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Dark Chocolate Covered Turkish Delights

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

Ful Medames (Egyptian Fava Bean Stew)

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

What is Ful Medames?

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

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

Ingredients in Ful Medames

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

How to Serve Ful Medames

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

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

Leftovers

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


Ful Medames

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

Ingredients

For the Ful Medames

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

Ful Medames Topping

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

Instructions

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

Other Breakfast Inspiration

 


Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat (Persian Vegetable Samosas)

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

A Little History on this Triangular Snack

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

The Persian Version

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

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

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

How to Serve Sambuseh

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

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


 

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

 

Just scroll across and you can see the video…

 


Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat

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

Ingredients

Sambuseh

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

Coriander & Mint Dip

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

Instructions

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

 

Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

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

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

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

What you will need to make this Dish

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

Make sure you use fresh ingredients for the salad.

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

What to Serve with this Salad

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

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


Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

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

Ingredients

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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

Salad

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

Instructions

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

Kuku Loobia Sabz (Persian Green Bean Frittata)

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

What is Kuku?

Kuku is an Iranian frittata-style dish. It is often vegetarian and is made with beaten eggs and various herbs and / or vegetables folded in. The main difference between kuku and its western counterparts is the ratio of egg to vegetables, with kuku favouring the latter. It is served either hot or cold as a starter, side dish or a main course, and is accompanied with bread or rice and either yoghurt or salad.

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

Origins of Kuku Loobia Sabz

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

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

How to Serve Kuku Loobia Sabz

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

Leftovers

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


Kuku Loobia Sabz

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

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

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

What’s in the Topper?

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

Serve this Dish Alongside…


Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

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

Ingredients

Beetroot Hummus

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

Topper

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

Instructions

Beetroot Hummus

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

Topper

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

To Serve

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

Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

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

What is Focaccia?

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

What are Sun-Drenched or Sun-Dried Tomatoes?

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

The Magic of ‘No Knead’

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

How to Serve

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

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

Other Bread Recipes


Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Adasi

Persian Lentil Stew

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

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

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

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


Adasi

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

Ingredients

For the Adasi

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

For the Garnish

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

Instructions

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

Havuç Tarator (Turkish Carrot, Walnut & Yoghurt Dip)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Havuç Tarator

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

Ingredients

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

To garnish

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange, Carrot and Cashew Dressing

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

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

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

Or you can make your own little salad bowl…

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


Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange and Cashew Dressing

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

Ingredients

Cashew and Orange Dressing

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

Roasted Red Cabbage

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

Instructions

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

Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

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

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

 

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

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


Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

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

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

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

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


Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Qorma-e-Lubia

Afghan Kidney Bean Stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Qorma-e-Lubia

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

Maast O’Khiar

Persian yoghurt & cucumber dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Maast O'Khiar

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simit (Turkish Sesame Encrusted Bread)

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

What Is Simit?

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

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

Kahvalti

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

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

How to serve Simit

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

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

Storing Simit

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


Simit

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

Ingredients

Simit Dough

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

Simit Topping

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

Instructions

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

Kooie Kaka

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

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

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

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

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

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


Kooie Kaka

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

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

Inspiration for this Recipe

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

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

How to Make this Breakfast Delight?

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

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

Other Breakfast Recipes


Sholeh Zard Overnight Oats

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Persian-Style Dal with Persian Mixed Spice & Dried Limes

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

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

Ingredients in this Dish

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

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

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

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

How to Serve This Dish

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

Leftovers

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


Persian-Style Dal with Persian Mixed Spice & Dried Limes

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

Ingredients

For the dal

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

For the temper and garnish

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

Instructions

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

Maast O’Moosir (Yoghurt & Persian Shallot Dip)

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

What is Maast O’ Moosir?

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

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

How to Serve this Dip?

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

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

Storing Maast O’Moosir

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

Other Great Dip Recipes


Maast O'Moosir

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Ash Reshteh (Persian Noodle Soup with Herbs & Beans)

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

What is Ash Reshteh?

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

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

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

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

Chaharshanbeh Soori

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

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

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

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

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

Sizdah Bedar

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

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


See my how to Instagram Reel below:

 

 

 


Ash Reshteh

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

Ingredients

For the ash

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

For the garnish

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

Instructions

For the Ash

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

For the Garnish

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

Notes

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

Zeytoon Parvardeh (Persian Marinated Olives)

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

Origins of Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

What are the Ingredients?

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

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

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

How to Serve Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

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


Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Kashke Bademjan (Persian Aubergine Dip with Kashk)

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

What is Kashke Bedemjan?

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

What is Kashk?

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

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

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

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

Variation to the Recipe Below

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

How to Serve this Dish

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

Other Delicious Dips

Check out these other great dip recipes.


Kashke Bademjan

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Prepare the Aubergines

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

Make the Mint Oil & Crispy Onions

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

Cook the Aubergines

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

Garnish & Serve the Dish

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

Kateh-e Estamboli (Persian Easy Cook Tomato Rice)

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

What is Kateh-e Estamboli?

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

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

How to Serve this Dish

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

How to Store Leftovers

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


Kateh-e Estamboli

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

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

Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

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

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

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

The Art of Making Tea

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

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

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

What Iranians Serve with Tea

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

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

Other Sweet Delights

Check out some other sugary treats!


Cherry and Pistachio Brownies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Borani Laboo (Beetroot, Yoghurt and Feta Dip)

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

What is Borani?

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

Borani Laboo Ingredients

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

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

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

How to Serve Borani Laboo

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

Storing Leftovers

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


Borani Laboo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata )

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

What is Kuku Sabzi?

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

The key difference between a kuku and a frittata is the egg to vegetable ratio, with the kuku favouring the latter.

Kuku Sabzi and Norooz

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

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

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

How this Recipe Differs

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

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

Some Tips for cooking Kuku Sabzi

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

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

How to serve Kuku Sabzi

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


Kuku Sabzi Instagram Reel

 

 

 


Kuku Sabzi

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

Ingredients

  • 100 g fresh parsley (washed and tough stems removed)
  • 100 g fresh coriander (washed and tough stems removed)
  • 100 g fresh dill (washed and tough stems removed)
  • 5 spring onions (green ends only)
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (1 tbsp for greasing your muffin tin, 2 tbsp for the kuku mixture)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 6 large free range eggs
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp self-raising flour (heaped tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp dried barberries (optional)
  • 1 tbsp ground walnuts (to garnish - optional)

Instructions

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

 

Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo (Potato & Beetroot Mini Frittatas)

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

What is Kuku?

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

Types of Kuku

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

What is in Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo?

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

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

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

How to Serve Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

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


Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Garni Yarikh (Stuffed Aubergines in a Tomato Sauce)

A vegan version of a dish cooked by both the Turkish and Iranians. Aubergines stuffed with lentils cooked in a tomato and saffron sauce.

Origins of this Dish

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.’

A Vegan Version

The recipe below is a vegan version, as Iranian food can be quite heavy on the meat. 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.

What to Serve with this Dish

Eat Garni Yarikh with a salad like tabbouleh and hummus on the side. This dish can also be served with rice (kateh or chelow). Also flatbread is a great 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

Prepare and Roast the Aubergines

  • Pre-heat oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6.
  • Slice aubergines lengthways. Then take a knife and criss-cross the flesh. Brush aubergines with olive oil and some of the crushed garlic and season well. Place on baking tray and roast in oven for 30 mins or until flesh is soft and cooked through.

Make the Lentil Stuffing Mixture

  • In the interim, take a frying pan, add 2 tbsp olive oil and place over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and fry until they turn golden. Then add carrot, celery and garlic (reserve a little garlic for the tomato sauce) and cook until vegetables have softened.
  • Add turmeric, smoked paprika and chilli flakes. Follow with tomato purée and stir until evenly distributed in the mixture for a few minutes.
  • Add lentils, cherry tomatoes, water and maple syrup. Reduce the heat to low and let it cook for about 5 to 10 minutes until water has been absorbed and the cherry tomatoes have softened.
  • Remove aubergines from the oven. Scoop out some of the flesh, gently taking care not to tear the aubergine cases. Add 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.

Make the Tomato Sauce

  • Take a shallow casserole pan with a lid, place it on medium-low heat and add 1 tbsp olive oil and remaining garlic. Let it infuse with oil, being careful not to let it burn. Add chopped tomatoes / passata, the bloomed saffron and season. Let it simmer gently for 10 mins.

Assemble the Dish and Simmer

  • 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. 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 Garni Yarikh

  • Serve aubergine garnished with fresh coriander accompanied by rice or bread and 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 and Parathas)

This chickpea curry served with parathas and fried eggs is a great addition to your weekend brunch catalogue of recipes. Make this recipe the night before and just re-heat if you want a lie-in and a lazy morning.

Sistan and Baluchestan

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

The province borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and has a population of 2.5 million, which the majority are Baloch. 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.

A Spicier Cuisine

The food from the Southern Provinces of Iran tends to be spicier. In light of its bordering countries, Sistan and Baluchistan has a cuisine similar to those countries. Street food vendors and restaurants offer a range of dishes from chickpea curry served with fried eggs and parathas for breakfast; to kebabs rubbed with spices referred to as ‘Baluchi Masala’ for dinner. Restaurants in the area also serve karahi (curry-style dishes) 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 eaten in the hustle and bustle of Chabahar. The city is situated on the Makran Coast of the Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan. It is officially designated as a “Free Trade and Industrial Zone.” The name of the city translated means Four Springs as the climate feels like spring all year round.

What are Parathas?

Parathas are a type of flatbread commonly eaten in South Asian cuisine. The ingredients are simply plain flour, water, some oil and / or ghee and salt. Gently knead and rest the dough for 30 mins before cooking in a skillet or frying pan. Then butter before serving.

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.

Tips for Making this Dish

You may have eaten Channa Masala, Channay or Chole before as this curry is known in the Indian subcontinent. As with all aromatic food, the longer you cook/leave it the more intense the flavours. 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 are the eggs on the day we want to eat this meal.

If you are making this dish all in one go, then make the chickpea curry first. While the tomato sauce is simmering (before you add the chickpeas), prepare the paratha dough. Then, after you add the chickpeas to the sauce, just let the curry simmer gently as you roll out and cook the parathas. Fry the eggs as the final stage.

How to Serve this Dish

Serve this dish with fresh herbs such as coriander, mint, Thai basil and tarragon alongside the parathas, curry and fried eggs. My family and I often eat this breakfast/brunch dish washed down with a homemade mango lassie or Persian tea.

Other Breakfast Inspiration

Breakfast is probably my favourite meal of the day so I invest as much time in it as I would an evening meal. Check out my other breakfast recipes to enjoy for weekend family brunches.


 A Baluchi-Style Breakfast

Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch
Cuisine: Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, egg recipes
Servings: 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

For the chickpea curry

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 onion (finely sliced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • Thumb-size piece fresh ginger (grated)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 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 parathas

  • 3 cups plain flour (UK standard measuring cup plus extra to sprinkle on parathas)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • Water (as required to form a sticky dough in the region of 1.5 to 2 cups)
  • Oil or ghee to brush and cook the parathas 

For the eggs

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

Instructions

For the chickpea curry

  • Take a saucepan and place it on medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp oil.
  • Add onion and cook until it softens and turns golden. Then add garlic and ginger and stir.
  • Once aroma of garlic and ginger starts to permeate, add cumin seeds, ground coriander, turmeric and garam masala and stir. Allow mixture to cook with spices for about 2 mins.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and once bubbling lower the heat to low- medium to allow the mixture to simmer. Simmer for 20 to 30 mins.
  • Then add 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 parathas

  • Add flour, oil, salt, to a large mixing bowl and mix until incorporated and only tiny lumps remain. Initially add about 1 cup water and mix into flour mixture. 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 dough for about 5 mins and then leave to rest for 30 mins.
  • After resting time, the texture should be soft and dough lighter. Take the dough and split into 6 equal amounts and roll into a ball.
  • Sprinkle some flour onto 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 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 high heat. Drizzle some oil / ghee into pan.
  • Take dough balls out of 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 cooked parathas to one side until you are ready to serve.

For the eggs

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

Omelette Gojeh Farangi (Persian Tomato Omelette)

Although called an omelette, this beloved Persian breakfast dish is closer to scrambled eggs due to the silky texture from the amount of tomatoes used. Sometimes referred to as Omelette Irani (The Iranian Omelette), it is the most commonly eaten egg-based breakfast in Iran whether in people’s homes or in cafes. 

The Persian Equivalent of Shakshuka

Omelette Gojeh Farangi is made by cooking eggs in a rich tomato sauce. The sauce is flavoured with aromatics and spices – garlic, cumin, turmeric and chilli. The tomato to egg ratio is quite high so the resulting texture is creamy.

It is usually eaten at breakfast or as a brunch option but can also be eaten as a lunch or dinner option. 

How to Serve Omelette Gojeh Farangi

Serve this dish with flatbread; feta; a sprinkle of fresh herbs, such as coriander or parsley; and Persian pickled cucumbers for an authentic Persian breakfast experience. You can also eat it with rice or chips when serving it at lunch or dinner.

Other Breakfast Recipes…


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 over medium-high heat.
  • Add onions and cook until they turn golden.
  • Add garlic, all the spices and herbs and stir until their aromas are released.
  • Then add tomato purée, stir into the mixture and cook for a few more minutes.
  • Add the halved cherry tomatoes, followed by 125 ml of water and stir. Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to low-medium to allow 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 over 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 (Persian Scrambled Eggs with Feta & Dill)

Delicious, silky scrambled eggs cooked with spring onions, turmeric, feta and dill. A light and healthy cooked breakfast option which pairs brilliantly with smoked salmon. 

What is Panir Bereshteh?

Panir Bereshteh is a delicately flavoured old recipe from Gilan Province, in northern Iran, which lies along the Caspian Sea bordering Russia. Feta is cooked with spring onions, garlic and turmeric before eggs are folded in. 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.

Gilan is lush and green with many delicious dishes originating from the province, particularly vegetarian ones, namely Mirza Ghasemi (smoked aubergines and eggs) and Baghali Ghatogh (eggs with broad beans and dill).

Serving Panir Bereshteh

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. Serve with flatbread and a side of smoked salmon. For a veggie option, serve with tomatoes and cucumbers as pictured.

Other Breakfast Inspiration


 

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

  • 1 tbsp 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, 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, 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)

Create rice with perfectly tender, separate and fluffy grains with a crunchy layer of crispy rice called Tahdig. This is the beloved way Iranians make rice. Once you master the skill, you are unlikely to make rice any other way!

What is Chelow?

Chelow is the name given to the white fluffy grains of rice either served with our kebabs or khoresh (stews) in Iranian cuisine. 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 weekday meals.

What is Tahdig?

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. I don’t think I have ever met someone who dislikes 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. 

Tahdig Varieties

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 pictures 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. 

Ingredients and Equipment to Make Chelow & Tahdig

Ingredients
  • White long grain basmati rice – if you want to cook authentic Persian style rice this is the perfect rice to use. You can buy this from your local supermarket or local Middle-Eastern or Asian food shops. I recommend Tilda.
  • Saffron – is needed for the Tahdig layer and potentially for serving it (see ‘How to serve Chelo & Tahdig’ below). Always grind your saffron strands into a fine powder after purchasing. For utilisation in Persian cooking, always bloom in water as directed in recipe.
  • Salt – try not to baulk 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. 
  • Neutral flavoured oil – used to create the Tahdig layer. 
  • Butter / ghee / or vegan equivalent – used for the Tahdig layer but also to drizzle over the rice pre steaming to create fluffy separate grains.
Equipment
  • A good quality non-stick saucepan with a glass lid – essential kit to make the perfect chelow and tahdig, particularly if you want to flip the rice out as a contained cake-style rice encased in tahdig.
  • A small-hole colander or sieve – to drain the rice.
  • A clean tea towel – 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.

Steps to Make Chelow

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

  1. Wash the rice. Removes the starch from the rice in order to assist in producing a tender fluffy grain. It also assists in the rice being more nutritious.
  2. Soak the rice. Not all consider this stage is necessary any more 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 centre 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 boil the rice until al dente. The first stage of the cooking process, which partially cooks the rice.
  4. Drain the rice. The rice does not continue to cook in the cooking liquid but is steamed with the water already absorbed into the rice from step 3 and an additional small amount of water.
  5. Prepare the Tahdig layer and then layer remaining rice on top. The tahdig layer is placed at the bottom of the pot on a little saffron water and oil and / or butter before the rest of the rice is layered on top. A little water and melted butter is poured over the rice to assist with the final cooking stage.
  6. Steam the rice. The rice is steamed with a lid covered in a tea-towel to create our beloved chelow and tahdig.

How to Serve Chelow & Tahdig

The recipe below sets out steps to serve the chelow and tahdig as a cake-style, tahdig encased rice 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.

Simply mix a little cooked rice with saffron bloomed in a little water and rose water until it takes on a golden hue. Then sprinkle the saffron rice on top of the plain white rice and then serve.

 
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.

 


Check out my Reel on How to Cook Chelow and 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 to 6
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 tahdig
  • 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 and Soak the Rice

  • Wash rice in cold water until water runs clear. Be gentle, otherwise you will damage and break the grains.
  • Place rice with 1 tbsp of salt in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover up to 2 inches above the top. Leave to soak for a minimum of 30 mins (I leave mine overnight and cook the rice during the afternoon of the day after).

Parboil the Rice

  • Fill a large non-stick saucepan (minimum capacity 2.5 litres) with approximately 1.5 litres of water and 1 tbsp of salt. Place over high heat and bring water to a boil.
  • Drain the rice and then add to the saucepan. Gently stir 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 it a gentle stir and take a grain and check the texture - either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is the grain 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 in this recipe.
  • Once the parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn your heat off and drain in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice - if it is very salty then rinse it further with a little water.

Prepare the Tahdig Layer

  • 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. (See * below for alternative tahdig layers - potato or flatbread).
  • 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 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 down flat with the back of a spoon.
  • Then layer the remaining rice and gently pat down to the shape of the saucepan. Take the end of a tablespoon and gently poke about 5 small holes in the rice to allow steam to escape while cooking. Then pour over 2 tbsp of cold water.
  • Drizzle 1 to 2 tbsp of melted ghee / butter / vegan equivalent over the rice.

Steam the Rice

  • Place your glass lid on the saucepan 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.

Serve the Chelow & 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.

*Alternative Tahdig - 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.
  • For preparing a potato Tahdig layer - 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 Tahdig - Flatbread Tahdig

  • If you are making flatbread tahdig, you will need 1 medium Middle-Eastern style flatbread like lavash or 1 medium white tortilla. 
  • For preparing a flatbread Tahdig - 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 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)

This traditional soup from Iran is simple to make and packed full of flavour from the aromatics, turmeric and fenugreek. Comforting with gooey eggs to dip into with the bread of your choice, this soup is a winter warmer.

What is Eshkeneh?

Eshkeneh is a soup made with the primary ingredients of onion, potato, fenugreek, turmeric and egg. 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 made with the addition of tomatoes and this is the recipe I have shared below.

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 my childhood.

Ingredients in Eshkeneh

Onions and potato are cooked with fresh and dried aromatics in a broth made with tomatoes and tomato purée. Eggs are added to make an egg-drop soup and a lemon and chive oil is drizzled over before serving.

  • Onions. The soup should feel like onion is one of the major ingredients so use a very large onion or two medium onions. See it as the Persian equivalent of a French onion soup.
  • Garlic. Used as an aromatic to enhance the flavour.
  • Potato. Use either an all-rounder potato like a Maris Piper or a waxier potato like a red potato. You want the potato cubes to keep their shape.
  • Fenugreek. You need the dried leaf variety not the seeds.
  • Tomatoes and Tomato Purée. Flavours, thickens and gives a rich red colour to the soup.
  • Water or Vegetable Stock. The cooking liquid for the soup.
  • Turmeric. Used to flavour the soup.
  • Lemon Juice. Used both to flavour the soup and the chive oil drizzled over before serving.
  • Salt and Pepper. To season the soup.
  • Eggs. Cooked in the soup to your preference (I like mine to have a soft yolk to dip my bread into). Use good quality eggs such as organic free-range.
  • Olive Oil. Used for cooking the soup and for the chive oil drizzle.
  • Chives. Used for the chive oil.
Serve with flatbread such as Nan-e Barbari (traditional Persian flatbread) or Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread
Try another loved Persian Soup: Soupe Jo – Persian Cream of Barley and Chicken 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 olive oil
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 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 or vegetable stock
  • 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 medium-high heat. Add olive oil and then onion. Cook onion until translucent and starting to turn golden. 
  • Add garlic and turmeric and stir into the mixture. Add tomato purée. Then add dried fenugreek leaves and stir into mixture.
  • Add diced potato and stir gently for a few minutes, making sure the potatoes do not stick to the pan.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and then water or stock. Once soup starts to bubble, lower heat to low and let simmer for 20 minutes minimum. Check in now and again to stir occasionally.
  • Season according to taste.
  • Place 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 eggs into 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 heat and serve in bowls with lemon and chive oil drizzled on top and flatbread to dip.

Salad Shirazi (Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Salad)

Often referred to as the National Salad of Iran, this juicy lime-dressed salad is a happy accompaniment to all Persian mains from kebabs to koresh (stews).

The National Salad of Iran

As the name gives away, Salad Shirazi originates from Shiraz, which is located in the South West of Iran. The reason it is called the National Salad of Iran is because it is our only salad recipe! It is similar to the Indian Kachumber and Israeli chopped salads. 

Ingredients in Salad Shirazi

Use fresh and high quality ingredients to get maximum flavour from your Salad Shirazi.

  • Cucumber, tomatoes and red onion: are diced into small chunks, as pictured above. You can chop it into bigger chunks, if you prefer.
  • Dried mint, salt, pepper, fresh limes and good quality salad oil, such as extra virgin olive oil or toasted argan oil: create the dressing. I sometimes add sumac to the dressing, which gives another layer of citrus to the final salad.

Tips for Making Salad Shirazi

Scrape some of the the seeds out of both the cucumber and the tomatoes before dicing the salad ingredients. Although you want a juicy salad, you don’t want a water-logged one. Don’t be too obsessive about seed removal because the salad is meant to be juicy. You want to have some delicious dressing to spoon over the other elements on your plate.

Serving Suggestions

Serve it as a side salad with all Persian mains from khoresh to kebabs. Here are some suggestions.

This salad can be eaten with any cuisine so no need to limit it to a side salad for Persian mains only.

How to Store Salad Shirazi

Keep in an airtight container in the fridge and it will last up to 2 days.


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 extra virgin 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

  • Halve tomatoes and scrape some of the seeds out. Do the same with cucumber. Finely dice onion, tomatoes and cucumber into small chunks.
  • Make a dressing out of olive oil, lime juice and zest, salt, pepper and mint. Drizzle over salad.
  • Toss salad and taste - adjust seasoning if required and then serve.

Torshi Soorati (Red Cabbage & Onion Pickle)

An easy pickle made from red cabbage and red onion. Ready to eat in 5 days, this vibrant pink pickle is a perfect accompaniment to a range of dishes.

What is Torshi?

Torshi is derived from the word ‘Torsh’ in Farsi, which means sour. Torshi is used to describe vegetables pickled in vinegar. 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.

How to Make Torshi Soorati

Thinly slice red cabbage and red onion. Place in a pickling jar (I am a fan of kilner jars) with coriander seeds. Dissolve the sugar and salt in white vinegar and pour into the jar. Leave for a minimum of 5 days to pickle. It is as simple as that!

‘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.

Eat Torshi Soorati With…

This pickle is delicious with so many dishes. Add to fried egg sandwiches, eat with kebab, burgers and wraps such as my sticky pomegranate chicken wraps. A perfect side to noodles too!

The Pickling Liquid

You may be left with some pickling liquid once the pickles are finished. Use it as a basis for a salad dressing. Just add olive oil and adjust with other flavourings such as a bit of lime juice and / or honey.


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
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 litre pickling jar (sterilised)

Instructions

  • Finely slice red onion and red cabbage and mix in a bowl.
  • Place into jar and add a sprinkle of coriander seeds after each layer of the mixture until you reach the top of the jar. Make sure you pack the vegetables tightly in the jar by pressing each layer down.
  • Dissolve sugar and salt in 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 fridge.