A few months ago I bought a cookbook by Sabrina Ghayour called Persiana which, as the name suggests, is full of all sorts of Middle Eastern and Persian delicacies that make me feel decadent just reading the recipes. How can I possibly resist going out immediately to purchase edible rose petals and dried limes to add to what I already thought of as a well stocked middle-eastern pantry? And of course, once I had possession of these gorgeous goodies I absolutely had to cook with them. Below are some photos of what I’ve cooked from this book so far, and trust me when I say that these won’t be the last!
This first one is Spiced Vegetable Soup cooked on the recommendation of the person who sold me the book…we weren’t disappointed. Beautiful and hearty topped with a pistachio herb oil.
Baked Eggs with Feta, Harissa, Tomato Sauce and Coriander is Persiana’s version of Shakshuka and like all Shakshuka’s, it’s a great start to the day. One thing I liked about this version is that it doesn’t contain capsicums so it’s a good one for the winter months.
Persian Dried Lime, Lamb & Split Pea Stew…O…M…G! This one was amazing! I wasn’t able to find dried limes in time for this recipe but used pickled lemons instead (on the advice of the man at the Middle Eastern supermarket) and they infuse the dish beautifully…and I always love the texture of split peas, satisfyingly soft and yet firm. Definitely a winner.
I served the lamb stew with a Bulghur Wheat Salad. This was supposed to have pomegranate seeds in it but there aren’t any around at the moment so I used dried cranberries soaked in lemon juice instead. They made a good substitute and since then I’ve seen that you can buy dried cranberries that are soaked in pomegranate juice which would probably be even better!
If you want to try something sweet, Spiced Carrot, Pistachio and Almond Cake with Rosewater Cream was a great way to use up a bag of pistachios that had been sitting in the cupboard for a while. It’s more of a dessert cake (very moist and crumbly) but I was quite happy to take it to work and eat it with a fork. It has a lovely flavour, is gluten free and totally decadent.
Spiced Lamb Kefta with Butternut Squash, Pistachio Pesto, Feta, Cranberries and Almonds. There’s a burst of sweetness from the currants in the Kefta which goes nicely with the lamb and spices. The mixture was a bit loose so I added a decent amount of breadcrumbs to get the right consistency. The pumpkin with the pesto is amazing, almost like a nut butter. I used the leftover pesto as a pasta sauce which was also divine.
Lamb Shank, Black Garlic and Tomato Tagine was a great use for a couple of huge shanks that I had in the freezer. If you haven’t come across it before, black garlic is garlic that’s been slow cooked until it becomes caramelized, sweet and delicious. To be honest, it’s so good I could eat it on its own and it melts into the tagine to provide little surprises of flavour every now and again.
Persian Saffron Chicken, Fennel and Barberry Stew…this is the only one of Sabrina’s recipes that I would categorise as just ‘good’ rather than ‘amazing’. It tasted good, it just didn’t have the gutsy flavour of some of the other recipes. By the time the fennel had cooked for so long it was pretty tasteless and it really relied on the barberries to add oomph. Still…one average recipe amongst a bunch of crackers isn’t too bad.
Poussin with Harissa and Preserved Lemon enabled me to use a poussin that I’ve had in the freezer for quite a while now. We got all excited when we saw them at the local butcher a while ago but they were so expensive that we only bought one…it then proceeded to sit in the freezer because I could never think of what to do with one small bird. Eventually we just got it out of the freezer and ended up having it for breakfast! The harissa and preserved lemon blended together to make a rub…a genius idea, I’ve never thought of blending preserved lemons before but it opens up so many more uses for them.
Tray Baked Rose Petal Lamb Chops with Chilli and Herbs…of course I had to make something that included the edible rose petals! These chops were amazing, so much flavour from the marinade and fast enough to make on a weeknight. They are served with a herb and chilli drizzle which is quick and easy to make and very tasty.
To go with the lamb chops I made a Fattoush Salad with some slight variations. I didn’t have any tomatoes (it’s the end of winter), I used jarred chargrilled capsicums instead of fresh and I used rocket instead of lettuce. This salad is amazing…it is so crunchy and fresh and the dressing is wonderfully zesty which was a great match for the rich lamb chops (which were quite salty).
My rating for this book so far? Totally fab! So if you’ve been thinking about trying it out I would highly recommend it. I hadn’t realised quite how many recipes I’d already made from this book and out of the 12 recipes I’ve cooked, 11 were amazing and 1 was good…that’s a pretty good strike rate!