Prawns are cooked in a spicy and fragrant sauce to create this curry-style dish heralding from Shiraz in the South of Iran.
What are Dopiyazeh Dishes?
You may be familiar with dopiaza dishes from South Indian cuisine where this curry-style dish made with lots of onions commonly features. This dish actually originates from Khorasan (in present-day covering the East of Iran and the West of Afghanistan). It was apparently introduced to South Asia by the Mughals. It apparently then spread to countries with a South Asian diaspora. Regional variants have evolved in locales such as Hyderabad, India and several regions of Pakistan. The name Dopiyazeh translates into two onions (‘do’ meaning two in Persian; and ‘piyaz’ meaning onion) which makes reference to the amount of onions used in this dish.
Dopiayzeh is now firmly established as a traditional dish from Shiraz. It can be made with cubed or ground lamb/beef, chicken, shrimp, potatoes, and a copious amount of sliced onions. My recipe is made with prawns (‘meygoo’) and takes both the Persian origins and the South Asian development of this dish with a few extra additions of my own. There is a slight heat to my recipe, which you can leave out if you prefer.
How to Serve this Dish
This dish pairs well with my Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat (vegetable samosas) recipe, rice and some delicious pickles and chutneys such as mango chutney and turmeric pickle as pictured above. The rice I have made is Persian-style rice with naan tahdig but I have flavoured it with turmeric, cardamom pods, some cloves and cinnamon to make it a pilau-style rice.
Place a large casserole pan or skillet on medium-high heat and add oil. Add cumin seeds, coriander seeds and mustard seeds and heat until they sizzle. Then add finely sliced brown onion and cook until they start to caramelise.
Add garlic, then ginger and stir into the onion mixture. Follow with turmeric, red chilli flakes, ground coriander and stir until evenly distributed into the mixture.
Add tomato purée and stir into the mixture. Then add sliced red peppers and red onion and stir until softened. Add saffron water, lemon juice and garam masala and stir. Bring to a boil and then turn heat down to allow the sauce to simmer gently for 30 mins.
Add prawns to the sauce and stir. Add chopped fresh coriander and cook for a further 10 mins. Turn the heat off and serve the Meygoo Dopiyazeh with fresh chopped coriander sprinkled on top accompanied with rice and / or naan.
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 sanbusak, sanbusaq, 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.
Persian vegetable samosas served with a coriander & mint dip
Prep Time20 minutesmins
Cook Time45 minutesmins
Total Time1 hourhr30 minutesmins
Course: Snack, Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Cross-cultural
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 20(to 25)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer
1red onion(finely diced)
4clovesgarlic(crushed or minced)
1/2tspdried red chilli flakes
450gcooked potatoes (boiled and peeled)(finely diced)
Juice of half a lime
Small bunch fresh coriander(finely chopped)
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Vegetable oil (to fry the sambuseh)
Coriander & Mint Dip
70gfresh coriander(stalks included)
10gfresh mint leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper(to taste)
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.
This sweet and sour chicken, courgette and plum stew, flavoured with cardamom, turmeric and saffron is a great addition to your catalogue of weekday meals. Ready to eat in an hour for you and your family.
Coming to the end of the Summer
Khoresh (Persian stew) season is awakening from it’s summer slumber after an array of kebabs, kuku and salads in my household.
I love this season with the deeply comforting stews to warm us through the colder months and, of course, any excuse to eat more Persian rice and Tahdig. I appreciate that cooking Persian food can appear daunting to some, but as with any recipe after you have cooked the dish say about 3 times, added your own little bit of magic to it too, the whole process is familiar and fairly swift. With all that said I am always looking for ways to produce delicious Persian food for weekday meals at a shorter time than sometimes prescribed for our dishes, particularly our slow-cooked stews.
AKA the 1 hour Stew
Let me introduce you to Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo (chicken, courgette & sour plum stew). This khoresh is ready to eat about an hour from when you start chopping all the ingredients. The use of chicken breast means it doesn’t need to slow-cook and the meat remains juicy. Courgettes (‘kadoo‘) cook in no time at all and a few little tricks with additional spices / condiments means it is perfectly balanced and feels like the khoresh has fallen into place with its flavours (as if it has been simmering for hours). This dish is a great transition dish from summer to autumn as it uses courgettes which are still in season to October.
What is Aloo?
Aloo is the name we give to the dried sour plums (Aloo Bukhara) you can buy them from Asian (for example Indian and Pakistani) supermarkets. If you don’t use all the packet in one go then put the remaining plums in the freezer and they keep for ages until you want to cook this recipe again or try out my other recipe featuring them Khoresh-e Beh ba Aloo (chicken stew with quince, sour plums and apricots). Remember that the sour plums have pips in them which you can remove while you are eating – the plums will fall apart easily once cooked and you can remove them with your spoon and fork while eating.
How to Serve this Dish?
Serve Khoresh Kadoo ba Aloo with kateh (Persian easy cook rice) for dinner to be ready within an hour.
How to Store Leftovers?
Once cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Gently reheat in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave.
500mlvegetable stock plus 1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in the stock
15 to 20Aloo Bukhara(dried sour plums)
Juice of 1/2 lime
Salt and pepper to season
Take a large non-stick casserole pan / skillet with a lid and place over high heat. Add 3 tablespoons oil. Fry the courgette on all sides until browned and golden. Remove and place on a kitchen towel on a plate.
Add diced onions to pan and cook until golden. Add garlic and stir in, followed by turmeric. Stir until evenly distributed in the pan and you can smell the aromas.
Add chicken and stir until the chicken pieces turn white (from pink). Then add tomato purée and stir until the chicken mixture is coated evenly.
Throw in cardamom pods and bay leaf and then pour in the saffron infused stock. Add the Aloo Bukhara plums. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime and add honey. Stir the mixture.
Gently place the fried courgettes in the stew so they are part submerged. Bring the stew to a boil and then turn the heat down to allow the khoresh to simmer with the lid on (approx 30 mins).
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 areKuku 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.
Course: Main Course, lunch, Appetiser, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Iranian, Middle-Eastern
Keyword: vegetarian, frittata, Green beans
Servings: 4(to 8)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer
1mediumred onion(finely sliced)
4garlic cloves(minced or crushed)
1.5tspAdvieh(persian mixed spice)
1/3cupsaffron water(bloom 1/8 tsp of ground saffron in the water)
Juice of half a lime
20gfresh coriander plus a bit extra for garnishing the kuku before serving(finely chopped)
1/2tspground black pepper
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!
This traditional Persian breakfast dish is made with lentils slow-cooked with fresh aromatics and spices to create a stunning wholesome dish.
What is Adasi?
Adasi is a wholesome vegan dish, commonly eaten for breakfast in Iran. It is made with green lentils, onions and spices and 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. Some add cubed potatoes to make it heartier but the version below excludes, but feel free to add them after step 1 below.
It is often topped with fried onions and a ground spice called Golpar or Persian Hogweed or Angelica.
Ingredients in this Recipe?
You will require the following ingredients for this recipe.
Dried Green Lentils. You can find large bags at a reasonable price form most supermarkets.
Olive Oil. Use extra virgin olive oil to cook the stew with and to drizzle over the final dish.
Onions. Used both in the lentil stew and as a garnish for the final dish. Adds depth to the lentils.
Garlic and Ginger Paste. Fresh aromatics to complement the flavours of this dish. They add both a sweet, zesty and spicy tone to the dish.
Turmeric, Cumin, Cinnamon and Bay. The spices used for this dish. They add a warming, woody, peppery and musky tones to the dish.
Tomatoe Purée. Thickens the stew and adds a mild tomato flavour to the dish.
Vegetable Stock. The cooking liquid. You can also use plain water in the alternative.
Lime. Lifts and complements the flavour profile of the Adasi by adding citrus notes.
Salt & Pepper. Seasoning for the dish.
Ground Golpar. An unsual spice which add a gorgeous depth of muskiness to this dish. Totally optional if you cannot find it. You can usually find it in Middle Eastern food shops or online.
Vegetable Oil. To fry the onions for the garnish.
I cook this recipe 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.
How to Serve Adasi
Serve with flatbread such as Persian Noon-e-Sangak or Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread. Pairs well with 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.
400gdried green lentils(washed and soaked in water for 2 hours)
1largebrown onion(finely diced)
1tbspgarlic and ginger paste
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper(to taste)
For the Garnish
1largebrown onion(finely sliced)
Vegetable oil(to fry the onions)
Ground golpar(Persian hogweed - optional)
Olive oil(to drizzle on top)
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.
Follow the recipe below for fluffy, pillowy yet perfectly chewy flatbread. Great served as part of a Mezze to scoop up dips with or wrapped round a kebabs!
Hands down, this is the best flatbread recipe I have developed. After a a year of testing various quantities (with milk, without milk, with yoghurt, without yoghurt, yeast or no yeast – and the list of variations goes on), I am so happy with this fluffy, pillowy yet perfectly chewy flatbread.
What is Flatbread?
In general, flatbread is bread made with flour; a liquid such as water, milk or yogurt, and salt. Some are leavened (made with yeast) others are unleavened. They range from below one millimetre to a few centimetres thick. Flatbread can be baked in an oven, fried in hot oil, grilled over hot coals, cooked on a hot pan, or metal griddle, and eaten fresh or packaged and frozen for later use.
They are commonly eaten in Middle-Eastern and South Asian cuisine.
What are the Ingredients for this Recipe?
This flatbread recipe is a leavened one so will need proving time for the bread dough rise.
You will need the following ingredients to make these flatbreads.
Strong White Bread Flour. I always use strong bread flour for my bread as I love the texture. The main difference between strong bread flour and other types of flour is its high protein content. This creates more rise and structural support in the dough, allowing the final product to lift and hold shape. It also creates a chewier texture and more browning in the crust.
Stone Ground Wholemeal Bread Flour. The use of wholemeal flour brings about a lovely nuttiness to this flatbread.
Water, Caster Sugar and Fast Action Yeast. These ingredients are mixed together to activate the yeast, then added to the flour to create the rise in the flatbread.
Greek Yoghurt. Provides a lovely tanginess to the bread and helps to create the lovely soft and doughy texture.
Salt. Needed to season the bread otherwise it would be very bland.
Olive Oil. Added to the bread dough to help with the structure and texture of the bread. Also needed to oil the bowl for proving and to brush on the flatbreads before cooking.
Sesame Seeds. Provides a a crunchy texture to the flatbread and a lovely nutty flavour.
Nigella Seeds. Provides a lovely crunch and a slightly onion flavour to the bread. Also known as Kalonji or black Cumin Seeds.
What to Serve with Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread?
See below for a number of my recipes you can dip this flatbread into – dals, dips and curry!
425gstrong white bread flour(plus extra for dusting surface if kneading by hand)
75gstone ground strong wholemeal bread
1tsp caster sugar
7gsachet of dried yeast
1tbspolive oil(plus extra to oil proving bowl and to brush on flatbreads before cooking)
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 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.
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.
Keyword: Tzatziki, Cacik, Talattouri, Jaan-e-ama, mast o khiar
Author: Mersedeh Prewer
500gstrained Greek Yoghurt(I use Total 5%)
1/2largecucumber(grated with skin and seeds)
1tbspextra 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)
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!
Fluffy and warmly spiced pancakes – a delightful breakfast option during the winter and a great way to usepumpkins up post Halloween.
What is Kooie Kaka?
These delicious pancakes are 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!
How to Make Kooie Kaka?
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 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 pancake batter, particularly if you prefer gluten free or are vegan.
How to Serve the Pancakes
Serve 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.
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.
This is a recipe inspired by Persian flavours and one I developed by throwing various things together as a marinade for some cubed rump steak. With echoes of the Levantine shawarma, by using the Persian mixed spice advieh (a mix of nutmeg, rose petals, cardamom, cumin, black pepper, coriander, cinnamon), this kabab will not disappoint. You can use lamb or chicken as an alternative and you can cook it under your grill as opposed to on a BBQ.
The marinade combines yoghurt, garlic, olive oil, onion, lime juice, advieh, saffron, turmeric, sumac and chilli sauce. The meat is marinated for a minimum of 12 hrs to let the flavours fully intensify and be absorbed into the meat. You can get your hands on saffron from most supermarkets and advieh can be bought from most Middle-Eastern food shops – I buy mine online from Freshly Spiced on Etsy.
I serve this kabab as pictured with flatbreads filled with the meat; lettuce; chopped tomatoes with Thai basil; chopped onion and parsley; pickled chillies; bbq/grilled peppers; and a dollop of Greek yoghurt mixed with dried mint, Aleppo pepper, garlic, a squeeze of lime and a little sea salt. On the side we have home-made fried chips and bbq corn-on-the-cob with a butter, chilli and chive drizzle.
1 - 1.2kgcubed lamb or beef (I've used beef rump steak)
Juice of 1 lime
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 50 ml of water)
1tbspchilli sauce( I use habanero)
Salt and Pepper(to taste)
To baste while cooking
Place the beef (or any other cubed meat you fancy) into a large bowl or tupperware box.
Place all the ingredients for the marinade in a blender and blitz until all the onion and garlic is blended. Pour over the meat and rub in until evenly coated. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for a minimum of 12 hrs.
Remove the meat from the fridge about 30 mins before cooking to bring to room temperature.
Divide the meat on to about 4 skewers and cook on your BBQ or under your grill (on the highest setting). Baste with the melted butter, turning the skewers until the meat is a little charred. It takes roughly 15 to 25 minutes on a bbq (depending on how hot your bbq is).
For serving inspiration either serve alongside rice and grilled tomatoes or with flatbreads; lettuce; chopped tomatoes with Thai basil; chopped onion and parsley; pickled chillies; bbq/grilled peppers; Greek yoghurt mixed with dried mint, Aleppo pepper, garlic and a little sea salt; chips; and bbq corn with a butter, chilli and chive drizzle.
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.
75gkale (removed from stalks, washed and roughly chopped)
1tbsptomatoe purée (dissolved in 100ml of water)
6largefree range eggs(cracked and beaten in a bowl)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
Pea and mint dip
2cupspeas(frozen is fine - blanch them in boiling water before blending into the dip)
2tbspolive oil(plus extra to drizzle on top)
10leavesfresh mint(plus extra to chop and garnish the dip with)
Salt and Pepper(to taste)
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 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.
2mediumpotatoes(about 250 g - peeled and medium diced)
2large cloves garlic(crushed or minced)
1mediumred onion(finely diced)
2tbspbiber salçası(Turkish tomato and red pepper paste)
40gfresh coriander(chopped finely including stalks)
250ghalloumi(chopped into 1 cm chunks)
Salt and Pepper(to taste)
2packspre-rolled shortcrust pastry(2 x 320g sheets)
A mix of nigella and sesame seeds to sprinkle on top of the pasties
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.
Drizzle of olive oil and nigella seeds for topping / garnish
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).
This soup is my medicine. When I am feeling under the weather or need a hug in food form, this is what I cook. Many Iranians are more familiar with our turnip soup for illnesses (Ash-e Shalgham) but for me it will always be our version of the classic concept of chicken soup that I turn to when in need. Creamy, hearty and comforting which is the prerequisite for a medicinal chicken soup – am I right?
I was introduced to this soup during a visit to a ‘Khaleh’ (Persian name for aunt on your mother’s side – ‘Ammeh’ for your dad’s side), who lived in Bognor Regis, a town and seaside resort in West Sussex, on the south coast of England. I loved visiting her for two main reasons: the first being that she lived beside the seaside (where the brass bands play ‘Tiddely-om-pom-pom!‘); and the second being this soup, which she would cook for me as she knew I loved it. In Farsi ‘Jo’ (pronounced ‘joh’) means barley – we like to keep our dish names simple.
This soup is super easy to cook. Unlike most our recipes, it does not include turmeric or saffron. The ingredients, as you can see below, can be easily sourced from most local supermarkets. If you are not a fan of coriander, then replace with parsley, which is the herb more commonly used in this recipe.
You can convert this into a vegetarian recipe by using vegetable stock and using mushrooms as an alternative to the chicken. I recommend frying the mushrooms in a little butter and garlic and then adding them to the soup for the last 10 mins of simmering and before serving.
Traditionally this soup is thickened with a bechamel, which I feel is unnecessary and makes the soup too thick and gloopy. With the availability of the handy stick-blender you don’t need to use a bechamel and can thicken the soup by blending a little bit of it. Also cream makes for a luxurious addition to the soup so my variations to the traditional recipe actually results in a velvety and lighter soup. It is such a hearty soup you don’t need to have bread with it but do feel free to have a buttered crusty roll or whatever you fancy to dip into the soup.
Persian cream of barley soup with shredded chicken
Prep Time20 minutesmins
Cook Time1 hourhr
Total Time1 hourhr20 minutesmins
Course: Soup, Main Course, lunch
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: chicken soup
Author: Mersedeh Prewer
1onion or medium leek(finely diced)
3clovesgarlic(crushed or minced)
2celery sticks(finely diced)
1largecarrot (or 2 medium carrots grated)
200gpearl barley(washed and then soaked in cold water for a minimum of 1 hr)
Juice of 1 lemon
Small bunch of fresh coriander(finely chopped)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
Take a large stock pot or saucepan and place on a medium / high heat. Add the olive oil and follow with the onion and cook until it turns golden.
Add garlic, the celery and 1/2 the grated carrot to the pan and stir. Cook for 5 mins, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick to the pan.
Drain the pearl barley and add to the pan with the bay leaves and the stock. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.
Add the chicken breast to the soup and place a lid on the pan. Poach for approximately 15 mins, or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the breast. Remove the chicken breasts from the soup and set aside to cool. Once cooled, shred the chicken and put to one side.
Add the juice of a lemon to the soup and leave to simmer for a further 30 mins or until the pearl barley has cooked with the lid of the pan partially off. Check and stir the soup on occasion.
Take a stick-blender and blend a little of the soup on one side of the pan to thicken. Then add the cream, the shredded chicken breast, the remaining grated carrot, the chopped fresh coriander and season to taste. Simmer the soup for a few minutes to ensure the shredded chicken is warmed through.
Ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little more cream, chopped fresh coriander and olive oil to serve.
Loobia polo is an Iranian dish made with rice, green beans, and beef or lamb. Loobia means beans in Farsi and ‘polo’ indicates it is a rice-dish layered with meat and / or vegetables. Loobia polo can also be made by using chicken, turkey or without meat if you are vegetarian / vegan.
Think of that dish that represents the ultimate comfort food for you, Loobia Polo is the equivalent to that to most (if not all) Iranians. Even the fussiest of kids will love this dish and that stays with them through to adulthood. Everyone squeals with delight when Loobia Polo is served with its warming cinnamon notes, tomato flavour, chunks of meat and green beans. In light of the love for this dish, I felt it was apt to make tahdig (the crunchy bit at the bottom of the pot) with a tortilla wrap cut into the shape of hearts!
The rice I use for Loobia Polo is Kamran Basmati Sella Rice as opposed to Tilda Basmati rice. Kamran rice is very forgiving as it is a thicker kernel and holds its integrity against the bean and tomato mixture, which releases liquid into the rice. For this reason, if you are using the more delicate Tilda grain you have to remove it from the parboiling stage a little earlier than you would with the normal Chelow recipe. Alternatively buy yourself a packet of Kamran rice and be less exact and turn out a perfect Loobia Polo each time you cook it.
The recipe below includes the steps to make flatbread tahdig (using a tortilla wrap) but you can make tahdig with rice or potato should you prefer. Just prepare a layer of saffron rice at the bottom of the pan at step 3 under the heading ‘For the rice’ below for rice tahdig; or layer your potato slices for potato tahdig.
500gfrozen runner beans(defrosted and sliced into 1 inch pieces)
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 200 ml of water)
Salt and Pepper(to taste)
For the rice
500gwhite basmati rice(rinsed until the water runs clear and soaked overnight in water plus 2 tbsp of salt - ensure the water covers the rice by a minimum of 2 inches)
1white tortilla wraps cut into heart shapes using a cookie-cutter or any other shape you prefer
Water(as directed below)
2 tbsp vegetable oil(plus extra if you are making flatbread tahdig as pictured)
1/4tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
2tbspmelted butter or ghee
For the loobia mixture
Place a large frying pan or equivalent on a medium / high heat and add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Seal the beef and them remove from the pan and set aside for now.
Add the remaining 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook until they turn golden. Then add the garlic, turmeric and cinnamon and stir until evenly distributed.
Add the beef back into the pan and the tomato purée and stir in. Add the green beans and bloomed saffron water and stir until everything is evenly distributed. Lower the heat and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture has a stickier texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste and then turn the heat off and leave the mixture for when you are ready to mix with your rice.
For the rice
Fill a large non-stick saucepan with water and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring the water to a boil.
Drain the rice and then add to the saucepan. Gently stir the rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. Every minute give the rice a gentle stir and take a grain of rice and check the texture – either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is the rice to be soft on the outer layer but still firm in the centre. It can take any time from 3 to 7 minutes with the quantity of rice in this recipe. Once the parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn your heat off and drain the rice in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water on the rice to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice – if it is very salty then rinse the rice further with a little water.
Place the empty saucepan on the stove. Add 2 tbsp of oil and your bloomed saffron to the pan and give it a mix. Then arrange your oiled tortilla wrap shapes on the bottom of the pan making sure they do not overlap. Spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan.
Then layer your rice and loobia mixture and mix gently. Build up the layers into a pyramid shape away from the sides of the pot. Make 5 holes in the rice with the bottom of a spoon. Pour 2 tbsp of water and the melted butter / ghee over the rice. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on a high heat until the rice starts steaming. Then lower the heat to the minimum flame, wrap the lid of the pan with a tea towel and place on the pan and steam for another 45 minutes.
Once the rice is cooked, turn the heat off. Gently fluff the rice a bit to combine the loobia mixture and rice and spoon out onto a serving dish. Place the heart-shaped tahdig and and rice tahdig around the rice or on a separate dish. Pairs well with Salad Shirazi, fresh herbs and / or yoghurt or Torshi.
A Persian stew made with chicken thighs slow-cooked with celery in a tomato sauce. Wonderfully simple to prepare but with maximum flavour from the combination of garlic, turmeric and saffron with the tomato sauce.
A Familiar Stew
This stew is the lesser-known of the Persian celery stews. The famous one being Khoresh Karafs made with lamb, mint, parsley and celery. This version can be made with chicken, lamb or beef with the stew being tomato-based.
In my family, we distinguish between the two by referring to the colour: ‘Sabz,’ which translated means green in Farsi, for the herby version; and ‘Ghermez,’ which means red, for the tomato-based version. In fact, this version is probably the most popular among my mother’s side of the family, who primarily come from Mashhad in the Khorasan Province of Iran.
With tomatoes apparently only being introduced to Iran in the late 19th century, this stew is inevitably fairly young in the longstanding history of Iran and the Persian Empire. Some Iranians have never heard of this stew!
How to Serve Khoresh Karafs – Germez?
Serve with this stew with Kateh(Persian rice cooked the easy way). A simple salad with a citrus dressing, or fresh herbs, or pickle / olives also make complementary side dishes.
I cannot recommend this recipe enough with it being so easy to prepare and cook, using only a handful of ingredients but maximising on flavour. It is a comforting yet light stew so I love eating this in the earlier part of Spring as we make the gentle transition away from eating the heartier dishes and move towards salads, BBQ’s and a Mediterranean feel to our dishes.
Place a shallow casserole pan or equivalent on a medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp oil. Seal the chicken thighs on both sides, remove from the pan and leave to one side until ready to use.
Add 2 tbsp oil to the pan and add onions. Cook until the onion turns golden. Then add garlic and chilli and stir in until evenly distributed.
Add leek to the pan and and cook until softened. Add turmeric and stir. Follow with tomato purée and stir in until evenly distributed. Then add water, bay leaf, lemon juice, saffron water and stir.
Add chopped celery. Then evenly arrange the chicken thighs in the pan so that they are just submerged in the liquid of the stew. Place the tomato halves evenly in the stew.
Bring stew to a boil and then lower the heat to allow to simmer with a lid on the pan for about an hour or until the chicken is practically falling off the bone. If the stew is too watery, allow to simmer further without the lid on to thicken the sauce.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving. Serve with saffron Kateh.
A relative of the garlic but milder and a little 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.
Drizzle of olive oil, dried rose petals and dried mint(to garnish - optional)
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.
Commonly served during Norooz, rice is layered and steamed with fresh herbs, saffron and garlic butter to create a delightfully aromatic dish. Grilled salmon, marinated in saffron, lemon, garlic and honey, is served alongside the Sabzi Polo to create the ultimate Persian meal.
A Special Dish
This dish is synonymous with Norooz – Persian New Year. Rice is steamed with saffron, garlic and chopped herbs. It is usually served with fish and Kuku Sabzi (a herb and egg frittata).
In Persian, ‘Sabzi‘ refers to herbs or vegetables; ‘Polo‘ refers to the fact that the rice is cooked with another element mixed in, in this case the fresh herbs. The herbs used in Sabzi Polo vary, but typically include dill, coriander, parsley, Persian chives or the green ends of spring onions and in some cases fenugreek.
Iranians traditionally eat Sabzi Polo with a fried or smoked ‘mahi sefid’ (‘white fish’, the Caspian kutum or Caspian white fish which inhabits the Caspian Sea). It’s usually served with pickled garlic, other traditional pickles, Salad Shirazi and ‘Naranj’ – a tart and slightly bitter orange, which we squeeze over the fish and rice like a lemon adding a citrus note to the dish. You can buy Naranj from your local Middle-Eastern supermarket. Sainsbury’s also stock Naranj (bitter Seville marmalade oranges) during the season. Kuku Sabziis also served alongside the rice on the day, a great alternative should fish not be your thing.
What are the Ingredients?
Below is my family recipe for Sabzi Polo. We tend to use a greater amount of fresh herbs compared to others. The herbs use in this recipe are fresh coriander, parsley and dill. In Iran chives are also used but the chives available in the UK are not as spicy so we replace these with the green ends of spring onions. The herbs and greens are mixed in while the rice is parboiling. After draining the rice, it is steamed with garlic butter drizzled over with a little saffron to add further aromatics to this dish.
The accompanying fish is grilled salmon marinated in a simple saffron, honey, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil infusion and smoked sea salt. You can make the Sabzi Polo with any fish you want, including smoked fish like many in Iran will eat on the day. You can pan fry, BBQ, grill, oven bake, poach or steam your fish if you prefer.
Your Choice of Tahdig
Due to the herbs, the tahdig (crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot) will come out a dark green-brown as you can see in the first picture so do not panic when you flip the crispy stuff out – it’s meant to be that dark!
However, should you prefer you can prepare the dish with a saffron layer of Tahdig as you can see in the pictures above and below. All you need to do is parboil the rice without adding the herbs, drain it and then take 2 cups of rice and add to a little saffron water (1/4 teaspoon ground saffron bloomed in 3 tablespoons water). Mix the rice until fully coated and then line the bottom of the pan, following the addition of the oil/butter, as set out at the step entitled ‘Preapre the Tahdig Layer’ below. Then pat it down and layer the cooked rice with the fresh herbs and the garlic butter layer by layer on top.
You can also have potato or bread tahdig as an alternative. Just replace the rice layer with slices of potato or flatbread.
Serving and Storing Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi
Serve this dish alongside all or one of the following.
Salad Shirazi (Persian chopped tomato, cucmber and red onion salad dressed with lime, olive oil and mint).
Store in an airtight container, once cooled down, and in the firdge. The rice will last up to 5 days. The salmon will last up to 3 days. you can reheat the rice and salmon in a microwave. Or you can reheat the rice in a saucepan. Remember to add a tablepoon or so of water to rehydrate the rice if reheating. The salmon can also be reaheated in a medium oven.
Norooz – Persian New Year and the First Day of Spring (Northern Hemisphere)
Norooz is the day of the vernal equinox and marks the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It marks the first day of the first month of the Iranian calendar (Farvardin). The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year. Families gather together to observe the rituals. Due to this calculation, the day Persian New Year falls upon can vary but generally it is either on the 20th or 21st March. The Persian name translated means ‘New Day.’
The festivities and rituals we observe are focussed on letting go of the winter and all the negativity that may be associated with it. We look forward to new life, prosperity and have great optimism which is brought by spring and then the summer months.
In the lead up to the the New Year celebrations, many Iranians will undertake a ritual familiar to many – the ‘Spring Clean.’ I always do a major spring clean and this year was no exception. By day 3 into my efforts my house was messier than when I started, but by the end of the process I felt physically and mentally lighter from the purge of the clutter and the deep clean of the house.
The evening of the last Tuesday before Norooz is the night we celebrate Chaharshanbeh Soori – a festival of fire where we gather together and jump over bonfires. The tradition of jumping over the bonfire originates from people believing that the fire would take their problems, sickness and winter pallor and be replaced by energy and warmth, contributing towards their success for the upcoming year. As we jump, we chant the following words: ‘Zardiye man az toh (my pallor to you); Sorkhiye toh az man (your redness to me).’ See my post about Chaharshanbeh Soori and the dish we eat on that day here.
On the day of New Year we will go to one family member’s house and gather together for the turn of the New Year. We gather around the Sofreh Haft-Seen, a table or other surface, which is set with the symbols of Perisan New Year and await the exact moment of the March equinox to celebrate the New Year (even if it happens at 3 am in the morning for some Persian families).
Traditionally, the Haft-Seen (seven things beginning with the letter ‘س‘ pronounced ‘seen’) are:
Sabzeh (wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish) – symbolising rebirth and growth.
Samanu (sweet pudding made from wheat germ) – symbolising strength and power.
The Haft-Seen may also include a mirror (self-reflection), candles (enlightenment), eggs (fertility), goldfish (progress), coins (wealth), hyacinth (spring’s arrival), and traditional confectioneries. A “book of wisdom” such as the Quran (religious text of Islam), or the Book of Kings – the Shanameh of Ferdowsi (an epic and long poem on the Persian Empire), or the Divān of Hafez (an anthology of the famous Iranian poet Hafez’s poems) may also be included.
Music will play and we will eat Sabzi Polo ba Mahi and Kuku Sabzi. Many of us continue the celebrations by having a separate organised event for the wider family and friends at a hotel or restaurant where we dress up and dance the night away.
During the Norooz holidays, we make short visits to the homes of family and friends. Typically, young people will visit their elders first. Visitors are offered tea and pastries, cookies, fresh and dried fruits and mixed nuts or other snacks. Gifts are given from the elders to the younger members of the family.
On the 13th day of the Norooz celebrations we celebrate Sizdah Bedar. Iranians spend the day outdoors. Many will go out for a family picnic in a local park. Come rain or shine we will gather outdoors and celebrate this day – throwing our sabzeh into a nearby river or stream marking the end the Persian New Year celebrations.
2tbspmelted butter mixed with 3 crushed or minced cloves of garlic
For the mahi (salmon)
4salmon fillets(or 1 side of salmon circa 600g to 800g)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/8Smallpinch of ground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
2clovesgarlic(minced or crushed)
Smoked Sea Salt and Pepper(to taste - you can use normal salt)
Marinade the Salmon
Mix olive oil, lemon juice, bloomed saffron, honey, smoked sea salt, pepper and garlic and pour it over fish. Massage the marinade into the fish. then pleace fish flesh side down into marinade. Cover and place in fridge for a minimum of 12 hrs. I find the best results are to marinade the salmon for 2 nights.
Wash and Soak the Rice
Wash the rice in cold water until the water runs clear. Then place with 1 tbsp of salt in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover with 2 inches clear above the rice. Soak overnight.
Prepare the Herbs & Greens
Wash all the herbs and spring onions. Remove tough woody stems from the herbs and cut the spring onions to remove the green ends. In batches, pulse the herbs and spring onion ends in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Place in a bowl until ready to use.
Make the Garlic butter
Melt butter mixed with 3 crushed or minced cloves of garlic over medium heat in small pan. Put to one side until ready to use.
Parboil the Rice
Fill a large non-stick saucepan with approximately 1.5 litres of water and 1 tbsp of salt. Bring the water to boil. Drain rice and add to the saucepan. Gently stir the rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. cook rice until al-dente.
Stir in herbs and greens, turn heat off and immediately drain rice in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water on the rice to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice - if it is very salty then rinse the rice further with a little water.
Prepare Tahdig Layer
Place the empty saucepan on stove. Add 2 tbsp of oil. Add 1 tbsp of the bloomed saffron to the saucepan and mix with the oil to distribute evenly. To make rice tahdig spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan and gently stir to mix with the saffron oil to ensure colour is distributed evenly. Pat down flat with spoon.
Layer and Steam the Rice
Reserve 5 tbsp of rice and layer rest into a gentle sloping pyramid shape in the saucepan, drizzling garlic butter on each layer of rice spooned in. Mix reserved rice with remaining saffron water and then spread on top of the rice. Pour any remaining saffron water over the rice. Poke 5 holes, evenly distributed, into the rice to the bottom of the pan with the end of a spoon.
Place glass lid on saucepan over high heat. Once steam rises from rice lower heat to the minimum flame or equivalent. Cover the lid with a tea towel (making sure it is not a fire risk) and place on saucepan. Allow to steam for a minimum of 45 mins to get a crunchy and thick layer of tahdig.
Cook the Salmon
Remove salmon from fridge to come to room temperature prior to cooking.
Heat grill to high. Place the fish in a shallow baking dish, then grill for 5 to 7 mins until cooked through, but still a little pink in the centre, cover and set aside.
Serve the Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi
When the rice is cooked, spoon the saffron coloured rice separately in a bowl and reserve for the garnish. Spoon the rest of the Sabzi Polo on to your chosen dish and plate up your tahdig separately. Garnish with the saffron-coloured rice and serve with the grilled salmon, fresh naranj (or lemons or limes) to squeeze over the fish and rice, Salad Shirazi and torshi.
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.
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 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.
125gchickpeas(soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
125gred kidney beans(soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
125ggreen lentils(soaked overnight in a bowl with the other beans and lentils plus tsp of salt)*
1large bunchfresh coriander(between 100 and 150 g)
1large bunchfresh parsley(between 100 and 150 g)
1large bunchfresh dill(between 100 and 150 g)
1bunch spring onions(green ends only)
3clovesgarlic(crushed or minced)
2litresvegetable stock(you can use water which is traditionally used but I like the extra depth of flavour stock brings to the dish)
150gPersian noodles - reshteh(you can use udon noodles, spaghetti or linguine as an alternative)
3tbspkashk(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
1 to 2largeonions(finely sliced)
1tbspkashk(diluted with some water to make it runny for drizzling on the ash)
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.
*You can use pre cooked tinned beans and lentils. Use 1 x 400 gram tin of each.
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 karyatisolives. 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.
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 hereor 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.
2tbspkashk(plus a little more diluted in a little water for the garnish / topping design)
1tbspground walnuts(for garnish)
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tsp of water - for decorating the dish - optional)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
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.
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.
An easy-cook vegetarian rice with potatoes, tomatoes, onions
Prep Time15 minutesmins
Cook Time1 hourhr15 minutesmins
Total Time1 hourhr30 minutesmins
Course: Side Dish, Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Author: Mersedeh Prewer
200gpotatoes(peeled and diced into small cubes)
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
15geach of fresh chopped parsley and coriander(optional)
Salt and pepper(to season potato and tomato mixture)
2cupswhite long grain basmati rice(approximately 400g of rice)
1tspsalt(for the rice)
1tbspbutter / ghee / vegetable oil
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.
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.
Keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and this dip can last up to 5 days.
1tbsptoasted argan oil or olive oil(plus extra for drizzling)
1tbspnigella seeds(plus extra for sprinkling on top)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
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.
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.
100gfresh coriander(washed and tough stems removed)
100gfresh dill(washed and tough stems removed)
5spring onions(green ends only)
1handfulbaby spinach leaves
3tbspolive oil(1 tbsp for greasing your muffin tin, 2 tbsp for the kuku mixture)
Zest of 1 lime
6large free range eggs
Salt and pepper (to taste)
1tbspself-raising flour(heaped tbsp)
1tbspground walnuts(to garnish - optional)
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.
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.
A seasonal stew made with slow cooked chicken, quince, sour plums and apricots. Deliciously sweet and sour and warming from the saffron and cinnamon aromatics.
What is Khoresh Beh ba Aloo?
Chicken is slow-cooked in a saffron and turmeric-infused sauce with apricots, sour plums and quince to give an amazing sweet and sour flavour.
This khoresh (stew) is not as well-known as other stews from Iran such as Ghormeh Sabzi (lamb stew with herbs and dried limes) or Fesenjoon (chicken stew with pomegranate molasses and walnuts). This is probably due to the hero ingredient of the stew – quince. Quince is in season between October and January in the UK and during these months I suspect most Iranian households (like my family) will try to cook this dish a few times before the season ends.
What is Quince?
Quince is the fruit from a deciduous tree. It has a similar appearance to a pear but the fruit is generally not eaten raw but processed. Many of you may be familiar with quince being used to flavour gin, eaten as a paste with cheese or made into jam.
For those of you new to quince, let me tell you about this lovely fruit. It is a member of the apple and pear family. It has a yellow, lumpy hard flesh with a bitter flavour when raw. Due to the unpalatable flavour when raw, quince is generally consumed after cooking. When cooked, quince becomes soft and dense and develops a sweet, slightly tart flavour with hints of apple, pear, and citrus. Quince can last up to several weeks if stored in a fridge.
Origins of this Dish
The best quince is grown in Esfahan in Iran and unsurprisingly the dish originates from this beautiful city. There are a few variations of this khoresh with some cooking it with lamb; using tomato purée; adding lentils. The recipe I have shared below results in a sweet and sour stunning golden stew, an unusual colour by comparison to the other stews we Iranians cook.
Ingredients in Khoresh Beh ba Aloo
This dish is delightfully easy to cook with minimal preparation. The final dish is comforting and loved by adults and children alike, so it is a great family recipe.
Butter / Ghee and Vegetable Oil: to cook various elements of the stew such as the quince and onions.
Quince: available at most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets when in season.
Chicken Thighs: skinless chicken thighs on the bone are the best cut for stews.
Onion: used as the basis of most stews including meat.
Turmeric, Saffron and Cinnamon: provides a warming and earthy flavour profile to the stew. The turmeric and saffron also provide the golden hue to the dish.
Water: the cooking liquid. Vegetable or chicken stock can also be used.
Corn flour: to thicken the stew.
Honey: to sweeten and balance the tartness of the quince and sour plums.
Dried Apricots: available in local supermarkets. Soak them before adding them to the stew.
Dried Bukhara Sour Plums: deliciously tart and will need to be soaked overnight before adding to the stew. You can buy them online or from most South Asian or Middle Eastern supermarkets.
Salt and Pepper: to season the dish.
How to Serve Khoresh Beh ba Aloo
Serve this khoresh with Chelow(Persian steamed rice) and Salad Shirazi. Alternatively, serve it with a parsley mash and steamed green vegetables or just eat it with crusty bread.
2mediumquince(halved, sliced 1.5 inch thick and with core taken out)
8chicken thighs or a whole large chicken (approx. 2 kg - quartered)(on the bone, skin removed)
1/4tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
1heaped tsp corn flour(dissolved in 1 tsp of cold water)
15smalldried apricots(soaked in hot water overnight)
20dried bukhara sour plums(soaked in hot water overnight)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
Take a frying pan, add butter and place on medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, fry quince until caramelised on each side. Place them on a plate and put to one side.
Season chicken. Add 1 tbsp oil to the same frying pan and seal the chicken. Then place on a plate and put to one side.
Take a large casserole dish with a lid (minimum 3.5 litre capacity). Add 2 tbsp of oil and place on a medium / high heat. Then add diced onions and fry until translucent.
Add turmeric and stir until evenly distributed. Add chicken thighs, then add water and bloomed saffron. Add the corn flour paste. Season sauce to taste. Add cinnamon stick.
Drain apricots and sour plums from the water they have soaked in and add to pan with honey. Stir gently and distribute the fruit evenly across pan.
Arrange quince in the saucepan. Quince cooks very quickly and can be quite mushy so arrange the quince so it partially rests on the thighs. Once the liquid starts to bubble, turn the heat down to low and place the lid on the pan. Let the stew simmer for 40 mins to 1 hr or until chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Prior to serving, taste the stew and season further if required.
Serve with chelow and Salad Shirazi; or mashed potatoes and some steamed green vegetables; or crusty bread.
Steamed rice with a layer of sweetened barberries served with a saffron roasted chicken. This dish is a real Persian classic and one that most Iranians cherish!
It definitely tops my list of Persian comfort foods, reminding me of my childhood and the big family gatherings my mother would host.
What is Zereshk Polo ba Morgh?
Zereshk polo is Persian steamed rice, layered and/or topped with barberries. It is a sweet and sour dish. The barberries are gently sautéed on a low heat with sugar and bloomed saffron water before being added to the rice.
Where rice dishes are referred to as ‘polo’ (pronounced ‘pawlaw’) it usually indicates that the rice has been mixed with some other ingredient. Our plain white rice, served with our kebabs and khoresh (stews) is referred to as ‘chelow.‘ In the case of this dish, barberries are the additional ingredient.
Barberries are edible red berries which grow in the wild in Europe and West Asia. They are rich in vitamin C and tart in flavour. They are called ‘zereshk’ in Persian and are bought and used in their dried form. You can buy zereshk from most Middle-Eastern food shops or online.
‘Morgh’ means ‘chicken’ in Persian and refers to the accompanying protein served with the rice. It is commonly served with poached saffron chicken or chicken stewed in a saffron sauce and either layered through the rice or on the side. Some Persian restaurants serve it with Jujeh Kabab (grilled chunks of chicken, marinated in onion, lemon juice and saffron). Either way, you must be getting a sense that some kind of saffron flavoured chicken complements this sweet and sour rice dish!
My Version of Zereshk Polo ba Morgh
My mother and other members of our family would always poach chicken breast and layer it in the zereshk polo. I appreciate now that, when cooked for too long, this cut of meat can be quite dry. My recipe below uses chicken breast but the cooking method ensures it remains juicy. I generally source chicken from a butcher (online or the old-fashioned method of dropping into a local establishment).
For this recipe I bought chicken breasts with the skin left on and a partial wing (the drumette) in tact. I marinate the chicken overnight, pan fry them and then finish it off in the oven as per the recipe instructions below.
You can also eat this rice with saffron stewed chicken (see picture below). I will post a recipe for this in due course, but for now the recipe below is a homage to the dish I grew up with. The recipe below will also result in the delicious crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot (tahdig). Tahdig adds a lovely crunchy texture to the dish.
How to Serve Zereshk Polo ba Morgh
Because of the layer of barberries and saffron rice, the key to serving this dish is to spoon the rice out on to a platter (as seen in the pics). The tahdig is usually served separately as a side dish.
Serve this dish with:
A mix of fresh herbs (coriander, parsley, mint, chives, tarragon and Thai basil).
4Chicken Breasts(with skin and drumette - see note above about cut)
2tbspolive oil(for the marinade)
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
Salt and Pepper(to season)
25gbutter(to cook the chicken)
2tbspolive oil(to cook the chicken)
For the Rice
2cupswhite long grain Basmati rice(approx. 400g)
2tbspghee or butter
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water for the tahdig - crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot)
1/4tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tsp of rose water and 2 tbsp of water for the saffron rice garnish)
For the Barberries
2tbspcaster sugar(feel free to add more if you want it sweeter)
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed saffron in 2 tbsp of water)
Chicken – take chicken breasts and place in large bowl. Add onion, tomato purée, yoghurt, olive oil, turmeric, saffron and fresh lemon juice. Mix until evenly coated. Cover and leave in fridge to marinate for minimum 8 hrs (preferably overnight).
Rice – gently wash rice in cold water until water runs clear. Then place rice with 1 tbsp salt in a bowl and pour in cold water to cover up to 2 inches above. Leave to soak for minimum 30 mins (preferably overnight).
Barberries – take a small saucepan, place it on low heat and add 1 tbsp butter. Once melted, add barberries, sugar and bloomed saffron water and stir for 30 secs. Turn heat off and set aside for later.
Cooking the Rice
No less than 1 hour before you want to serve this dish, fill a large non-stick saucepan (minimum capacity 2.5 litres) with approximately 1.5 litres water and 1 tbsp salt. Bring water to boil.
Drain rice and then add to saucepan. Gently stir rice to make sure it does not stick to the pan. Every minute give it a gentle stir and take a grain of rice and check the texture – either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is a soft outer layer but still firm in the centre i.e. al dente. It can take any time from 3 to 7 minutes with the quantity of rice in this recipe.
Once parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn 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 further with a little water.
Place empty saucepan on stove. Add 2 tbsp oil to pan. Add bloomed saffron (1/8 tsp bloomed saffron in 2 tbsp water) to saucepan and mix with oil to distribute evenly (this will give a lovely golden colour to your tahdig).
To make tahdig, spoon 1-inch layer of rice into saucepan and gently stir to mix with saffron oil to ensure colour is distributed evenly. Then pat down flat with spoon. Then layer the rest of the rice, reserving 5 tbsp in a separate bowl, into a gentle sloping pyramid shape and poke a few holes in it.
Take bloomed saffron (1/4 tsp of saffron bloomed in 2 tsp rose water and 2 tbsp water) and add to the bowl with the reserved rice. Mix gently to create a golden coloured rice. Then spoon the golden rice into the saucepan to one side of the white rice. Do not mix it. This saffron coloured rice will be your garnish.
Pour 2 tbsp cold water evenly over and drizzle 2 tbsp melted ghee or butter over rice. Place glass lid on saucepan and turn heat to highest setting. Once steam starts to rise, lower heat to lowest setting. Cover the lid with a tea towel (making sure it is not a fire risk) and replace on saucepan.
Allow to steam for a minimum of 45 mins to get a crunchy layer of tahdig – the longer you steam the rice the thicker the tahdig.
Cooking the Chicken
Approximately an hour before you want to serve this dish and just before you launch into cooking your rice, remove chicken from fridge and bring up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 180˚C (fan) / 200˚C (conventional) / Gas mark 6.
Approximately 30 mins before the rice has completed the cooking process, take chicken and generously season both sides with salt and pepper. Discard the rest of the marinade including the onion.
Place a non-stick pan over high heat. Once smoking add a drizzle of olive oil and place chicken breasts skin down in pan. Cook on this side for 5 minutes or until the chicken skin is golden and crisp.
Flip over and add 25 grams of butter split into small knobs. Once melted, baste the chicken with the foaming butter for 1 min. Then flip so they are skin side up again.
Place in oven and cook for 15–20 mins. The flesh should be firm and white (not pink) and the juices should run clear. A temperature probe should read 75˚C when it is safe to eat. Rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Serving the Dish
Once rice has completed its cooking time, turn off heat and remove lid from saucepan. Spoon the saffron-coloured rice out first into a separate bowl and reserve until you are ready to garnish. Spoon the rest of the rice onto a serving dish and plate up your tahdig separately. Then sprinkle the saffron rice over the white rice.
Reheat your barberries for 30 seconds on low heat, remove from and turn off the heat, and then spoon over the rice.
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 theRepublic 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.
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.
1/8tspground saffron bloomed in 2 tbsp of water(optional)
A few sprigs of fresh coriander(for garnish)
Salt and pepper to season
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.
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.
3cupsplain flour(UK standard measuring cup plus extra to sprinkle on parathas)
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
Salt and pepper(to taste)
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.
A famous street-food sandwich from the South of Iran made with beef sausages, peppers and onions cooked in a spicy and rich tomato sauce. This recipe comes with a side of saffron tatties served with harissa mayo!
What is Sosis Bandari?
This dish is basically the Persian equivalent of a sausage sandwich! Beef sausages are cooked with onions and peppers in spicy tomato sauce and it is commonly served in a baguette-style bread.
Sosis Bandari translated is sausage from the port or port-style sausage. ‘Sosis’ is the Persian word for sausage, and ‘Bandar’ means port. Apparently this dish was invented in one of the northern ports of Iran, called Bandar Anzali where the first sausages were introduced from Iran (probably from Turkey). However, it became trendy amongst southern port residents, and the dish is now associated with Southern Iran. Iranians who live in the south of Iran mostly eat spicy foods and this dish packs a punch due to their revisions to the original recipe.
Ingredients in Sosis Bandari
I love this dish as it is so easy to cook and, other than the sausage, all other ingredients are available at your local supermarket.
You will need:
Sucuk / Sujuk: a Turkish fermented sausage consisting of ground beef, garlic and other spices. they are encased in a red skin, which you peel off before cooking. You can buy them from most Middle Eastern supermarkets or online. If you cannot find sujuk, then use any other sausage you fancy including vegetarian or vegan varieties. Sujuk has a fair bit of oil in it and the heat of the pan should release sufficient amounts to cook the sausage and other vegetables. Add a dash of olive oil to your pan if required.
Garlic, turmeric and red chilli flakes: aromatics to flavour the dish.
Red onion, yellow pepper and cherry tomatoes: vegetables used for the dish.
Tomato puree and water: used to make the sauce for the Sosis Bandari.
Salt & Pepper: to season the dish.
Parsley: added as a garnish.
If you are using your local supermarket raw sausages then cook them first (as per the instructions on the packet) before slicing them up and adding to the recipe below.
Ingredients in Saffron Roasties and Harissa Mayo
Traditionally Sosis Bandari includes potatoes in the mixture itself, however my recipe extracts the potatoes and cooks them separately by making them into saffron flavour roasties to be eaten as a side dish and dipped into harissa mayonnaise.
You will need:
Olive Oil: used to roast the potatoes.
New Potatoes: you can use any potatoes suitable for roasting. I use this variety as they are small, no need to peel and they cook quickly.
Saffron: used to flavour and colour the roasties.
Water: used to boil the potatoes.
Salt & Pepper: to season the tatties.
Mayonnaise, Harissa Paste and Lime Juice: combined to make the Harissa may to dip the roasties in. I use Belazu Harissa paste either the rose or the standard version is fine.
How to Serve this Dish
I serve this dish as a sandwich using a rustic roll with a side of saffron roasties. I also love to put pickled cucumbers and some fresh herbs in the Sosis Bandari Sandwich. A cousin of mine recently mooted adding cheese to the sandwich which would also be an excellent addition.
600gnew potatoes(halved – approx 150 grams per person)
Water to boil the potatoes
Salt and pepper(to taste)
For the Sosis Bandari
Approximately 300 grams of Sucuk Turkish sausages(remove outer skin / casing and slice diagonally) – see note above re: alternatives to sucuk
1/2tspdried red chilli flakes
1largered onion(finely sliced)
1yellow pepper or red or green(finely sliced)
1heaped tbsptomato purée
100gcherry tomatoes (halved)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
Fresh chopped parsley(to garnish)
For the Harissa Mayonnaise
A squeeze of a fresh lime
4crusty rolls / mini baguettes
sliced gherkins or Persian pickled cucumbers and / or cheese can also be included in the sandwich
Combine mayo, harissa paste and lime juice in a small bowl. Cover and place in fridge until you are ready to serve the dish.
Take a saucepan and fill with water, add halved new potatoes and saffron. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes for approximately 8 to 10 minutes - you want them cooked through but not too soft as they will fall apart in the roasting stage.
While potatoes are cooking in the saucepan, pre-heat oven to 180°C (fan) / 200°C (conventional) / Gas Mark 6.
Turn the stove off and drain potatoes. Take a baking tray and place potatoes on it. Add oil, salt and pepper and toss potatoes until evenly coated. Place tray in oven and roast the potatoes for 30 minutes or until crispy to your liking.
While potatoes are roasting, take a frying pan (about 30 cm diameter) and place on medium-high heat.
Add sliced sausages to pan, cook until they release oil and start to curl. Then add garlic, turmeric and chilli and stir until evenly distributed. Add sliced onions and pepper and stir until they start to soften.
Add tomato purée and stir. Add halved cherry tomatoes. Then add water and stir and lower heat to let the sosis bandari cook gently for about 5 minutes. Season to taste and scatter some chopped fresh parsley over the top.
Serving the dish
Turn oven and stove off. Remove the potatoes from the oven and place them on a paper towel to soak up any excess oil.
Fill rolls / baguettes with the sosis bandari (sliced gherkins or Persian pickled cucumbers and / or cheese can also be included in the sandwich).
Serve the sosis bandari sandwiches with a side of roasties and some harissa mayo to dip them in.
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.
10gfresh coriander(leaves and stalks chopped finely)
Salt and pepper(to taste)
8free range eggs
Chopped fresh coriander leaves to sprinkle as a garnish
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.
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.
This traditional Persian stew is made with lamb, slow-cooked with celery, mint and parsley resulting in a deliciously light yet comforting stew.
Winter is the season of stews and Khoresh Karafs is a lovely introduction if you are new to Persian cuisine. Persian stews are relatively low maintenance to cook. They just need time to cook and for the flavours to fall into place.
What is Khoresh Karafs?
Khoresh Karafs is a Persian stew made with lamb, celery and fresh herbs (mint and parsley). ‘Karafs’ translated from Persian is ‘celery.’ And ‘Khoresh’ means ‘stew.’
We have two versions of Khoresh Karafs. The first one, the subject of this recipe and the better known version, is cooked with herbs. The second one is cooked with tomatoes and usually chicken. We refer to them by their colour: Khoresh Karafs-e-Sabz (‘sabz’ means green in Farsi); and Khoresh Karafs-e-Ghermez(‘ghermez’ means red in Farsi).
Ingredients In Khoresh Karafs
The ingredients for this khoresh (stew) are simple and easy to source with most items available at your local supermarket.
You will need:
Lamb – the best cut of lamb to use for this recipe is from the leg and from a butcher. Ask for the leg to be trimmed of the outer layers of fat and to be cut into stew size pieces with the bone.
Celery – use fresh celery to ensure you get the delicious peppery and savoury flavour profile from this amazing vegetable.
Parsley & Mint – use fresh herbs. As a guide 2 large bunches or 250 grams of parlsey to 1 large bunch or 150 grams of mint.
Onion, Garlic, Turmeric, Saffron and Fresh Lime Juice – the aromatics and flavour enhancing elements of the stew.
Vegetable Oil – or any other neutral flavoured oil for cooking elements of the stew prior to adding the cooking liquid.
Water or Vegetable Stock – the cooking liquid for the stew.
Salt and Pepper – to season the stew.
Variations Khoresh Karafs
Some add dried limes (Limoo Amani) to their khoresh while cooking but I prefer it without.
You can use beef but make sure it is the cut of beef best for stewing i.e. braising beef such as skirt, chuck or blade.
You can also use chicken instead of red meat.
How to Serve Khoresh Karafs
As with all Persian stews, the flavour continues to mature and intensify if you leave it for a day before you reheat and serve. This is, therefore, a dish you can make on a Sunday evening and tuck into later in the week reducing the time spent in the kitchen and washing up afterwards. Serve it with Persian rice – Chelow and a lime dressed chopped salad like Salad Shirazi.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Khoresh Karafs can also be frozen up to 4 months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating. Gently reheat khoresh in a saucepan or in a microwave.
1largehead of celery(about 7 to 10 stalks cut into 2 to 3 inch chunks)
0.6 to 1kglamb on the bone(preferably leg, portioned into chunks approx. 2 to 3 inches width)
600mlwater or vegetable stock
1/8tspground saffron(bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
Juice of 1 to 2 fresh limes
Salt and pepper(to taste)
Gather and Prepare the Ingredients
Remove woody stems from herbs and discard. Wash herbs and place on a tea towel and dab them dry.
Finely chop herbs either by hand or using a food processor and set to one side until ready to use.
Finely dice your onion. Take the celery and chop into 2 inch chunks.
Prepare the Stew
Take a casserole dish / saucepan which has a lid and a minimum capacity of 3.5 litres and place over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil and brown lamb and remove from pan.
Add diced onions to pan and cook until they turn golden. Add crushed garlic cloves and stir, being careful that the garlic does not turn brown or burn.
Add lamb, then turmeric and stir until distributed evenly.
Add water or vegetable stock and bloomed saffron (the liquid should just cover the meat so adjust if necessary). Place lid on pan and turn down heat to low and let simmer.
Saute the Celery and Herbs
Take a frying pan and add 1 tbsp of oil and place over medium-low heat. Add chopped herbs and stir until the herb mix has softened, being careful not to burn it. A few minutes will suffice. Then add the herb mix to the lamb and stir. Replace the lid.
Sauté celery over medium heat in frying pan used for the herbs with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil for no more than a few minutes. Just enough for the celery to take on some heat from the pan but not soften. Turn the heat off under your frying pan and add celery to the lamb and herb mixture.
Cook and Season the Stew
After 5 minutes of simmering, add the fresh lime juice (start with half the lime and then add more), salt and pepper and adjust according to taste.
Continue simmering the stew for a minimum of an hour, stirring gently every 15 minutes and checking the softness of the meat - ideally you want the meat to be falling off the bone.
Serve the Khoresh Karafs
When ready, turn off the heat and serve with chelow and either torshi or a salad with a citrus dressing.
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.
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
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.
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:
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.
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.
Par boil the rice until al dente. The first stage of the cooking process, which partially cooks the rice.
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.
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.
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
2cupswhite long grain Basmati rice(standard UK measuring cup capacity 250 ml - approx 400 grams of rice)
Water(as directed below)
1/8tspground saffron bloomed in 2 tbsp of water for the tahdig
2tbsp vegetable oil plus extra if you are making potato or flatbread tahdig as per 'Alternative Step' sections below
2 to 3tbspghee / butter / vegan equivalent
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.
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.
1tbspdried fenugreek leaves(crush a little if the leaves are large)
1largepotato(finely diced - 1 cm cubes)
600mlswater or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper(to taste)
A squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice
2largefree range eggs
For the Chive Oil Garnish
A handful of fresh chives
A squeeze of lemon juice
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.
These Persian kofte kebabs can be cooked anytime of the year with no need for a BBQ or skewers. They are easy to make and retain all the juiciness you expect from a kebab.
What is Kabab Tabei?
If you have eaten at a Persian restaurant, then you will be familiar with Kabab Koobideh. The long metal skewers of minced lamb cooked to juicy perfection over a charcoal flame. Kabab Tabei is the easy version, cooked in a pan with no skewers required, and accompanied with a side of roasted tomatoes.
Ingredients in Kabab Tabei
With the exception of saffron, the ingredients should be easy to source from your local supermarket.
Minced Lamb or Beef – use mince with a 20% fat content to make the kebabs. This will ensure they are juicy.
Onion and Garlic – fresh aromatics for the dish adding to the flavour of the kebabs.
Turmeric and Saffron – spices used to flavour the kebabs.
Tomato Purée – my secret ingredient which creates a juicy kebab.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – used to cook the kebabs and to drizzle over the tomatoes before roasting.
Tomatoes – for the accompanying roasted tomatoes. Use small tomatoes on the vine like these.
Sumac, Salt and Pepper – used to season the kebabs.
Saffron can be found in most supermarkets nowadays. Remember to always grind the saffron strands to a fine powder after purchase because it makes the saffron go further. Bloom the amount of ground saffron directed in this recipe in water before adding to the Kabab Tabei mixture.
What to Serve with Kabab Tabei
Serve with Katehor Chelo (Persian rice) and Salad Shirazi as pictured. They can also be eaten with flatbreads, salad, chilli and garlic sauce with a side of chips as part of a fake-away style meal!
Place mince in a mixing bowl. Grate onion and squeeze most of the juice out. This will ensure the kebab does not fall apart when cooking but will tenderise the meat and be juicy once cooked.
Add grated onion, garlic, turmeric, saffron water, tomato purée, salt and pepper to the bowl with mince. Knead mixture well for a few minutes. Cover bowl and leave in fridge for no less than 4 hrs but preferably overnight. Take meat mixture out of fridge about 30 minutes before you want to cook it.
Heat oven to 180°C (fan oven). Place tomatoes on a baking dish and drizzle olive oil over them. Season with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 20 minutes.
Shape meat mixture into patties of your choice. I shape them into an oval shape about the length and width of my hand (they will shrink a little while cooking).
Coat frying pan with oil and place over medium-high heat. After 2 minutes, place kebabs in pan. Sprinkle some sumac on the uncooked side and wait until the meat releases water and the water dries out in the pan before flipping. Sprinkle sumac on the cooked side. Wait until kebabs release further water and it is cooked off. Turn off heat.
Serve kebabs with the roasted tomatoes and rice or bread.
If you like your kababs spicy then try my Kabab Tabei-Tond (‘Tond’ means spicy in Farsi). Follow the recipe and method as set out above but at step 3 replace the tomato purée with 1 tsp of Harissa paste or 1 tsp of biber salcasi (Turkish spicy tomato paste), which you can buy from any local supermarket, and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh coriander.
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.
Serve it as a side salad with all Persian mains from khoresh to kebabs. Here are some suggestions.