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Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat (Persian Vegetable Samosas)

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

A Little History on this Triangular Snack

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

The Persian Version

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

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

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

How to Serve Sambuseh

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

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


 

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

 

Just scroll across and you can see the video…

 


Sambuseh-e Sabzijaat

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

Ingredients

Sambuseh

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

Coriander & Mint Dip

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

Instructions

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

 

Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

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

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

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

What you will need to make this Dish

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

Make sure you use fresh ingredients for the salad.

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

What to Serve with this Salad

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

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


Cherry and Feta Salad with Pistachios

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

Ingredients

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

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

Salad

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

Instructions

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

Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

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

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

What’s in the Topper?

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

Serve this Dish Alongside…


Beetroot Hummus with Feta and Anything-Green Topper

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

Ingredients

Beetroot Hummus

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

Topper

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

Instructions

Beetroot Hummus

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

Topper

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

To Serve

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

Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

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

What is Focaccia?

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

What are Sun-Drenched or Sun-Dried Tomatoes?

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

The Magic of ‘No Knead’

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

How to Serve

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

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

Other Bread Recipes


Saffron & Sun-Drenched Tomato Focaccia

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Havuç Tarator (Turkish Carrot, Walnut & Yoghurt Dip)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Havuç Tarator

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

Ingredients

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

To garnish

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange, Carrot and Cashew Dressing

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

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

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

Or you can make your own little salad bowl…

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


Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange and Cashew Dressing

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

Ingredients

Cashew and Orange Dressing

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

Roasted Red Cabbage

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

Instructions

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

Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

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

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

 

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

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


Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

Maast O’Khiar

Persian yoghurt & cucumber dip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Maast O'Khiar

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simit (Turkish Sesame Encrusted Bread)

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

What Is Simit?

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

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

Kahvalti

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

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

How to serve Simit

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

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

Storing Simit

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


Simit

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

Ingredients

Simit Dough

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

Simit Topping

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

Instructions

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

Maast O’Moosir (Yoghurt & Persian Shallot Dip)

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

What is Maast O’ Moosir?

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

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

How to Serve this Dip?

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

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

Storing Maast O’Moosir

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

Other Great Dip Recipes


Maast O'Moosir

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Zeytoon Parvardeh (Persian Marinated Olives)

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

Origins of Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

What are the Ingredients?

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

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

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

How to Serve Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

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


Zeytoon Parvardeh

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Kashke Bademjan (Persian Aubergine Dip with Kashk)

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

What is Kashke Bedemjan?

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

What is Kashk?

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

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

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

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

Variation to the Recipe Below

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

How to Serve this Dish

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

Other Delicious Dips

Check out these other great dip recipes.


Kashke Bademjan

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Prepare the Aubergines

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

Make the Mint Oil & Crispy Onions

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

Cook the Aubergines

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

Garnish & Serve the Dish

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

Borani Laboo (Beetroot, Yoghurt and Feta Dip)

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

What is Borani?

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

Borani Laboo Ingredients

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

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

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

How to Serve Borani Laboo

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

Storing Leftovers

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


Borani Laboo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Kuku Sabzi (Persian Herb Frittata )

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

What is Kuku Sabzi?

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

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

Kuku Sabzi and Norooz

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

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

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

How this Recipe Differs

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

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

Some Tips for cooking Kuku Sabzi

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

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

How to serve Kuku Sabzi

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


Kuku Sabzi Instagram Reel

 

 

 


Kuku Sabzi

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo (Potato & Beetroot Mini Frittatas)

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

What is Kuku?

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

Types of Kuku

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

What is in Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo?

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

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

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

How to Serve Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

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


Kuku Sibzamini ba Laboo

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Chelow and Tahdig (Persian Rice – The expert way)

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

What is Chelow?

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

Polo follows the same cooking procedure as chelow but has the added stage of preparing and cooking the ingredients to be mixed in to the rice. Kateh is simple as you boil and steam the rice without draining the water by letting it evaporate in the saucepan. Kateh tends to be reserved for family weekday meals.

What is Tahdig?

The common feature in the various Persian rice options is that they all yield the crispy rice, which forms at the bottom of the cooking pot, called ‘Tahdig’. Tahdig literally translated means ‘bottom of the pot’ and is the most cherished part of our meals. I don’t think I have ever met someone who dislikes tahdig!

Although kateh is the easiest way of cooking Persian-style rice it does not yield a tahdig as superior as chelow or polo. Therefore you are rewarded for going the extra mile with the slightly more complicated way of cooking rice.

To achieve the perfect fluffy rice and golden tahdig is a commitment. Despite this, even the veteran chelow and tahdig cooker sometimes has an off day with rice coming out a bit mushy and the tahdig burnt. So don’t be hard on yourself if you commit to this journey and it takes a while to master it. 

Tahdig Varieties

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

As with the evolution of many cuisines, experiments have been undertaken to explore new ways of reinventing a classic. In the case of tahdig people have experimented with ingredients to see if they can create a new type of tahdig as good as the originals. I’ve seen tahdigs made with lettuce, fish and chicken. 

Ingredients and Equipment to Make Chelow & Tahdig

Ingredients
  • White long grain basmati rice – if you want to cook authentic Persian style rice this is the perfect rice to use. You can buy this from your local supermarket or local Middle-Eastern or Asian food shops. I recommend Tilda.
  • Saffron – is needed for the Tahdig layer and potentially for serving it (see ‘How to serve Chelo & Tahdig’ below). Always grind your saffron strands into a fine powder after purchasing. For utilisation in Persian cooking, always bloom in water as directed in recipe.
  • Salt – try not to baulk at the amount of salt used. Rice needs a lot of salt as it can be quite bland and the boiling stage washes a lot away. Taste a grain or two of your rice at step 6 of the recipe below. If it tastes too salty just pour a little cold water over your parboiled rice to wash some away. 
  • Neutral flavoured oil – used to create the Tahdig layer. 
  • Butter / ghee / or vegan equivalent – used for the Tahdig layer but also to drizzle over the rice pre steaming to create fluffy separate grains.
Equipment
  • A good quality non-stick saucepan with a glass lid – essential kit to make the perfect chelow and tahdig, particularly if you want to flip the rice out as a contained cake-style rice encased in tahdig.
  • A small-hole colander or sieve – to drain the rice.
  • A clean tea towel – an absolute must as it aids the steaming of the rice by absorbing the water droplets, which would otherwise form on the lid of your saucepan and fall back on to the rice making it mushy.

Steps to Make Chelow

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

  1. Wash the rice. Removes the starch from the rice in order to assist in producing a tender fluffy grain. It also assists in the rice being more nutritious.
  2. Soak the rice. Not all consider this stage is necessary any more in light of the quality of long grain basmati rice available, however it is of note that some famous brands recommend soaking their rice for 30 minutes pre cooking. Soaking the rice promotes more thorough cooking by allowing moisture to reach the centre of the rice grain, it further improves its final texture, makes the grain less brittle and assists the rice to become more digestible.
  3. Par boil the rice until al dente. The first stage of the cooking process, which partially cooks the rice.
  4. Drain the rice. The rice does not continue to cook in the cooking liquid but is steamed with the water already absorbed into the rice from step 3 and an additional small amount of water.
  5. Prepare the Tahdig layer and then layer remaining rice on top. The tahdig layer is placed at the bottom of the pot on a little saffron water and oil and / or butter before the rest of the rice is layered on top. A little water and melted butter is poured over the rice to assist with the final cooking stage.
  6. Steam the rice. The rice is steamed with a lid covered in a tea-towel to create our beloved chelow and tahdig.

How to Serve Chelow & Tahdig

The recipe below sets out steps to serve the chelow and tahdig as a cake-style, tahdig encased rice as seen in the first set of pictures above.

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

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

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

 


Check out my Reel on How to Cook Chelow and Tahdig

 


Chelow and Tahdig

Persian Rice - the expert way
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Rice Dish, Accompaniment
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: basmati rice, tahdig
Servings: 4 to 6
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

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

Instructions

Wash and Soak the Rice

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

Parboil the Rice

  • Fill a large non-stick saucepan (minimum capacity 2.5 litres) with approximately 1.5 litres of water and 1 tbsp of salt. Place over high heat and bring water to a boil.
  • Drain the rice and then add to the saucepan. Gently stir to make sure it does not stick to the pan.
  • Stay with the saucepan and do not leave it at this stage. It is crucial that you remove the rice and drain it at the right time. Every minute give it a gentle stir and take a grain and check the texture - either between your fingers or using your teeth. What you want is the grain to be soft on the outer layer but still firm in the centre. It can take any time from 3 to 7 minutes with the quantity in this recipe.
  • Once the parboiled rice reaches the correct texture, turn your heat off and drain in a colander or sieve. Sprinkle a little cold water to halt the cooking process. Taste the rice - if it is very salty then rinse it further with a little water.

Prepare the Tahdig Layer

  • Place the empty saucepan on your stove.
  • Add 2 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter / ghee / vegan equivalent to the pan and place on a low heat to melt. Then turn the heat off. (See * below for alternative tahdig layers - potato or flatbread).
  • Add your bloomed saffron to the saucepan and mix with the oil to distribute evenly (this will give a lovely golden colour to your tahdig).
  • To make your tahdig spoon about a 1-inch layer of rice into the saucepan and gently stir to mix with the saffron oil to ensure colour is distributed evenly. Be careful not to break the grains. Then pat down flat with the back of a spoon.
  • Then layer the remaining rice and gently pat down to the shape of the saucepan. Take the end of a tablespoon and gently poke about 5 small holes in the rice to allow steam to escape while cooking. Then pour over 2 tbsp of cold water.
  • Drizzle 1 to 2 tbsp of melted ghee / butter / vegan equivalent over the rice.

Steam the Rice

  • Place your glass lid on the saucepan and turn the heat to the highest setting. Once you start to see steam rise from the rice (your glass lid will start to get clear from the steam and droplets of water will start to form on the lid - it is perfectly fine to have a little look under the lid now and again to check the steam situation) lower the heat to the minimum flame or equivalent on your cooker. Cover the lid with a tea towel (making sure it is not a fire risk) and replace the lid on the saucepan.
  • Allow to steam for a minimum of 45 mins to get a crunchy and thick layer of tahdig.

Serve the Chelow & Tahdig

  • When the cooking time is over turn off the heat and remove the lid from the saucepan. Take a serving dish that covers the opening of the saucepan and place it on top. Flip the rice out onto the dish and serve with either a khoresh, kabab, curry or any other dish.

*Alternative Tahdig - Potato Tahdig

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

*Alternative Tahdig - Flatbread Tahdig

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

Salad Shirazi (Cucumber, Tomato & Onion Salad)

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

The National Salad of Iran

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

Ingredients in Salad Shirazi

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

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

Tips for Making Salad Shirazi

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

Serving Suggestions

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

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

How to Store Salad Shirazi

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


Salad Shirazi

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Torshi Soorati (Red Cabbage & Onion Pickle)

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

What is Torshi?

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

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

How to Make Torshi Soorati

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

‘Soorati’ means pink in Farsi and the pickle has been given this name as the resulting colour is a vibrant pink. A very versatile pickle suiting many cuisines, including Indian and Asian style dishes.

Eat Torshi Soorati With…

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

The Pickling Liquid

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


Torshi Soorati

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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