In my last post I took a big step and admitted to my growing addiction to Persian food. Like many addictions, this one needs constant feeding and there have been many Persianesque feasts since my last confession.
The first of these was a birthday meal for my husband (I mean, how could I refuse a birthday request?); Beef Fillet Steak, Fattoush Salad and Basmati & Wild Rice Salad with Chickpeas, Currants & Herbs. I was a bit worried about ruining the beef but actually it was superb – pan fried at a high heat until caramelised and then finished in the oven before resting and slicing…mm-mmm! WARNING: Vegetarians and hungry people should avert their eyes about now.
I’ve made a few versions of Fattoush Salad over the years (which generally consist of radishes, cucumber, salad greens, flat bread croutons and sumac) and this one from Sabrina Ghayour’s “Persiana” was as good as any other. However the first Fattoush that I ever made was a Julie Le Clerc recipe and that one will always be special 🙂
The Basmati & Wild Rice Salad with Chickpeas, Currants & Herbs from Ottolenghi’s book “Jerusalem” was absolutely amazing. I didn’t have quite enough currants so I topped them up with barberries which added a delicious sour pop. We brought some wild rice back from Malaysia a couple of years ago and I’m always excited when I get to use it; it’s so nutty and feels slightly exotic. The fried onions and chickpeas on top are the icing on the cake.
I also got a new cookbook this month (as if I wouldn’t!) called “Ima Cuisine” by Yael Shochat. This is from an Israeli restaurant in Auckland and I was very excited to buy it as soon as possible after its release. The first things I’ve cooked from it are Falafel, Arab Israeli Salad and a herb condiment called Zhoug. The salad and condiment are fantastic – the salad is very herby and is a great side dish to make in bulk and keep in the fridge (as I discovered by accident). The falafel itself was a bit disappointing – I’ve made falafel a few times now and this is the only one that’s not worked out well. The mixture was very wet and sort of dissolved into the oil in the pan. I ended up having to coat them in flour and fry them in a fairly dry pan…the flavour was good but they were a mission to produce.
However – as usual when it comes to Sabrina Ghayour – the star of the meal was the Freekah Salad from her book “Sirocco”. If you haven’t tried Freekah yet you definitely should…it tastes amazing in its own right just boiled in salted water let alone having anything else done to it. But adding cranberries, dill and pomegranate takes it off the charts! On a side note, dill is seriously becoming a favourite herb just now.
But oh my god…if I thought the Freekah salad was good…I hadn’t yet tried the Preserved Lemon & Baharat-Marinated Pork Loin Kebabs also from “Sirocco”. This was life-changing. I made a Baharat spice mix from “Ima Cuisine” which I rubbed all over the pork pieces and then fried them in a healthy (ie. vast) quantity of oil so that they become gorgeously crisp but still moist in the middle…drool. To go with this I made a Barley, Griddled Broccoli & Za’atar Salad from Persiana; barley is so good in any form and I love it in a salad. This salad also contains slow roasted, caramelised tomatoes and red onions and a simple yoghurt dressing. I’m trying very hard not to use expletives to describe how good these were 🙂
A classic Persian dish that my friend Nadine first told me about is Chicken, Walnut & Pomegranate Stew. The first version I made of this was from Naomi Duguid’s “Taste of Persia” which was ok but not as good as I was expecting. I decided to try Sabrina Ghayour’s recipe from “Persiana” given how good all of her recipes seem to be and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a very decadent dish using a lot of walnuts and pomegranate molasses which gives it a lovely rich and sweet/sour flavour. One thing I would say about both of the recipes that I’ve tried is that it doesn’t need nearly as much sauce; both recipes had me throwing away excess sauce which was pretty upsetting. I served this particular version with a Marinated Kale Salad and Crushed New Potatoes both from “Sirocco”. I’ve tried making a marinated kale salad once before and wasn’t that fussed with it but as I may have mentioned…Sabrina can do no wrong and this was delicious. Almonds and sunflower seeds provide crunch while the dressing provides sweetness from pureed apple, honey and ginger. The crushed new potatoes were also AMAZING! Roasted with peas and chargrilled spring onions and my favourite…dill.
The most recent meal I cooked was all from “Sirocco” – Lamb, Apricot & Fennel Seed Meatballs; Radish, Dried Fig & Apple Salad & Warm Salad of Spiced Kale, Bulghur Wheat & Puy Lentils. These three recipes were definitely a highlight of the Persian experience so far (and that’s saying something!)…all the way through dinner we just looked at each other and said “yuuum” and “oh my god, this is sooo *expletive* good”! The meatballs contain sweetness from the dried fruit and so many fennel seeds that I was seriously (but unnecessarily) concerned!
The Fig and Apple Salad was quick to put together and had a delicious mixture of crunchy vs sticky sweetness balanced by the tartness of pomegranate molasses. And the Warm Bulghur and Puy Lentil salad was wonderfully substantial. It’s drizzled in a mixture of spiced oil and fried onions and topped with a sharp but creamy goats feta. An absolutely incredible trio both individually and combined.
So if you don’t mind exploring life-changing flavours and uttering the occasional involuntary (but cheerful) expletive then I emphatically recommend giving Persian food a go. However, I do feel that it’s only fair to warn you – it can be addictive.