A Baluchi-Style Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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


 A Baluchi-Style Breakfast

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

Ingredients

For parathas

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

For the chickpea curry

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

For the eggs

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

Instructions

For the parathas

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

For the chickpea curry

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

For the eggs

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

Notes on timing

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

Khoresh Kadoo-e-Tond

Spicy courgette and red lentil stew

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

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

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

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

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


Khoresh Kadoo-e-Tond

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

Omelette Gojeh Farangi

Persian tomato omelette

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

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

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


Omelette Gojeh Farangi

Persian tomato omelette
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Breakfast, Brunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Iranian, Persian
Keyword: egg recipes, tomatoes, vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Salad Shirazi

Cucumber, tomato and onion salad

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

As the name gives away, the salad originates from Shiraz in Southern Iran. The core ingredients list is simple – cucumber, tomatoes, onion, dried mint, salt, pepper, oil and fresh lime juice. The resulting salad is juicy and citrusy and it complements the catalogue of Persian dishes.

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

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


Salad Shirazi

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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