flour and water, brushed on before baking. It is widely known as Persian flatbread.

Barbari is an obsolete Persian term (meaning Easterners) for the Hazara people living in the Khorasan province, Iran. They are the third-largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and are also a significant minority group in neighbouring Pakistan. The Hazara people speak Dari, a form of Farsi (the main language of Iran). Farsi and Dari are mutually intelligible, with differences found primarily in the vocabulary and phonology.

Barbari bread was first baked by Hazaras and taken to Tehran over 200 years ago. Hazaras are no longer called barbari, but the bread is still referred to as noon-e barbari in Iran while Hazaras refer to it as nan-e tanoori (tandoor oven bread). The Turkish have a similar bread, with theirs being slightly thicker. The bread is usually 70 to 80 cm long, and 25 to 30 cm wide. It is the most common style bread baked in Iran. It is usually eaten at breakfast with Lighvan cheese (a ewe’s milk cheese similar to feta cheese) and preserves such as sour cherry jam and carrot jam as pictured above.

My version of Barbari has been a 6 month process of experimenting with various baking styles in order to replicate this wonderful bread in my oven. Ultimately it has similar measurements to most bread recipes but it is a wetter dough, which I have found is the key to achieving a version close to the traditional Barbari. Also the glaze takes the standard bread recipe and transforms it into an extraordinary tasting bake. My version is smaller than the traditional Barbari, as most of us cannot fit an 80 cm long flatbread in our oven but it loses none of its deliciousness. I knead my dough by hand, as I find the process therapeutic, but please feel free to use any electrical mixer with a dough hook that you may have to help you with this stage. 

There are no rules as to how you should eat your Barbari. Although it is commonly eaten at breakfast, we also eat ours with various Persian dips and appetisers, as a sandwich bread or with soup. 


Noon-e Barbari

Persian flatbread with nigella and sesame seeds
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Proving2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time3 hrs 20 mins
Course: Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: noon, nan, barbari, nigella seeds, sesame seeds
Servings: 2 medium-sized flatbreads
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Barbari Dough

  • 7 g sachet of instant yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 350 ml luke warm water
  • 500 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for kneading)
  • 1 tsp salt (heaped teaspoon)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Glaze and Topping

  • 1 tsp strong bread flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 100 ml water
  • Nigella and sesame seeds (to sprinkle on top of the bread)

Instructions

  • For the Barbari dough - Use 150 ml of the water and pour into a bowl. Add the sugar and yeast, stir and leave to work for approximately 15 mins (bubbles will form on the surface).
  • Place the flour in a large bowl, add the oil and then add the salt to one side of the bowl.
  • Add the yeast mixture to the bowl and begin mixing the ingredients together. Gradually add the remaining water (200 ml) until all the flour leaves the side of the bowl and you have a soft, rough sticky dough.
  • Sprinkle a bit of flour onto a clean surface and sit the dough on the flour and begin to knead. Do this for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough becomes smooth and silky - it will be a little stickier than your standard loaf dough. Once the correct consistency is achieved, place the dough into a clean, oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2 hrs or until it has tripled in size.
  • To make the glaze - place a small saucepan on a medium / high heat and add 100 ml of water, 1 tsp of flour, 1/2 tsp of baking powder and stir until it forms a shiny white paste. Remove from the heat and set aside until you are ready to glaze prior to baking.
  • Once risen, place the dough onto a floured surface. Knock back the dough a few times to remove the air but no need to knead again.
  • Halve the dough and take one half and begin to shape it. I use a floured rolling pin to roll the dough into an oblong shape and then hand-stretch it until it gets to approximately 40 cm in length, 20 cm in width and 1 cm in depth. Place it on a grease-proof paper lined baking tray. Then take a knife and lightly score along the length of the dough about a finger-width apart.
  • Repeat the step above with the remaining half of the dough.
  • Cover the baking trays with tea-towels and leave in a warm place for 30 mins.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (fan) / 220°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 7.
  • Take a baking tray containing one of the Barbari breads and brush with the glaze. Use your fingers to push the dough between the scored lines down so you end up with small ridges. Then top with sesame and nigella seeds. Repeat with the other Barbari bread.
  • Place the bread in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes until golden and cooked. I slice mine into squares so they can be easily toasted for breakfast.

Kateh-e Estamboli

Persian easy cook tomato rice

This recipe is an adaptation of the dish ‘Estamboli Polo.’ In my family this dish is vegetarian and is cooked by steaming rice layered with a tomato, onion and potato mixture with saffron and turmeric as the aromatics.

Every Iranian household is likely to have their own variation, with some layering their versions with lamb, beef or chicken. In fact other Iranians may call my family’s version ‘Dami-e-Gojeh Farangi’ but that is the beauty of food – there are no hard and fast rules and it is the recipes we grew up with that are often the dearest.

I wanted a quick version of this dish for my family, one that I could cook up during the week with the last pathetic looking onions, potatoes and tomatoes in my vegetable drawer before my weekly trip to the supermarket. So instead of using the traditional method of cooking Estamboli Polo by draining the rice after par-boiling, I used the kateh method by boiling and steaming the rice without draining the water. The resulting rice is not as elegant as our traditional polo recipes but it is delicious, quick and involves less washing up. Also it still creates tahdig – the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot, which I guess is what most people want to hear!

I have, as always, added a few tweaks to my version including some garlic to the vegetable mix and some chopped parsley and coriander (because they were also the last pathetic looking items at the bottom of my vegetable drawer). The resulting dish from my hodgepodge experiment is delicious. You can, of course, leave out the garlic and fresh herbs which is the traditional version of this recipe.

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.


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 the rice in cold water until the 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 of vegetable oil and place on a medium / high heat,
  • Add the diced potatoes and fry until they turn golden and a little crispy. Then add the 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 the chopped fresh tomatoes, the bloomed saffron, fresh herbs and seasoning. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Turn the heat off and leave the mixture until you are ready to add to the rice.
  • Drain and put the rice in a saucepan and add the vegetable stock and 1 tsp of salt (I use a standard UK 20 cm saucepan with a glass lid, 2.5 litre capacity).
  • Put the saucepan on a high heat until the water starts to boil. Once the water comes up to the boil, turn the heat to medium and add the 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 the potato and tomato mixture and pour into the rice. Gently stir into the rice mix whilst trying to avoid breaking the rice grains.
  • Then 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 the 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

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 were typically crafted out of plain iron, copper, polished brass, bronze, silver, gold, tin, or nickel. A samovar usually consists of a body, base and chimney, cover and steam vent, handles, tap and key, crown and ring, chimney extension and cap, drip-bowl, 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 (so you can see the colour of the tea) 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, although at times my Iranian family can be partial to a good old ‘builders’. Modern samovars now look like giant kettles and are made using plastic. When my maman replaced her metal ornate samovar I was deeply disappointed but I appreciate the new models are safer and easier to clean!

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, and then when the fragrance hits your nose before you take your first sip.

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!

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 Cherries and fresh pistachios to add a little Persian touch to a familiar friend. For those of you who have not come across Luxardo 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.


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 the 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 the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Do not let the base of the bowl touch the water. Leve the mixture to melt. Stir to ensure there are no lumps and the butter and chocolate are full incorporated.
  • Remove from the heat. Add the sugar and stir until incorporated.
  • Add the flour and salt and stir until well incorporated.
  • Stir in the eggs and mix until smooth. The mixture will have a thick consistency.
  • Add the chopped cherries, the cherry syrup, ground pistachios and mix in. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tray.
  • Place the tray in the 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 Borani

 

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

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 and other Persian delights.

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 and then it gets devoured at a rate of knots with me barely getting a look in! This dip uses Greek yoghurt, garlic, nigella seeds, dried mint, feta, toasted argan oil and red wine vinegar to complement the beetroot and bring out its sweetness.

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.


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 the beetroot, put in a pan (unpeeled), cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook until tender (approx. 40 mins), topping up the water, if necessary. The beetroot is ready when a sharp knife goes through easily.
  • Drain and leave to cool. Peel the beetroot and grate using the coarse side of a grater.
  • Transfer to a bowl, add the 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 

Kuku Sabzi is a frittata-style dish traditionally made with eggs, turmeric, coriander, parsley, dill, chives, barberries and crushed walnuts. It is usually fried on one side and then flipped over and cooked on the other-side and then sliced into triangles. It is served either hot or cold as a starter, side dish or a main course, and is accompanied with bread or rice and either yogurt or salad. 

The key difference between a kuku and a frittata is the egg to vegetable ratio, with the kuku favouring the latter. Besides being delicious, I am fond of this dish for two other reasons.

The first is that it reminds me of the preparation leading up to the parties (mehmoonis) my mum would host. My mum would place a large sheet on the floor of our living room and pile the fresh herbs on top of each other and call my sister and I over to sit with her on the floor and help her pluck the leaves off the bunches. Initially, I would be annoyed at my mum for asking me to help but after a few minutes the peacefulness of the process would absorb me into a sphere of mindfulness. Afterwards, my mum would wash and chop the herbs by hand with the kitchen being filled with the aroma of the herbs. My process, and one my daughter will witness as she grows up, is a lot less peaceful but much quicker with the use of a food-processor!

The second, and one I suspect resonates with most Iranians, is that it is a dish we eat at Persian New Year (‘Norooz’). Norooz is the day of the vernal equinox, and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, usually falling on 21 March each year. The herbs symbolise rebirth, and the eggs symbolise fertility. I will write a post focussing on Norooz including the symbols in more detail soon but for now let’s celebrate this delightful dish!

My version of Kuku Sabzi is baked as I find the fried version more and more difficult to digest as I get older. British chives are not as spicy as Iranian chives so we tend to replace these with the green ends of spring onions. I have also added some baby spinach leaves which results in a bright green kuku as opposed to the darker green colour usually associated with this dish. I use barberries by including them in the kuku mixture so when you bite into them, you get a tart burst of flavour from the berries. You can buy barberries from most Middle-Eastern food shops or, alternatively, buy them online. They are not essential but rather a nice touch. I also sprinkle ground walnuts as a garnish.

To prepare the herbs, wash them and remove the toughest parts of the stems. There is no need to remove all the leaves from all the stems if you have a food-processor to chop the herbs finely for you. Dill and parsley will require a bit more time removing the tough stems unlike coriander which you can usually chuck in and blitz.

I serve mine with a vibrant Beetroot Borani which really modernises the presentation of Kuku Sabzi and you can find the recipe for this delicious dip here.

 


Check out my how to Instagram Reel via link below:


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, coriander, parsley, dill, barberries, walnuts
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
  • 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 the oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 4.
  • Take a 12-hole muffin tin, grease (using 1 tbsp of olive oil) and line the holes with baking paper. Brush a little olive oil into each recess after lining and leave to one side until you are ready to use.
  • Put the herbs, spring onion ends, spinach, eggs, turmeric, garlic, lime zest, olive oil, self-raising flour, salt and pepper into a food processor and blitz until the herbs are finely chopped.
  • Add the barberries (if using) to the mixture and stir.
  • Take the muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 holes.
  • Place in the oven for 25 mins. To check if  the kuku are done, use a thin skewer / tip of a knife to check one by gently poking to the bottom. It should come out clean.
  • Serve warm or cold sprinkled with ground walnuts alongside a salad, dips and bread as part of a mezze-style meal.

Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

Potato and beetroot kuku

Kuku (also spelled kookoo) is a Persian 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 yogurt 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 curried mushrooms; kale and red pepper; bacon, cheese and tomatoes and the list goes on… 

The traditional Kuku Sibzamini recipe is made using mashed potatoes, in some cases grated onion, turmeric, saffron, dried mint and egg. I have always loved Kuku Sibzamini but on a nutritional scale it is not the most nutrient dense dish you can cook for you and your family. To top it off, it is usually fried which can make it a little greasy.

The recipe below is my variation to of Kuku Sibzamini (potato kuku). To make this kuku a little more nutritionally balanced, I have added beetroot, garlic and feta to the recipe. The resulting kuku has a vibrant colour and delicious depth to the flavour. I have also varied the recipe by baking instead of frying the kuku.

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 a great addition to a mezze-style lunch or a sandwich filler. We eat our kuku sibzamini with a mint yoghurt, made by mixing a few teaspoons of mint sauce  with Greek yoghurt; fresh herbs, salad and bread. The picture below is one of our kuku platters.


Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

Potato and beetroot kuku
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 the oven to 160°C (fan) / 180°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 4.
  • Take a 12-hole muffin tin, grease (using 1 tbsp of olive oil) and line the holes with baking paper. Brush a little olive oil into each recess after lining and leave to one side until you are ready to use it.
  • Mix all your ingredients for the kuku (mashed potato, grated beetroot, grated onion, crumbled feta, garlic, mint, turmeric, eggs, remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper) in a mixing bowl.
  • Take the muffin tin and spoon the mixture evenly between the 12 holes.
  • Place in the oven for 25 mins. To check if  the kuku are done, use a thin skewer / tip of a knife to check one by gently poking to the bottom. It should come out clean.
  • Serve warm or cold with salad, dips and bread as part of a mezze-style meal.

Garni Yarikh

Stuffed aubergines in a tomato sauce

Garni Yarikh comes from the Azerbaijani province of Iran (northwestern Iran bordering Iraq, Turkey, Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan). The region is mostly populated by Azerbaijanis also known as Iranian Azeris, who tend to speak Azerbaijani (a Turkic language) as their first language.

Garni Yarikh translated is ‘torn belly’ with the Persian equivalent being ‘Shekam Pareh’. Traditionally the aubergine is stuffed with a mixture of mince meat and then simmered in a rich and tangy tomato-based sauce. The Turkish version, and where it originates from, is called ‘Karnıyarık.’

The recipe below is a vegan version as Iranian food can be quite heavy on the meat, so, where an opportunity presents itself, I like to adapt a recipe to be plant-based. To make the recipe vegan, I have replaced the mince meat with lentils and added vegetables to the stuffing mixture. You can use any lentils you want. I buy pre-cooked lentils as it reduces the preparation and cooking time. My go-to lentils for this dish are Merchant Gourmet Beluga Lentils. They absorb the sauce brilliantly and have a lovely texture.

If you have time, I recommend salting and leaving the aubergines for 30 minutes to draw out some of the water. Aubergines can afford to lose a little water pre-cooking but it isn’t an issue if you just want to launch into the recipe as per the steps below.

In my little family, we eat Garni Yarikh with a tabbouleh salad and hummus on the side but this dish can also be served with rice or bread as an accompaniment. 


Garni Yarikh

Stuffed aubergines in a tomato sauce
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 20 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Iranian
Keyword: tomatoes, vegetarian, vegan, aubergines
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 onion (finely diced)
  • 1 carrot (grated)
  • 1 celery stick (finely sliced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 pack Merchant Gourmet Beluga Lentils (250 grams cooked weight)
  • 250 ml water
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 150 g cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes or passata
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron bloomed in 2 tbsp of water (optional)
  • A few sprigs of fresh coriander (for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Instructions

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6.
  • Slice the aubergines lengthways. Then take a knife and criss-cross the flesh. Brush the aubergines with olive oil and some of the crushed garlic and season well. Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 30 mins or until the aubergine flesh is soft and cooked through.
  • In the interim, take a frying pan, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and place on medium / high heat.
  • Add the onions and fry until they start to turn golden. Then add the carrot, celery and garlic (reserve a little garlic for the tomato sauce) and cook until the vegetables have softened.
  • Add the turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Follow with the tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture for a few minutes.
  • Add the lentils, cherry tomatoes, water and maple syrup. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the cherry tomatoes have softened.
  • Remove the aubergines from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh, gently taking care not to tear the aubergine cases. Add the flesh to the lentil mixture, stir and season to taste. Let the flavours of the mixture combine by gently cooking for a few minutes, stirring now and again.
  • Take a shallow casserole pan with a lid, place it on a medium / low heat and add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the remaining garlic. Let it infuse with the oil, being careful not to let it burn. Add the chopped tomatoes / passata, the bloomed saffron and season. Let it simmer gently for 10 mins.
  • Take one aubergine half and gently place it on the tomato sauce. Fill it with half the lentil mixture and then place the other half of the aubergine on top. Repeat with the other 2 halves of aubergine. Don't worry if some of the lentil mixture falls into the sauce - it will add to the overall flavour. Leave to simmer with the lid on the pan for approximately 20 mins.
  • Serve the aubergine garnished with fresh coriander accompanied by rice or bread and a salad with a citrus dressing. If you feel confident serve the aubergine with the split facing upwards like I have in my picture so it looks like they have been stuffed.

A Baluchi-Style Breakfast

Chickpea Curry served with Parathas & Fried Eggs

My journey to discover more about the cuisine of Iran has led me to the Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the South-East of Iran. It is the second largest province of the 31 provinces of Iran, after Kerman Province. 

I knew next to nothing about this part of Iran and on investigation realised that my family and many Iranian friends also knew little about this area. During my research, I learned that the province borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and has a population of 2.5 million of which the majority are Baloch. Furthermore, they mainly inhabit mountainous terrains which has allowed them to maintain a distinct cultural identity and resist domination by neighbouring rulers. Approximately 20-25% of the worldwide Baloch population live in Iran. The majority of the Baloch population reside in Pakistan, and a significant number (estimated at 600,000) reside in southern Afghanistan. Baluchestan of Iran has been regarded as the most underdeveloped, desolate, and poorest region of the country. The government of Iran has been trying to reverse this situation by implementing new plans such as the creation of the Chabahar Free Trade Zone.

This area was bought to my attention by the popular food blogger Mark Wiens who filmed a whole series on the food of Iran while accompanied by the Iranian food blogger, Mr Taster (Hamid Sepidnam). The series is currently available on Amazon Prime and YouTube and I recommend having a dip into this charming series if you can. One of the episodes focusses on the food eaten in Chabahar, a county in the Sistan and Baluchestan Province. I had heard that in the Southern Provinces of Iran food tended to be spicier, but little more information had been provided to me other than that. In this case our handy search engines did not reveal a great deal about the secrets of the cuisine from these parts. So, I was delighted to get a little insight into this region and see foods similar to those eaten in Pakistan and India being offered by the street food vendors and restaurants, from chickpea curry served with fried eggs and parathas for breakfast, to kebabs rubbed with spices referred to as ‘Baluchi Masala’ being eaten for dinner. Restaurants in the area also served karahi curries and biryanis, whilst also offering an array of traditional Persian dishes.

The recipe below seeks to re-create the breakfast dish of chickpea curry with parathas and fried eggs which featured on Mark Wiens’s programme – see it as an aromatic version of baked beans and fried eggs on toast! If you don’t want to make the paratha, by all means pop into your local Asian supermarket and purchase some or any other flatbread such as chapatis or roti. I am not a seasoned paratha maker but if you follow the recipe and steps below the resulting breads are soft, flaky and perfect for dipping into the yolk of your fried egg and scooping up the chickpea curry. As with all aromatic food, the longer you cook/leave it the more intense the flavours, so I often prepare the chickpea curry the night before and let it simmer for over an hour to intensify the flavours. I also make the parathas the night before and just heat them up in a dry frying pan or skillet the next morning so all I am cooking is the eggs on the day we want to eat this meal. If you are going to cook all the dishes in one go then see the notes at the end of the recipe below to assist you with planning.

The recipe below feeds 6 as my husband can eat anything up to 3 eggs in one sitting and then the rest of the family get through the remaining or eat it as leftovers on subsequent days. But do feel free to revise the amounts down or up for the numbers required.

My family and I often eat this breakfast/brunch dish washed down with a homemade mango smoothie.


 A Baluchi-Style Breakfast

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, egg recipes
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For parathas

  • 3 cups plain flour (UK standard measuring cup plus extra to sprinkle on parathas)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 large free-range egg
  • Water (as required to form a sticky dough)
  • Oil or ghee to brush and cook the parathas 

For the chickpea curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (finely sliced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • Thumb-size of fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 400 g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 x 400 g tins of chickpeas (drained)
  • 200 mls water
  • Fresh lime juice (half a lime)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Chopped fresh coriander (to garnish)

For the eggs

  • 6 large free-range eggs
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

For the parathas

  • Add the flour, oil, salt, baking powder and egg to a large mixing bowl and mix until the egg is incorporated.
  • Initially add about 1 cup of water and mix with the flour mixture and then add more water in small increments to form a dough (I usually require 1.5 to 2 cups of water in total to make a dough).
  • Knead the dough for about 5 mins and then leave to rest for 30 mins.
  • After the dough has rested, the texture should be soft and the dough lighter in weight. Take the dough and split into 6 equal amounts and roll into a ball.
  • Sprinkle some flour onto your work surface. Take one ball of dough and roll to approximately 10cm in diameter with a rolling pin. Brush with a little oil / ghee, sprinkle with a little flour and then fold the dough like a fan. Take one end and roll it along the edge of the dough until it forms back into a ball (like a Catherine wheel). Leave to rest in the fridge while you repeat the process with the other balls of dough. This will create the layered, flaky texture for the final cooked parathas.
  • After preparing the ‘Catherine wheel’ dough balls, take a frying pan or skillet and place it on a high heat. Drizzle some oil / ghee into the pan.
  • Take the dough balls out of the fridge. Take the first dough ball and roll it until it is approximately 1/2cm thick. Then cook it in the hot pan for 3 minutes on each side, or until nicely charred. While cooking, brush with a little bit more oil / ghee on each side. Repeat with the remaining dough balls.
  • Once the parathas are cooked, turn off the heat and leave the cooked parathas to one side until you are ready to serve.

For the chickpea curry

  • Take a saucepan and place it on a medium / high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil.
  • Add the onion and cook until it softens and turns golden. Then add the garlic and ginger and stir.
  • Once the aroma of the garlic and ginger starts to permeate, add the ground coriander, turmeric and garam masala and mix until evenly distributed. Allow the mixture to cook with the spices for about 2 mins.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and once bubbling lower the heat to low / medium to allow the mixture to simmer. Simmer for 20 mins.
  • Then add the chickpeas, water, lime juice, salt and pepper and stir. Leave to simmer for 20 mins minimum until you are ready to serve. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander before serving.

For the eggs

  • Add oil to a frying pan / skillet and place on a medium to high heat.
  • Crack the eggs into the pan, cover with a tight lid and cook for 3 mins or until white is set.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve alongside with the chickpea curry and parathas.

Notes on timing

  • If you are going to prepare this dish in one go, then start off with the parathas first. While the dough is resting (paratha’s method - step 3), undertake steps 1 to 4 of the chickpea curry method.
  • While the tomato mixture simmers for 20 mins, undertake steps 4 to 6 of the paratha’s method. Then, before moving on to cook the parathas, add your chickpeas to the simmer tomato mixture (chickpea curry method 5).
  • While your chickpea curry is simmering, move to step 7 of the parathas method and cook the parathas.
  • Fry your eggs in the same pan used to cook the parathas after you have finished cooking the parathas.

Khoresh Kadoo-e-Tond

Spicy courgette & red lentil stew

This is my own take on a stew which is usually made with lamb or chicken. I wanted to have a meat-free dish for my family but one that still had Persian flavours. This stew felt like one that would respond well to being meat-free and my experiment turned out to be a total treat.

Khoresh Kadoo (courgette stew in Farsi) is a dish that tends to be reserved for family meals as opposed to our parties (mehmoonis). The reason, I suspect, is that Khoresh Bademjan (aubergine stew) is very similar but is considered to be the superior dish and worthy of guests – the poor humble courgette!

Well no longer sidelined, this recipe allows this stew to be centre stage as it cannot be compared to the regal aubergine stew. The main differences are, I have added chillies and substituted the meat for red lentils. The resulting dish still has the comforting savoury flavours of the traditional dish but with a glow of plant-based goodness and a burst of spice from the chillies.

In order to really enhance the flavours of this dish, I recommend frying the courgette before adding them to the stew (this can be done the day before to save time). For the health conscious, you can roast the courgette with a drizzle of oil in the oven on 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6 for about 20 minutes. Either way, the courgette can be prepared up to a few days in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to cook the stew.

This dish is best served with kateh (Persian easy cook sticky rice), chelow or, if you want to fully commit to the wholesome side of life, brown rice is also an excellent accompaniment.


Khoresh Kadoo-e-Tond

Spicy courgette and red lentil stew
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Total Time1 hr 40 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan, lentils, courgettes, chillies
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil (sounds punchy but most of it is used to fry the courgettes - see notes above re: oven roasting courgettes as an alternative)
  • 3 courgettes
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 500 ml passata
  • 150 g red lentils
  • 500 ml water
  • 1/8 tsp saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 10 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • Salt and pepper (to season)
  • Chopped fresh mint (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Take a large frying pan and pour 4 tbsps of oil into the pan. Place on a medium to high heat.
  • Halve the courgettes and then slice them about 2cm thick.
  • Sprinkle a little salt and pepper on the slices and fry the courgettes on each side until golden, and soft.
  • Remove the courgettes and put on a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
  • Take a large casserole dish or saucepan with a lid (about 3.5 litres capacity) and place on a medium to high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil, add the onion and fry until golden, stirring now and again.
  • Add the garlic, turmeric and chilli and stir. Add the tomato purée and stir in. Once it glistens add the red lentils and stir until evenly distributed.
  • Add the passata, 250 ml of the water, the bloomed saffron and fresh lemon juice. Stir and season to taste.
  • Once the the stew starts to boil add the remaining 250 ml of water and stir, lower the heat to allow the stew to slowly simmer. Let it simmer for 10 minutes. Add more water if the stew looks too thick.
  • Add your courgettes and gently submerge in the stew.
  • Scatter your halved tomatoes evenly across the stew, place the lid on the pan and simmer for no less than 45 mins. Once cooking time has finished and you are ready to serve, turn off the heat and garnish with chopped fresh mint and coriander.
  • Serve with rice and / or flatbreads.

 

Omelette Irani

Persian tomato omelette

Usually eaten at breakfast or as a brunch option, this dish is less omelette and more scrambled eggs despite its name. It is incredibly simple to cook and can be eaten as a lunch or dinner option. It is probably the most well-known of all the breakfast-style egg dishes with many cafes and restaurants serving it in Iran. I guess you can call it the Iranian version of shahshuka. 

I love tomatoes, from slicing them up and putting them in a sandwich to slow roasting them for hours. They are quite perfect and reveal layer upon layer of flavour the more you cook them. This dish satisfies my fondness for the perfect red berry as it uses a lot of fresh tomatoes and a healthy dollop or two of tomato purée cooked down to a sweet base for the omelette. The tomato to egg ratio is quite high so the resulting texture is creamy and, like so many recipes from this part of the world, comforting.

Serve this dish with some kind of flatbread, a sprinkle of fresh herbs (coriander, basil or parsley or all of them – whatever takes your fancy) and Persian pickled cucumbers for an authentic experience. When we have ours as a dinner option we serve it with side of fries or chunky chips which is equally satisfying.

 


Omelette Irani

Persian tomato omelette
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Breakfast, Main Course, Brunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: tomatoes, vegetarian, egg recipes, omelette gojeh farangi
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed / minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 10 g fresh coriander (leaves and stalks chopped finely)
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 500 g cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 125 ml water
  • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 8 free range eggs
  • Chopped fresh coriander leaves to sprinkle as a garnish

Instructions

  • Take a large frying pan, add the olive oil and place it on a medium / high heat.
  • Add the onions and cook until they turn golden.
  • Add the garlic, all the spices and herbs and stir until their aromas are released.
  • Then add the tomato purée and stir into the mixture and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add the halved cherry tomatoes and 125 ml of water and stir. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low / medium to allow the mixture to simmer, stirring occasionally. Once the cherry tomatoes have broken down and the mixture is looking like a sauce, add the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Take 4 of the eggs and crack them into a bowl and beat them. Then pour into the tomato mixture in the pan and stir in gently to distribute evenly. You want the beaten eggs to be mixed into the tomatoes but not completely scrambled or cooked through.
  • Make 4 holes evenly distributed in the tomato mixture. Crack the remaining eggs into the holes.
  • Cover the pan and cook on a medium / low heat for about 5 to 7 minutes depending on how runny or cooked you prefer the eggs. Once the eggs are cooked to your liking, turn the heat off.
  • Season the eggs with a pinch of salt and pepper and sprinkle some chopped fresh coriander leaves on the dish prior to  serving with flatbreads, Persian pickled cucumbers and / or fresh herbs.

Panir Bereshteh

Scrambled Eggs with feta & dill

Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day. I wake up seeking a savoury dish most mornings. I have never been a cereal, fruits or yoghurt breakfast fiend and I am one of the rare people that feels hungry within half an hour of eating porridge. When we are on holiday you can often find me at the cooked section of the buffet or asking for a Full English – just as long as there are eggs available, I am a happy human.

There are a number of Iranian breakfast-style egg dishes to dip in and out of. I have previously posted the recipe for Nargessi (Persian spinach and eggs) and I will be posting more in due course. The Persian variations to familiar breakfast recipes have provided a great deal of variety to my breakfast choices and I hope recipes like this one will do the same for you.

Panir Bereshteh is a delicately flavoured old recipe from Gilan Province, in northern Iran, which 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). The name of the dish translated means ‘crispy cheese’ (Panir – cheese, and Bereshteh – crispy), but the actual dish is not crispy as the cheese melts to a creamy sauce while cooking, before the eggs are added.

This recipe is a great addition to your breakfast or brunch catalogue of recipes with the dill and feta resulting in fresh and light flavours. We often eat this as a Persian version of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon as the flavours complement each other perfectly or with tomatoes and cucumbers, as pictured, if you are a veggie.


Panir Bereshteh

Scrambled Eggs with feta & dill
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: egg recipes, easy recipe
Servings: 2
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp butter or ghee
  • 1 garlic clove (crushed) (optional)
  • 80 g feta cheese
  • 2 spring onions (finely sliced)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 4 large free-range eggs (beaten)
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill (chopped and a further pinch to garnish)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Add olive oil and butter to a frying pan and heat on a medium heat until the butter has melted. Add crushed garlic and stir until aroma released.
  • Add feta cheese and let it cook down until it has melted into a creamy mixture.
  • Reduce heat to low and add spring onion and stir gently.
  • Add turmeric and stir gently pushing the creamy mixture evenly across the pan, ready for the egg mixture.
  • Add dill to beaten eggs and then pour into the frying pan, tilting the pan slightly from side to side so the mixture spreads equally. Increase the heat to medium.
  • As the eggs start to firm, take a spatula and stir gently to the preferred consistency. Turn heat off and serve on its own or with smoked salmon, flat bread or toast.

Chelow and Tahdig

Persian Rice – The expert way

Chelow is the name given to the white fluffy grains of rice either served with our kababs or khoresh (stews). We also have Kateh, which refers to our version of easy cook sticky rice, and polo, which refers to our rice cooked with vegetables,  herbs and/or meat (similar to the Asian biryani).

Polo follows the same cooking procedure as chelow but has the added stage of preparing and cooking the ingredients to be mixed in to the rice. Kateh is simple as you boil and steam the rice without draining the water by letting it evaporate in the saucepan. Kateh tends to be reserved for family meals and due to the sticky texture you wouldn’t generally see it served at a dinner party or restaurant.

Chelow has a 6 step process to follow, summarised below:

  1. Washing the rice;
  2. Soaking the rice – not all consider this stage is necessary anymore in light of the quality of long grain basmati rice available, however it is of note that some famous brands recommend soaking their rice for 30 minutes pre cooking. Soaking the rice promotes more thorough cooking by allowing moisture to reach the center of the rice grain, it further improves its final texture, makes the grain less brittle and assists the rice to become more digestible;
  3. Par boiling the rice until al dente;
  4. Draining the rice;
  5. Preparing the tahdig layer and then layering the remaining rice on top; and finally
  6. Steaming the rice.

The common feature in the various Persian rice options is that they all yield the crispy rice which forms at the bottom of the cooking pot called ‘Tahdig’. Tahdig literally translated means ‘bottom of the pot’ and is the most cherished part of our meals, kind of like roast potatoes or chips to the British. I don’t think I have ever met someone who dislikes tahdig. In fact, I think I would have serious trust issues with someone who was dubious about tahdig! Although kateh is the easiest way of cooking Persian style rice it does not yield a tahdig as superior as chelow or polo. Therefore you are rewarded for going the extra mile with the slightly more complicated way of cooking rice.

To achieve the perfect fluffy rice and golden tahdig is a commitment. Despite this, even the veteran chelow and tahdig cooker sometimes has an off day with rice coming out a bit mushy and the tahdig burnt. So don’t be hard on yourself if you commit to this journey and it takes a while to master it. I have been doing this for a fair while and I can honestly say I still get a teeny bit of anxiety when I check my rice texture at the end of cooking and then flip the pot to reveal my tahdig! In fact you can see variations in the tahdig pictures on this post and no doubt in future posts – just as long as it isn’t burnt to a cinder, we Iranians love our tahdig golden all the way through to well-done!

Now while chelow has a standard set of preparation and cooking steps, tahdig has a number of different options available. The most common are rice; potato or flatbread options. See the collage above for examples.

As with the evolution of many cuisines, experiments have been undertaken to explore new ways of reinventing a classic. In the case of tahdig people have experimented with ingredients to see if they can create a new type of tahdig as good as the originals. I’ve seen tahdigs made with lettuce, fish and chicken. Also there are people presenting elaborately designed tahdig with intricate patterns cut into their potatoes or their flatbread, creating a work of art. I am a traditionalist with my tahdig (this is mostly down to the time I have) so my recipe below is to assist you to cook tahdig like the best of the Persian Mamans (mums) or Babas (dads) out there, but if you do get the chance go and check out ‘#tahdig’ on social media platforms and enter the world of beautiful tahdig designs.

As advised in previous posts, you will need to get your hands on white long grain basmati rice if you want to cook authentic Persian style rice. You can buy this from your local supermarket or, as I do, from my local Middle-Eastern or Asian food shops. A little saffron is recommended, a good quality non-stick saucepan with a glass lid and a small-hole colander or sieve. A clean tea towel is also an absolute must as it aids the steaming of the rice by absorbing the water droplets, which would otherwise form on the lid of your saucepan and fall back on to the rice making it mushy.

Try not to balk at the amount of salt used. Rice needs a lot of salt as it can be quite bland and the boiling stage washes a lot away. Taste a grain or two of your rice at step 6 of the recipe below. If it tastes too salty just pour a little cold water over your parboiled rice to wash some away. Also, while I have you engaged with the concept of pushing salt boundaries, let me talk to you about drizzling your rice pre-steaming stage with butter, ghee or vegan equivalent. It sounds punchy and it is, but the resulting chelow is so delicious it would be a shame to omit this stage. Some literally layer their rice with knobs of butter, I melt a few tablespoons and drizzle it over my rice as set out below (see step 12).

As with chips and roast potatoes, the more oil you use for your tahdig at the bottom of your pot the better the tahdig as you are effectively deep frying the base of the rice (potatoes or flatbread) and it avoids burning. However, I don’t always use lots of oil in family meals as it is more about the taste of the dish and the overall healthiness rather than presentation so I reduce the oil content. The tahdig is still delicious but as you can see from the some of the pictures the colour of the tahdig can be patchy. The amount of oil stated in the recipe below is the minimum I would recommend. As you fine tune your chelow and tahdig skills, feel free to increase the oil incrementally (say a tablespoon at a time) to conclude the best oil ratio for you, your family and your trusted saucepan.

There are two ways of presenting your chelow and tahdig. If you have a small quantity of rice (as in the recipe below) you should be able to flip your pot after cooking and the rice and tahdig should come out like a cake as seen in the first set of pictures above.

For larger quantities, once the rice has cooked, I recommend spooning the rice out and serving it on one plate and then serving your tahdig separately on another dish. The latter is usually garnished with saffron coloured rice sprinkled on top (see picture). In my family we use a little rose water when blooming the saffron for the rice garnish as it adds a delicate floral note to the chelow, so if you want to present your rice this way then it is worth getting your hands on some rose water from your local Middle-Eastern food shop.

As a final note, the primary recipe below is to make chelow with rice tahdig. Refer to the ‘Alternative Step’ sections below for guidance on how to make potato or flatbread tahdig. 


Chelow and Tahdig

Persian Rice - the expert way
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: basmati rice, tahdig
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white long grain Basmati rice (standard UK measuring cup capacity 250 ml - approx 400 grams of rice)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • Water (as directed below)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron bloomed in 2 tbsp of water for the tahgdig
  • A further small pinch of ground saffron if serving your rice with a saffron garnish bloomed in 2 tsp of rose water and 2 tbsp of hot water (optional)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil plus extra if you are making potato or flatbread tahdig as per 'Alternative Step' sections below
  • 2 to 3 tbsp ghee / butter / vegan equivalent

Instructions

  • Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Be gentle with the rice, otherwise you will damage and break the grains.
  • Then place the rice with 1 tbsp of salt in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover the rice up to 2 inches above the rice. Leave the rice to soak for a minimum of 30 mins (I leave mine overnight and cook the rice during the afternoon of the day after).
  • Fill a large non-stick saucepan (minimum capacity 2.5 litres) with approximately 1.5 litres of 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.
  • Stay with the saucepan and do not leave it at this stage. It is crucial that you remove the rice and drain it at the right time. 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 your stove.
  • Add 2 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter / ghee / vegan equivalent to the pan and place on a low heat to melt. Then turn the heat off.
  • Add your bloomed saffron to the saucepan and mix with the oil to distribute evenly (this will give a lovely golden colour to your tahdig).
  • To make your 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. Be careful not to break the grains. Then pat the rice down flat with the spoon.
  • To make a cake style rice and tahdig, layer your rice and gently pat down to the shape of the saucepan. Once you have layered the rice, take the end of a tablespoon and gently poke about 5 small holes in the rice to allow steam to escape while cooking. Pour 2 tbsp of cold water evenly over the rice.
  • Drizzle 1 to 2 tbsp of melted ghee / butter / vegan equivalent over the rice. Place your glass lid on the sauce pan and turn the heat to the highest setting. 
  • Once you start to see steam rise from the rice (your glass lid will start to get clear from the steam and droplets of water will start to form on the lid - it is perfectly fine to have a little look under the lid now and again to check the steam situation) lower the heat to the minimum flame or equivalent on your cooker. Cover the lid with a tea towel (making sure it is not a fire risk) and replace the lid on the saucepan.
  • Allow to steam for a minimum of 45 mins to get a crunchy and thick layer of tahdig. When the cooking time is over turn off the heat and remove the lid from the saucepan. Take a serving dish that covers the opening of the saucepan and place it on top. Flip the rice out onto the dish and serve with either a khoresh, kabab, curry or any other dish.
  • If you want to serve the rice with a sprinkle of saffron garnish and the tahdig separately then at step 11, instead of layering your rice and patting it down, layer the rice into a gentle sloping pyramid shape and poke a few holes in the rice. Then follow steps 12 and 13. When cooking has finished, instead of flipping the rice, spoon it out on to your dish and plate up your tahdig separately. For the saffron garnish, take a small pinch of saffron and place in a small bowl then add the rose water and hot water and let it bloom for a few minutes. Mix 4 tbsp of the cooked rice with the bloomed saffron and gently stir so it takes on a golden colour. Then sprinkle as a garnish on top of your rice.

Alternative Step 10 - Potato Tahdig

  • If you are making potato tahdig, you will need 1 medium-sized potato peeled and sliced into 1.5 cm thick discs. Place the sliced potatoes into a bowl of water to wash off excess starch - this will help during the crisping process while the rice steams. It will also stop the potatoes turning brown as you get the rice ready to steam.
  • Follow steps 1 to 9 above. At step 10, add an extra tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bottom of your pot then layer your potatoes at the bottom of the pan on top of the saffron oil (try not to overlap them so they all cook through evenly and crisp up) and then layer your rice on top and pat down to fill any gaps between the potatoes. Then follow subsequent steps of the recipe.

Alternative Step 10 - Flatbread Tahdig

  • If you are making flatbread tahdig, you will need 1 medium Middle-Eastern style flatbread like lavash or 1 medium white tortilla. 
  • Follow steps 1 to 9 above. At step 10, you can use the flatbread to cover the bottom of the pan  or you can cut shapes into it and layer the bottom surface of the saucepan only. Either way, before layering your flatbread, take a pastry brush and coat your flatbread generously with vegetable oil and then lay it on the saffron oil. Then layer your rice on top and follow the subsequent steps of the recipe. If you are using the whole flatbread to cover the bottom of the saucepan, without cutting shapes, be a little cautious with the timing on lowering the heat to steam the rice at step 13 as the flatbread can burn quite quickly. As soon as you see steam creeping round the edges of the bread, then turn down the heat and place the lid wrapped with a tea towel on the saucepan. Follow the subsequent steps of the recipe.

Eshkeneh

Persian Onion & Egg Drop Soup

Eshkeneh originates from the Khorasan region of Iran – the east side. My mother and her family are from Mashhad, which is sometimes referred to as the ‘capital of Khorasan’, so this soup was a regular feature in her childhood. There are many variations of the recipe for Eshkeneh. If you have tried it before, you may be more familiar with the version that results in a golden soup with flecks of green from the fenugreek leaves. One of the many variations is Eshkeneh made with the addition of tomatoes and this is the recipe I have shared below. 

This soup reminds me of my Aunty on my mother’s side. She was a lovely, glamorous yet incredibly earthy and sassy woman. Before all these young women knew how to pose in photos to emphasise and de-emphasise certain parts of their body on social media, my Aunty was trailblazing in the 80’s with the hands on the hip pose for all Kodak moments.

She and her family lived with us on and off in my childhood and she was often the first face I would see in the morning, smiling and incredibly loving. She used to sing songs to me to emphasise how much she cared about me, changing the words in Persian pop songs to feature my name. A powerhouse of a personality whose loss we felt deeply and still do.

We have a legacy and a future of strong women in my family with many generations of women pursuing careers whilst navigating the challenges of motherhood. And my aunt was one of these women. It was my aunt and my mother who taught me that women can be anything and everything and that there are no external limitations just our own minds. Our family is matriarchal to it’s core and to no surprise I see this strength and determination in my own daughter.

I remember the first time she introduced me to this soup.  She had to convince the 8 year old me to give it a go. I was won over by the first spoonful. The combination of the tomatoes, fenugreek, onion, potatoes and egg were dreamy. It is a real winter warmer and an easy soup to knock up for a quick lunch or light dinner. As with all Persian food, leaving it a day allows for the flavours to intensify so don’t poach the eggs in the soup until you are ready to tuck into a bowl of it. Traditionally the eggs are cooked until the egg yolks are hard, but I like my eggs gooey so I cook them for about 2 minutes in the simmering soup.


Eshkeneh

Persian onion and egg-drop soup
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: tomatoes, vegetarian, eggs, fenugreek
Servings: 2
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the Soup

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil / butter / ghee
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (crush a little if the leaves are large)
  • 1 large potato (finely diced - 1 cm cubes)
  • 1 medium tomato (chopped)
  • 600 mls water
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large free range eggs

For the Chive Oil Garnish

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • A handful of fresh chives
  • A squeeze of lemon juice

Instructions

  • Take a medium size saucepan and place on a medium / high heat. Add the oil and then add the onion. Stir and cook the onion until translucent and starting to turn golden in colour. 
  • Add the garlic and stir.
  • Add the turmeric and stir into the mixture.
  • Add the tomato puree and stir until evenly distributed. Then add the dried fenugreek leaves and stir into the mixture.
  • Add the diced potato and stir gently for a few minutes, making sure the potatoes do not stick to the pan.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Then add the water. Once the soup starts to bubble lower the heat to low and let it simmer for 20 minutes minimum. Check in now and again to stir occasionally.
  • Season according to taste.
  • Place the olive oil, finely chopped fresh chives and lemon juice in a bowl and mix and put to one side to garnish the soup when ready to serve.
  • Prior to serving, and when the soup is simmering, crack the eggs into the soup as far away as possible from each other so they don't merge. Poach 2 mins for soft; 4 mins for medium; and above 5 mins for hard. Turn off the heat and serve in bowls with the lemon and chive oil drizzled on top and flatbread to dip.

Salad Shirazi

Cucumber, tomato & onion salad

It may be very telling that we Iranians really only have one salad recipe and that it claims to be the national salad of Iran!  

As the name gives away, the salad originates from Shiraz in Southern Iran. The core ingredients list is simple – cucumber, tomatoes, onion, dried mint, salt, pepper, oil and fresh lime juice. The resulting salad is juicy and citrusy and it complements the catalogue of Persian dishes. The core salad ingredients are finely diced into small chunks, however on occasion I deviate from tradition and make mine a little chunkier for aesthetic reasons!

If you can get your hands on them, I recommend using organic for the salad ingredients as it really does make a difference to the intensity of the flavour of the salad. As a further tip, after halving and before dicing the tomatoes, scrape or squeeze some of the the seeds out. There is a fine line between a juicy Salad Shirazi and a water-logged one, but don’t be too obsessive about seed removal. The salad is meant to be juicy and to have some delicious dressing to spoon over the other elements on your plate.

This dish features regularly at Persian BBQ’s as it has a summery feel to it and works well with the lamb and chicken kababs, but that’s not to say it isn’t greeted with joy and gusto when served during the winter, accompanying a stew and rice dish. This salad can be eaten with any cuisine so don’t feel you can only knock this up for Persian dishes. 

 


Salad Shirazi

Persian cucumber, tomato and onion salad - the National Salad of Iran
Prep Time15 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salad, Appetiser
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cucumber
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 3 tbsp olive oil or toasted argan oil
  • 2 limes (zest of one lime, juice squeezed from both for the dressing)
  • 2 tsp dried mint (fresh mint can also be used as an alternative or in addition to the dried mint)
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Finely dice the onion, tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks. The idea is to have an even amount of each in the dish so revise amounts up or down, if necessary. One onion is the perfect amount for the 4-6 servings so start with the onion, then the tomatoes as it is easier to increase or decrease the amount of cucumber.
  • Make a dressing out of the oil, lime juice and zest, salt, pepper and mint and drizzle over the salad.
  • Toss the salad and taste - adjust the seasoning if required and then serve.

Kateh

Persian Rice – The easy way

Kateh was a regular feature in my early childhood. My mum would cook it for any ailment I had and serve it with yoghurt (maast). Not sure how it was meant to help. However, given its low maintenance method of cooking and the comforting nature, I can see why my mother would whip it up for me.

Before I launch into the finer details of cooking Kateh, the type of rice you require for Persian dishes is very important. It must be long grain basmati white rice, which you can buy from most local supermarkets and Middle-Eastern or Asian food shops ranging from 500 gram to 10 kilogram bags.

Kateh is a great introduction to mastering the art of cooking rice like Iranians. Once you have this skill under your belt, learning the more complicated technique (Chelow) will be less daunting. The difference between the two ways of cooking rice is essentially that, for Kateh, you boil and steam it in your saucepan by letting the water evaporate, whereas Chelow requires you to parboil the rice, drain the water and then steam. Also, timing of the draining of the rice prior to steaming is key for Chelow.   

The more forgiving timing and low maintenance method for Kateh results in a stickier rice compared to the delicate separated fluffy grains Chelow produces. The bonus of the simple way of cooking Persian rice is that you can still get the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot – ‘Tahdig’ which is cherished by Iranians. If you have clicked onto this site searching for tahdig then you already know about this delightful creation unique to Iranians. If you are new to the concept then let me explain.

Tahdig translated into English means ‘bottom of the pot.’ Iranians cook their rice for longer than most cultures in order to create a crispy layer of rice, which is everyone’s favourite part of the meal. A bit like the potatoes in your Sunday Roast. It’s always the first dish to disappear at our dinner parties with the crispy texture perfectly complementing the softer textures of many of our dishes (the rice, stews and kababs). There is a disclaimer to Kateh tahdig and that is it is not as superior as the tahdig created by the Chelow method. It comes out paler but it is still crunchy. If you are in this for the long game, then eventually you will be cooking rice and creating tahdig like a Persian Maman (or Baba) with golden tahdig made with potatoes, bread or anything else you fancy experimenting with. For now, my advice is to get Kateh under your belt. 

The best way to master cooking rice the Persian way is to have a trusted cup measurement and understand the portions it yields. I use the measuring cup pictured below (standard UK measuring cup – 250 ml), which holds approximately 200 grams of rice.

Each cup holds a generous 2 portions of rice. I use 2 cups (400 grams of rice) which feeds 4 of us comfortably with leftovers on occasion. I cook this in a standard UK saucepan with a glass lid 20 cm diameter, with a 2.5 litre capacity. The reason I refer to mastering cup measurements is because of the corresponding water measurement. For every cup of rice, you add 1 cup of water plus 1/2 cup for every cup of rice.

To unscramble the brain I set out a table below with the rice to water ratio and the amount of salt and oil you will also require.

ServesCups of RiceCups of WaterOil/ButterSalt
211.51 Tbsp0.5 - 1 tsp
4232 Tbsp1 - 2 tsp
8464 Tbsp2 - 4 tsp

As a further note, in order to master the art of Persian rice you have to learn how your stove works, whether it is a ceramic, induction or gas hob. 

The lowest setting on ceramic, induction and other solid plate type cookers tend to produce a lower temperature than the equivalent on a gas hob, therefore to go to the lowest heat may result in your rice not being cooked within the specified time below. Don’t worry – just leave it on for longer and the next time go up a gauge and a further one if needed until you master the right temp and time for your Kateh.

Kateh isn’t a dish you would traditionally serve at an Iranian party (mehmooni) and is more of a mid week or chilled family weekend rice accompaniment dish. For serving suggestions, I recommend having it with Kabab Tabei, Asian style dishes or just fried eggs, something green (for good measure) and Torshi.


Kateh

Persian rice cooked the easy way
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Side Dish, Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white long grain basmati rice (approximately 400g of rice)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp butter / ghee / vegetable oil

Instructions

  • Gently wash the rice in cold water until the 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).
  • Drain and then put the rice in a saucepan. Add water and salt (for the amount of rice set out above, I use a standard UK 20 cm saucepan with a glass lid, 2.5 litre capacity).
  • Put the saucepan on a high heat until the water starts to boil. Once the water comes up to the boil, turn the heat to medium and add the butter/ghee/oil and stir gently to mix. 
  • Once you start to see holes in the rice as the water is evaporating, take the temperature down to the lowest setting. 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 no less than 30 mins. The longer you leave it, the better the tahdig.
  • Once you have come to the end of the cooking time (30 mins or more with the lid on), turn off the heat and take a plate, which is bigger than your saucepan, and place it over the top of the saucepan. Flip the saucepan, while holding the plate, and your rice should come out as a nice looking rice cake in the shape of your pan with crispy tahdig encasing it.
  • Serve with your choice of stew, curry or kababs.
  • Don't beat yourself up if it doesn't work the first time you do it.  It took me a few attempts before I got it!  Good luck.

Torshi

Persian Pickles

Torshi is derived from the word ‘Torsh’ in Farsi, which means sour. Torshi is used to describe vegetables pickled in vinegar, and they are often eaten as accompaniments to dishes and / or aperitifs. On a Persian sofreh (spread) you will always find some Torshi!

The sour taste of the pickles perfectly complements many of our dishes, particularly those containing lamb, as it brings a balance to the richness of the flavours.

Each Iranian household has their own variation of herbs and spices and below are mine. The beauty of Persian pickles is that we don’t boil the vinegar so in the realm of pickling, it is a low maintenance method. All you need is a suitable size pickling jar, vegetables of your choice, vinegar, spices, herbs and salt.

I make three different types of pickles:

  1. Torshi Soorati, made with red cabbage and red onion. This recipe is something I threw together once and it’s been a staple in our house ever since. ‘Soorati’ means pink in Farsi and the pickle has been given this name as the resulting colour is a vibrant pink. A very versatile pickle suiting many cuisines, including Indian and Asian style dishes. It is ready to eat after 5 days;
  2. Torshi Makhloot, the traditional mix of vegetables seen in most Iranian households.  This Torshi is flavoured with turmeric, dried or fresh herbs, garlic and chillies. Serve with any Persian dishes you fancy trying it with or any other dish. It is ready to eat after 2 months; and
  3. Torshi Seer, pickled garlic cloves. Not for the garlic shy individual but for those of you who are partial to a little (a lot of) garlic, you will love this. Ideally, this Torshi needs a minimum of 1 year to pickle (ideally 2 years but who can wait that long)! I have heard some jars of Torshi Seer have been pickling for up to 20 years as the garlic cloves get sweeter and soften with time, with them eventually being able to be spread on a piece of bread like butter. If you have a little nosey at them while they are pickling, don’t panic if you see some cloves have turned blue. That is common and is down to the age of the garlic clove. It will disperse and pick up the lovely brown colour within a few weeks. Serve with any Persian dishes you fancy trying it with or any other dish.

For Torshi Makhloot, we have a spice by the name of Golpar (Persian Hogweed – I know, it sounds like something out of Harry Potter)!

It has a musty and slightly bitter flavour profile – its smell reminds me of mothballs. I’m really selling this to you aren’t I? If you want to make Torshi Makhloot, then I recommend getting your hands on this spice. You can buy it online or from an Iranian food shop. It really adds a unique aromatic flavour to your pickles.

The amount of vinegar per jar will vary depending on how much you can pack in to the jar. As a guide, I use a 1 litre jar for my pickles and I always have vinegar left over from a 500 ml bottle. So I would start with those measurements until you have the confidence to pickle 2 litre jars or more, like some of my family. 


Torshi Soorati

Red cabbage and red onion pickle
Prep Time20 mins
Pickling Time5 d
Total Time5 d 20 mins
Course: Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: torshi, pickle
Servings: 1 litre jar of pickles
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 small red cabbage
  • 500 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 litre pickling jar (sterilised)

Instructions

  • Finely slice the red onion and red cabbage.
  • Place alternating layers of onion then cabbage (about half an inch for each layer) and a sprinkle of coriander seeds after each layer of cabbage, until you reach the top of the jar. Make sure you pack the vegetables in tightly in the jar by pressing each layer down.
  • Dissolve the sugar in the vinegar and pour in up to the neck of the jar. Push the vegetable mix down to pack and squeeze in more of the veg, if you can. Pour in more vinegar if required.
  • Close the lid tightly and leave the jar in a cool dark place like a pantry for 5 days. Once opened store in the fridge.


Torshi Mahkloot

Mixed vegetable pickle
Prep Time20 mins
Pickling Time60 d
Total Time60 d 20 mins
Course: Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Servings: 1 litre jar of pickles
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • Mix of vegetables (in my mix, pictured above, I have used red and yellow carrots, red Romanov pepper, white cabbage, cauliflower and celery)
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 green chillies (optional - I went for a very hot chilli as my family like it spicy)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp pink peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp golpar seeds (Persian Hogweed - optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 500 ml red wine vinegar
  • 1 litre pickling jar (sterilised)

Instructions

  • Chop the vegetables into small chunks (about 2cm) and put in a mixing bowl.
  • Slice your garlic cloves and chillies and add to vegetable mixture.
  • Add your spices, herbs and salt and mix to distribute everything evenly in the mixture.
  • Fill the jar with the mixture, packing it down as tight as you can.Pour the vinegar up to the neck of the jar. Push the vegetable mix down to pack the jar. Add more of the vegetable mix if you have any left over and if there is space in the jar. Pour in more vinegar if required.
  • Close the lid tightly and leave the jar in a cool dark place like a pantry for 2 months. Once opened store in the fridge.


Torshi Seer

Garlic pickle
Prep Time20 mins
Pickling Time365 d
Total Time365 d 20 mins
Course: Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: garlic pickle
Servings: 1 litre jar of pickles
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • As many whole garlic and extra cloves you can squeeze into the jar
  • A mix of red wine and balsamic vinegar (50:50 ratio)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 litre pickling jar (sterilised)

Instructions

  • Take the whole garlic bulbs and slice the stalk off, exposing the tops of the cloves.
  • Peel back the white skin of the garlic down to the thin pink layer covering the raw garlic cloves.
  • Add the garlic bulbs, whole if you can, to the jar. Break them down if they can't fit through the jar opening. Fill the gaps with the separated cloves.
  • Once you have filled the jar (there will be gaps so don't worry about that), add red wine vinegar until it fills half the jar, then add your balsamic. Push down the garlic cloves and squeeze in more if you can. Fill up with more balsamic vinegar if you have space.
  • Add the salt and close the jar. Tilt the jar up and down gently to mix the vinegars and salt.
  • Leave in cool dark place like a pantry for at least 1 year. Once opened store in the fridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nargessi

Persian Spinach & Eggs

This is a simple breakfast, brunch or light dinner dish that my mum frequently cooked during my childhood. My love for spinach and other greens probably comes from this dish being introduced early as a child. 

There is a lot of advice out there regarding the impact of the early introduction of varied and bitter flavours to babies during the weaning phase, such as kale and spinach, to ensure they grow up to to eat greens and have a diverse palate. I can certainly vouch for that as I gave my daughter pureéd frozen Brussels sprouts during her weaning stage, I did heat them up but, even so, both my husband I nearly gagged when we tried it. She, on the other hand, guzzled it down like it was cake and now, at the ripe old age of one, she didn’t bat an eyelid at the introduction of Nargessi and even used her hands to spoon the spinach and egg into her mouth.

Nargessi gets its name from the narcissus flower. The egg white and yolk representing the petals and the corona of the flower. It is a nutrient dense dish and if you serve it with rice as a lunch or dinner option, perfectly balanced for the whole family. The quality of the eggs you use is so important for many reasons from the treatment of hens to the aesthetics of this dish. As you can see the eggs I have used have a rich orange yolk and are from well-treated and well-fed hens. The combination of organic, free-range and cared for hens is often the key to achieving these rich yolks.

I tend to eat mine as a weekend breakfast or brunch option with buttered sourdough toast or Persian flatbread (Noon-e Barbari) or Turkish Simit (as pictured), a side of roasted cherry tomatoes or a dollop of Greek yoghurt. 

We love a cooked breakfast in our household but the Full English can be overindulgent and take a while to cook. This dish is a lovely veggie alternative and quick to rustle up.

I use a lot of spinach, but feel free to revise the spinach amount down. Also if you want a spicier version, then add some dried red chilli flakes or Aleppo pepper at step 3 below. You can also use frozen spinach, you will just need to sauté it for longer to cook off the water.


Nargessi

Persian Spinach & Eggs
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, egg recipes, spinach, nargesi
Servings: 2 (to 4)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil / ghee / butter
  • 1 onion (finely sliced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic (optional)
  • 150 g baby leaf spinach (washed)
  • 4 large free range eggs
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Place a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add the oil / ghee or butter.
  • Add the onion and sauté until golden.
  • Add the garlic and then the turmeric and stir.
  • Add the spinach, stir and cook until wilted. Season the spinach mixture with the salt and pepper.
  • Make 4 holes in the spinach and crack the eggs into them. Cover with a lid and let the eggs cook for 5 to 8 minutes until the eggs are firm but the yolk is still runny (unless you prefer a hard yolk, then cook for a further 3 to 5 mins).
  • Season the cooked eggs. Turn off the heat and tuck in. Serve with bread, roasted cherry tomatoes and / or Greek yoghurt.