Saturday, 30 November 2013

Abdoogh Khiar - آبدوغ خیار - Chilled Yoghurt Soup with Nigella Seeds and Parmesan Lavash

The holidays are only a few weeks away and while the rest of the world is preparing for Christmas and New Year festivities, Persians are looking forward to winter solstice celebrations (Shab-e Yalda) in the northern hemisphere.  For the rest of us in the southern hemisphere, days are getting warmer and longer and we are eating summer foods already!  Winter solstice is another topic which we will talk about later.   

If you are lucky enough to be somewhere very hot, then you'll be feasting on plenty of salads and summer fruits. We have started our summer feasting with a chilled yoghurt soup perfect for lunch on a scorching hot day.  If you have baked lavash before (or used our recipe) then, it is easy to take it to the next level by adding some nigella seeds and grated Parmesan before baking it. If you are in the mood to make lavash crackers, you can dry them in the oven (100C for 20 minutes) and store them in a cookie jar.  Lavash crackers are not only great for dips but you can eat them with salads and chilled soups. 


2 Lebanese Cucumbers, grated or chopped finely (or half telegraph cucumber)
1 cup Greek yoghurt (or fat-free yoghurt)
1 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 onion, chopped finely (or spring onions or chives)
1 teaspoon dried mint (or dried dill)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons raisins
Salt and pepper to season
Croutons or lavash pieces 

  1. Sprinkle cucumbers with salt, leave for 5 minutes and squeeze the juice out. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
  3. Season to taste and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours (4 hours is best)
  4. Few minutes before serving, add generous amounts of croutons or lavash to the soup or serve it on the side.
  5. If you are serving it outside, add a few ice cubes to the soup. 

Friday, 22 November 2013

Posht-eh Zeek - Sesame Snaps - پشته زیک

The other day, maman and I spent an entire day in the kitchen baking bread, cookies, cake and making sesame snaps.   Maman loves to share food stories and talking about my grand-father.  She often tells me that her dad was not only a super-talented DIY master and everyone's go-to person, he was a farmer, a hunter, a traditional folk singer, and a flutist.  She told me how he used to harvest sesame capsules in the summer before they turned slightly yellow.  Sesame pods were then sun dried and the little white seeds were collected and stored in a dry place.  I had a picture of a sesame tree in my head for so long that I was so devastated to find out the truth about where sesame seeds came from. 

Maman still makes our favourite foods and like every good mother, she cleverly alters them to make them very hip and be better for our health.  I just got back from Alice Springs and my body must have reacted to the massive change of climate and I came down with a mysterious flu.  She added two heaped tablespoons of manuka honey to the melted sugar before adding the sesame seeds while she was telling me about the magic of manuka honey.  The name of sesame snaps in Persian is posht-eh zeek meaning the back of a little spotted bird.

New Zealand is blessed with beautiful varieties of honey.  Twenty years ago when we settled into our new life in New Zealand, we ate our way through few jars of honey before we picked manuka honey as our household's favourite honey.   Like a childhood favourite, manuka honey has embedded into our minds that without thinking we reach for a jar of manuka in the supermarket.  Last year, maman and I arrived on a very early flight to Zurich and made our way to the airport lounge for a lie down and breakfast. Naturally, I piled up my plate with cheese and plenty of chocolates, and maman with honey and fancy fruit preserves.  Maman never judges anyone's food (unlike me!), but on that morning eating honey on gourmet bread, very puzzled she asked "how did the Swiss get honey so wrong?" ... well, NZ honey does not compare to anything in my opinion. 

This week is national honey week and no better way to celebrate it but with manuka honey I say! This is maman's recipe which is a National Honey Week Recipe for you to enjoy. 


1.5 Cups Sesame Seeds (mixed with black sesame optional)
Half Cup White Sugar
25g Butter
2 Heaped Tablespoons Manuka Honey (other honeys will do)

  1. Place sesame seeds in a large fry pan.  On low heat toast the sesame seeds until golden (takes 10-15 minutes).  Stir continuously when the pan is very hot to avoid burning the seeds.
  2. Butter a large chopping board, rolling pin and a knife.
  3. In a fry pan, melt the sugar until golden.
  4. Add butter and stir to melt.
  5. Turn the heat off and add honey, stir to mix.
  6. Add sesame seeds and combine with the syrup.
  7. Turn the mix onto greased chopping board and roll it to about 2mm thickness.
  8. Cut the sesame snaps to any size or shape you like.
  9. Lift each sesame snap with the same knife (this should be easy if the board is greased well) to stop it from hardening onto the board.
  10. Alternatively, you can roll it between two sheets of baking paper. 
  11. Allow to cool and store in an air-tight container. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Taste of Auckland 2013

Taste of Auckland turned 5 this year and was everything the festival promised to be with a great line up of chefs, restaurants and gourmet products.  It is the best foodie festival in Auckland that brings the best of hospitality and small specialty producers under one umbrella for you to sample.  It is an outdoor event, so in the event of rain you are going to get wet but, luckily the weather was gorgeous when I was there.  The sun was out, the band played music non-stop and the festival was buzzing with happy foodies. 

The festival spending money is crowns ($1 equals 1 crown) which you purchase on a card and spend it at any restaurants or stalls.  You can credit your card when you run out of crowns. This year, the winning dishes for me were from The Commons and Toto.  Every year, there seems to be one or two restaurants that really do it for me.  Apart from eating dishes from restaurants and sampling food from producers, there is always the Fisher&Paykel kitchen. You would think a perfect lamb roast needs a perfect oven and the guys at Fisher&Paykel have thought about it very carefully. We tried perfectly roasted lamb and guessed the ingredients which was all for fun of course.

This year, Kenwood transformed their kitchen into a tea party wonderland with staff dressed in wonderland costumes!  I also attended Annabelle White's Kenwood session and if you have ever been to one of her cooking demos or classes you'll know what a delight she is to watch. It was an hour of laughter and some cooking tips on the side!  A few food trucks made their way into the festival this year, all quite retro and added the cuteness factor to the day. Cold drinks, coffee and ice creams are always available if you need to cool yourself down or warm up!  The Kapiti tent and The Beverage Boy were extremely popular this year. 

If you would like to be a little adventurous with your food then, Taste of Auckland is the best place to start! 

Happy mum enjoying the sun and the food!

Monday, 21 October 2013

Saffron Yoghurt Cake

The last few weeks I have struggled to create a dish that screams Persian. Even though, all my life I have been surrounded with Persian food, it is still difficult to create recipes that speak of all things Persian to the rest of the world. Creating elegance, delicacy, fragrance and balanced subtle flavours on one plate is an enormous task.

I have been on a hunt for a simple cake recipe that translates Persian cuisine. Persians bake a dense muffin (cake Yazdi) but these days it is considered no more than a simple muffin.  Yoghurt in the Middle East is a vital ingredient in cooking and baking, so important that it is even used in pastries like Ghotaab. 

I can never forget the yoghurt cake mum used to make on cold winter days. It was a simple yoghurt cake, as plain as cake can really get but it was the anticipation of knowing there was cake after school.  Baking cakes is not mum's forte yet she can bake perfect loaves of bread. I still remember the day she watched a good neighbour bake a cake so she could learn how to bake. Taher (short for Tahereh) carefully measured the sugar and oil with tablespoons. To be exact 7 tablespoons of each and soon it became famous as the 7-tablespoon cake! 

It was mum's first cake she proudly baked and remained her last successful cake!  Occasionally mum bakes cakes but every time she bakes something drastically goes wrong and her last words are "my daughters bake so perfectly, no need for me to perfect my baking skills".  

The other day I was in the mood to bake and decorate a cake and knowing that we haven't had cake in a long time I settled to make our household's standard cake.  Being Persian does really mean that our kitchen is stocked with saffron, rosewater, walnuts, feta and pistachios most of the time.  It has been long since I used any of these in baking so I thought let's give it a go and let others judge the cake. 

The cake was a treat and saffron was the star!


1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs
1 cup cooking oil
3/4 cup thick yoghurt
2 cups plain flour, sieved
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons dissolved saffron

For icing:
1/2 cup icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons water 
Chopped pistachios

1: Beat caster sugar and eggs for 5 minutes or until leaves a trail.

2: Add oil, yoghurt and saffron. Beat for few seconds to mix. 

3: Sieve flour and baking powder over the cake batter slowly and fold in with a spatula. 

4: Bake at 160C for 45 minutes (or until slightly springy to touch). 

5: Cool in the tin. 

6: To make the icing: mix icing sugar with 1 tablespoon of water at a time until the mix is thick and not too runny.

7: Sprinkle with chopped pistachios. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Butternut Squash and Cinnamon Pilaf - کدو پلو - Kadoo Polo

Butternut squash and cinnamon pilaf (کدو پلو) is simple and quick to prepare and has the reputation of being the poor man's meal.  Traditionally, rice is cooked with sauteed cubes of pumpkin, fried onions and a little cinnamon and turmeric. Sugar is added to caramelise the pumpkin for those with a sweet tooth and in our house, it is always served with eggs fried in plenty of butter.  Cinnamon and pumpkin work so magically well together that the end result is an uplifting, fresh and heavenly fragrant pilaf.

There are dishes we absolutely love and dishes we absolutely hate, but there are dishes which fall into the love and hate category.  This pilaf is surely on my list of love and hate foods.  The stories about this food are many and they usually involve how much a person hates it or loves it.  Even my mother who loves most foods, as a child wasn't a fan of this dish. She was told if she didn't eat it she had to stay home alone while the entire family went on holiday during summer.  Then there was me, a fussy child who ate bread and fruits if lunch and dinner were not up to my standards.  If I could not find anything else to eat I used to eat the eggs and pick out the pumpkin bits and push them to the side of the plate and made a pumpkin mountain with all the pumpkin pieces.  

Our delicate palate changes and develops over years and I am glad my taste buds changed.  I put my new found love of pumpkin into good use and turned an old ancient simple pumpkin pilaf into a modern day dish with the addition of new ingredients. I left out the turmeric as it was overpowering the subtleness of pumpkin, and added pine nuts and wilted baby spinach for extra texture.  After tasting my new creation, I was overly satisfied to have created a new exciting dish inspired by a childhood dislike of pumpkin pilaf.


3 Cups peeled and cubed butternut squash 
2 Cups Rice, boiled and drained.  Follow recipe for Chelo
2 onions, sliced
2 Tablespoon oil for frying
2 Tablespoon butter
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
2 Tablespoons Soft Brown Sugar (optional)
1/4 Cups toasted Pine nuts
2 Cups baby spinach


  1. In a large fry pan, sautee onions until translucent.
  2. Add butternut cubes and butter, sautee for a further few minutes.
  3. Add cinnamon and sugar and allow to caramelize for a few minutes on low heat.
  4. Add drained rice to the fry pan and mix well. 
  5. Return the mixed rice into a pot and steam the rice.
  6. Add spinach leaves and pine nuts before serving.
  7. Serve with fried eggs.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Aash-e Reshteh - آش رشته - Noodle Soup

Every year, my dear Ammeh Paree (عمه جان پریaunt) cooked our annual aash and most relatives, neighbours and friends dropped by to have some aash.  She spent days sourcing the best ingredients then spent an entire day cooking it and getting it ready by early evening.  Her aash was cooked in a giant pot with plenty of lamb shanks for extra richness and flavour.  This massive cooking operation was a summer event for the whole family with the purpose of not only uniting the family but to share food with the rest of the neighbourhood. 

We could smell her aash from a distance as we walked towards her house and it was the aroma of utter perfection.  By early evening, absolutely everyone was welcomed to join the family to have a bowl of heavenly aash and for those who didn't live in the neighbourhood or were too shy to come, aash had to be delivered.  Aash was poured into bowls and garnished with Kashk and lots of crunchy fried onion and garlic slices waiting to be delivered.  Ammeh and Dade-Bajee made sure that the poor, the elderly and the sick received some nourishing aash and the rest was shared among the family.  Every time, we had a large family gathering involving plenty of food, some food was shared with neighbours and friends.  We constantly saw this act of sharing food with others and became the norm for us.  

We were truly blessed and consider ourselves very lucky to have experienced such heart warming acts of kindness and generosity, and were surrounded by numerous kindhearted people.  Nowadays the forms of charity and generosity have changed but the concept remains the same.  

The poor in your midst are My trust; 
guard ye My trust, 
and be not intent only on your own ease.

 فقرا امانت منند در ميان شما.
 پس امانت مرا درست حفظ نمائيد
و براحت نفس خود تمام نپردازيد.

The word Aash (or Ash) has a Turkish origin and later, it evolved into Ashpaz (آشپز, cook) and Ashpazkhaneh (آشپز خانه, kitchen).  Aash-e Reshteh (آش رشته) or as my European friends call it "Persian noodle soup" is a hearty soup made with legumes, herbs and reshteh (dried noodles primarily made of water, flour and salt).  Reshteh is believed to resemble threads of life and a sign of good fortune. This aash is associated with special occasions such as New Year's meal, funerals, nazri (نذری, charitable deed of sharing food with the poor) and when embarking on a new path.  A bowl of aash is always garnished with fried onion slices and garlic flakes, dried mint and kashk (کشک, kashk is a thick whitish liquid similar to whey).  Aash reshteh is a stable food in every Persian household.  It thickens when reshteh is added and always tastes better the next day.  You can find reshteh in most Persian stores but some Asian style noodles such as; egg noodles is a good substitute (noodles must hold its shape after cooking).

Here is a recipe for you to try.

1 large or 2 small lamb shanks
1 large onion sliced
Oil for cooking
1/3 cup chickpea soaked overnight
1/3 cup red kidney beans soaked overnight
1/2 cup lentils
1 large bunch of spinach roughly chopped
1 bunch coriander chopped
1/2 bunch parsley chopped
80g Reshteh
1 tablespoon flour mixed with 1 cup of water
8 to 10 cups of water

For Garnish:
2 large onions sliced
5 to 7 clove garlic crushed
1 1/2 tablespoon dried mint
1/2 tablespoon Turmeric
Kashk (or Greek yoghurt, sour cream or mixture of both)
Oil for fying
Salt and pepper


1.                  In a large pot heat the oil and saute the onion. 
2.                  Drain and rinse the beans, chickpeas and lentils.
3.                  Add beans, chickpeas, lentils and the lamb shank to the pot.  
4.                  Add water and bring to the boil, cover and cook over medium heat for               
about 45 minutes. 
5.                  Add the herbs to the pot and cook for 20 minutes. 
6.                  In a fry pan heat generous amount of oil. 
7.                  Saute the onion until translucent add garlic and turmeric, when it turns golden, stir in the dried mint and remove form the heat.
8.                  Add half of the fried onion mixture, reshteh, seasoning and the flour mixture to the pot and cook for further 20 minutes or until reshteh is cooked and aash is thickened to your liking. If aash is too thick add a little hot water.
9.                  Serve warm with dollops of kashk and garnish.

Noosh-e Jaan!

We leave you with a photo of Miss 4 who believes aash is the most amazing food ever created.  Miss 4 is able to pronounce the word aash with thick Persian accent and often declares "aash is the best".  Her demands for aash is a reminder of our happy days surrounded with plenty of love and sound of laughter eating ammeh Paree's aash around the giant pot and still knowing that no one else's aash is better than hers! 

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Olive and Pomegranate Spread - Zeitoon Parvardeh - زیتون پَرورده

This is a modern take on the very traditional side dish from Gilan Province, where there are plenty of olive groves.  Zeytoon (زیتون, olive) and anar (انار, pomegranate) are the main ingredients for this flavoursome side dish.  The original recipe includes ground dried sour pomegranate seeds and paste, lemon juice and Persian Hogwood. It goes perfectly well with any type of meat and most herbs.  For simplicity, we have re-created it in tapenade style. It can be served as a snack accompanied with feta cheese and crusty bread.

Here is the recipe:

2 cups roughly chopped and pitted olives
1/4 cup walnuts
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Pepper to season 

Process in a food processor bowl and make it as chunky or smooth as you like.
Serve it cold with crusty bread.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Halva - حلوا


Halva (حلوا) is velvety smooth, deep chocolaty brown, fragrant, extremely sweet with well balanced flavours.  It is not a dessert and it almost always associates with bereavement.  To love halva is an acquired taste as the intense sweetness of halva is not suitable for a delicate palate.    Halva exists for probably hundreds of years and every generation puts their own spin on it. Halva is prepared with ordinary ingredients and most Persians are able to make it, however the task of making a perfect batch of halva for special occasions is reserved for a selected few who are highly skilled halva makers.  

As a child, Halva was always a dark sweet concoction rolled in lavash but it never appealed to me.     A few years ago, I made a challenge for myself to learn how to make a good halva and I am glad I did. Patience is the most important unwritten ingredient and the second equally important ingredient is expertise.  The kind of know-how expertise you need to have is to be able to feel the flour with all of your senses.  If you cook for the love of cooking and not for the love of eating you'll instantly know what I am referring to.  A few batches later, I got to know the trick is in proper roasting of the flour and frying it.

Here is a recipe that you can use as a guide:

Take 2 cups of standard flour and place it in a large fry pan (most fry pans are suitable, only avoid heavy copper based ones). Turn the heat on low and stir. Remember flour burns quickly so keep stirring until the flour turns into chickpea colour and taste it. If it tastes burnt, you have to start over. This process will take at least 20 minutes.

While you do the toasting, place 2 cups of water with 1 cup white sugar and 1/4 cup rosewater in a sauce pan. Bring it to the boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes on high. This sugar syrup is a very runny sugar syrup.

Once you toasted the flour, turn the gas off and sieve it twice through a very fine sieve. Return it back to the fry pan and turn the gas on low. Add about 200g butter and fry the flour in the butter, stirring continuously until it turns into medium brown colour, add cardamom just before you turn the gas off.

Add the sugar syrup slowly to the flour mix and mix with a large wooden spoon and smooth out the lumps with the back of the spoon. If the halva is too dry for your liking, add a little boiling water. 

You can play around with the butter and sugar content. You can also replace butter with any cooking oil (except olive oil) for extra moistness. Feel free to add saffron to your sugar syrup. Always stick to the ratios for a perfect halva ... Double or triple it if you need larger quantities:

Flour 1 Cup
Sugar 1/2 Cup
Butter 1/2 Cup
Water 1 Cup

Friday, 7 June 2013

Farmer's Bread and Cheese ... and a trip down to memory lane - لوه نون

My grandparents passed away before they could tell us the story of their lives.  In 1950, they sold their house and land, and moved to Kiakola, a remote village.  The reason was too simple, all for the love of Baha'u'llah and opening a new locality to the faith.  They suddenly realised the dream of a quite village life and owning farmland wasn't without blood, sweat and tears.  The challenges were many, from learning how to preserve food, how to hunt and how to prepare land for sowing to more complicated issues of not having shops nearby for everyday commodities.  A cow for daily milk and dairy products, a horse for hunting and travelling, and a guard dog (named Gorgee) for security were among the first useful animals that were purchased for the farm.  Later on, a cat, few chooks and roosters joined the family. 

Each day, my Nan-Joon faced an enormous amount of work; from kitchen duties to looking after children to washing and cleaning to working on the farm. She was involved in every step of growing vegetables from weeding, sowing, harvesting, pruning and cultivating to nights spent brushing carrots and getting them ready for the local farmer's market.    Every Sunday, Akbar who had a horse-carriage came and helped my grandfather load the harvest for the local farmer's market.  On Sundays, my grandfather returned home with the weekly shopping of groceries. 

Village life, although too simple for us now, was never simple back then. Farm work was never ending, a simple task of baking bread was never that simple.  Bread is made with flour, and flour is from wheat therefore, wheat had to be grown, harvested, washed, dried and taken to the nearest mill for grinding in order for the family to have flour for baking. Absolutely everything they ate came from the paddock and the numerous trees. The most basic financial transactions took place i.e. the mill took some of the flour as payment for milling, neighbours traded not only their produce but even bread starter. Meals were simple and cooked with ingredients harvested daily for cooking.

For a child, Kiakola had it all; the biggest backyard, more fruit trees a little child could count, the biggest pond, the world's deepest water well, plenty of stinging nettle to chase other kids with and a Nan-Joon with a heart of gold.

Years later, listening to my mother, aunties and uncles I am assured that even though their village life was simple and challenging yet they were blessed with more than they could realise at that time. The remoteness of the village, the lack of transport and with passing of my grandfather life took an extreme turn. Nan-Joon and her children had absolutely no choice but to carry on with farm work to simply survive. Everyday, my mother stayed at home to cook and clean for the family while the others carried on with farming. It was during that time that my mother saw a bleeding hen in the coop. The night before, a fox attacked the hen and my mother decided to stitch the hen and nurse it for a while. Her sewing and nursing skills paid off and the hen recovered but it didn't actually take long before the same hen fell prey to another fox!

I was too little to understand Nan-Joon's life but what remains in my mind are many fond memories of everyone gathering underneath the mulberry tree happily eating shah-toot (شاه توت, mulberry), chatting away with kids climbing trees, screaming and chasing each other. Even as a child, I could tell Nan-Joon's cooking tasted far better than anyone else's. It was fascinating to watch her bake bread.  In my little world, bread only came from a noon-vaie (نانوایی, bakery) but the stuff she baked was much fluffier and yummier than any other breads.

After she made the dough, she used to oil cooking pots, flatten a little dough in it, put the lid on and leave it to rise. Now I know that she made her own sourdough starter too. Once, the dough was risen, then she placed each pot on the outdoor fireplace and placed hot charcoal on the lid and by doing this she created an oven-like pot heating it from top and bottom. Once the bread was ready, it was round, thick with a golden crunch on the outside, fluffy and light inside. Of course, for me it was the only place bread looked like that and was eaten with fresh cheese!

Now, we re-create the same bread occasionally and the same cheese, but it lacks Nan-Joon's secret ingredient. The love from her heart was felt not only through her words but also in her cooking and everything she did for us.

For the Bread:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup water - warm
1/2 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1    tsp sugar

  1. Make a well in the centre of the flour. Pour water into the well, then add yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork until the dough comes together. 
  2. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes.
  3. Oil the inside of a medium pot and flatten the dough inside to cover the bottom of the pot.
  4. Allow to rise (30 mins- 1 hr) and double in size.
  5. Place the pot on the low heat and cook it covered (cover the lid with a teatowl first) for 10 minutes.
  6. After 10 minutes, turn the dough and cook the other side for 5 minutes.

Farmer's Cheese


2 L Milk
1 Cup Yoghurt at room temperature
2 Tablespoons White Vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons Salt

  1. Heat the milk until it comes to a boil.
  2. Add yoghurt and vinegar and stir gently (until the milk curdles and comes together).
  3. Strain the mixture through a cheese cloth in a strainer. Gather the cheese cloth in order to squeez out moisture. 
  4. Apply pressure to remove moisture by placing  an heavy item on the top of cheese. 
  5. Add salt to 2 cups of whey
  6. Remove the cheese cloth. Place the cheese in the cooled salted whey and store in the fridge.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Albaloo Polo - آلبالو پلو - Morello Cherry and Saffron Pilaf

Albaloo (آلبالو , morello cherry) with it's deep crimson red colour and full acidity is a dream fruit.  A perfect summer fruit that can be used in various ways from baking to cooking, sadly, it is not available fresh in my corner of the world.  It is imported in glass jars and it is the only form I have seen this fruit in years. The most exciting way of eating it is with plenty of salt to cut through the acid and yes, you've guessed it, it is tart! It's fascinating how Persians can have extremely sweet tooth and sour tooth. The dried form is a very popular snack during winter.

We've been making morello cherry jam every summer for as long as I can remember and now trying to recreate the same jam, we have no option but to turn preserved cherries into jam! I remember the days mum bought these sour cherries for jam making, I was extra helpful in removing the stalks and pitting them.  These cherries are very juicy and the fun was in eating them and staining my hands and face.  I also used my many creative ways of sneaking into the kitchen and taking handfuls of sour cherries without her noticing. Every time mum made cherry jam, she used to reserve the extra syrup in glass bottles which we made into sherbet.

The tart cherries in cooking goes very well with chicken so, a colourful pilaf and lemon chicken was on the menu last weekend. Although I don't remember eating this pilaf years ago but this pilaf similar to a good cake with perfect icing makes me feel happy and best of all it is as simple as it can get. This fruity pilaf is prepared very much like jewelled rice. We had no choice but to use preserved cherries but if you are fortunate enough to have a supply of fresh morello cherries then the possibilities are endless for you.


1 Jar, preserved morello cherries
2-4 Tablespoons, sugar
3-4 Tablespoons, slivered almonds, roasted
3-4 Teaspoons, dissolved saffron


  1. Drain the cherries and place in a frying pan.  Add the sugar and allow to reduce on low heat.
  2. Cook until the cherries are softened and the juice turns into a thick syrup (about 10 minutes).
  3. Follow the recipe for Chelo
  4. Once the rice has been drained, mix half of the rice with cooked cherries and the other half with saffron.
  5. Layer the rice in a pot to steam and follow the rest of the instructions. 
  6. You can alternatively mix the cooked cherries with cooked rice (shown in the photo).
  7. If you are using fresh cherries, remember to add more sugar and cook it longer.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Kookoo - Potato and Parmesan Cakes

Potatoes (seeb-zamini, سیب زمینی ) are inarguably the most versatile vegetable and Persians utilise it in their cooking in every possible way.  The literal translation of seeb-zamini is "apple of the earth"!  The most common potato dish is potato frittata (kookoo-ye seeb-zamini) which serves as a quick comforting winter dinner and during summer kookoos make a great picnic lunch, similar to an amazing slice of cold bacon and egg pie soaked in tomato sauce! It is very interesting how cultures and cuisines have so many similarities on so many different levels. 

The rise of food prices and the never ending financial crisis around the world are driving consumers to consume more and more vegetables, and interestingly enough, the food service sector followed suit.  In many cafes, potato cakes of different variations make an appearance on food cabinets.  Potatoes abundantly available year around, competitively priced and the reality is that no other vegetable can really compare with the humble potato. 

Traditionally, kookoos are fried in a round skillet and sliced for serving.  However, the same mixture can be fried in small patties or baked in the oven.  This mixture is so versatile that any ingredient can be added to it e.g. tuna, spring onions, herbs, spices ...  The photo below, is a jazzed up version of the same Persian Kookoo.  I made it in a serving size portion, baked it in the oven for convenience and served it with sour cream and tomato relish. 


3 Large Potatoes, boiled and mashed (skin removed)
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 small onion, grated
3-4 large eggs
1/2 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons herbs (dried or fresh) Mint and Parsley
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
Salt and Pepper to season
oil for frying


  1. In a large bowl, place all ingredients and mix to combine.
  2. Heat a 20cm round fry pan with a generous amount of cooking oil.
  3. Once hot, pour the mixture in and leave the heat on mid-high.
  4. Do not place a lid over the fry pan.
  5. Once the sides are golden, flip it and fry for a further 5 minutes.

    To bake it:  Brush a baking dish with oil or butter and pour the mixture into the greased dish.  Bake at 180C for around 30 minutes or until golden.

    To make small patties: fry tablespoon fulls of the mixture until edges are golden and flip it in the fry pan to fry the other side.

    Serve with a crisp green salad and yoghurt.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Persian Nougat- Gaz-گز

On the eve of the last Wednsday of the year, just before Naw Ruz, a special event dating back to Zoroastrian times takes place in Iran. The excitment builds up days before it and planning starts a few days ahead. Of course, food playes a big part in this event and most of the planning involves soaking diffrent types of legumes the night before, preparing herbs and picking wild herbs (infact, 40 different ones) for aash and collecting wood logs and hay for the bonfire. As the adults are busy preparing for the night, the young ones are planning whose houses they should visit for the best treats! At sunset, everyone gathers in the street to see piles of hay in a row waiting to be burnt. The young girls and boys stay put in a queue waiting to jump over the bonfire and some brave ones go through the flame and sing;

Zardi-ye man az to    Sorkhi-ye to az man 

The literal translation is, my sickly yellow paleness is yours, your fiery red colour is mine.

Once everyone had a chance to jump over the bonfire and had some fun, then everyone is off home to have some comfy aash to warm up. By this time outside gets dark and children get ready to go out in the dark to have some fun. Ghashogh-zany (قاشق زنی) involves the children covering themselves with chador (looking like a ghost) and holding a metal bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other hand.  The children would then visit homes in groups whilst continuously hitting the bowl with the spoon.  The sound of spoon hitting the bowl notifies the homeowner to open the door. The person who opens the door puts a treat in their bowls. The treat can be anything from fruits, Ajil (mixture of salted seeds and nuts), roasted chick peas, sweets or for a very unlucky ghashogh-zan a bucket full of water!

It is said that in old days families with young daughters would open their doors and give  treats out if they were happy for their daughter to get married that year  so, khastegary (matchmaking) would happen shortly after and the young couple's wedding would happen sometimes during spring or summer that year.

Now, here is a real treat which would satisfy your taste buds! 



2 egg whites 
1 cup sugar 
1/2  cup  corn syrup ( glucose)
2 tablespoon water


1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup  corn syrup ( or glucose syrup) 


1 1/2 cup   whole blanched almonds or pistachios, toasted.  
2 tablespoon butter or ghee melted 
2 teaspoon rosewater or vanilla extract


  • Heavily butter a pan, set aside   
  •  Heavily butter a large bowl, set aside

 To make the Meringue
  • In a stand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
  • Boil sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat.  Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture starts to boil ( if sugar crystals still present, cover and boil until sugar is dissolved). uncover and  boil on low heat for 10 minutes, without stirring. The thermometer should read 230 F( It's good to use thermometer but not necessary for this size batch).
  • While mixing carefully and slowly add hot liquid in a steady stream over egg whites. Beat the mixture for another 10  minutes, until mixture holds its shape and is lukewarm. Transfer to prepared bowl.
to make the syrup; 
  • in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and corn syrup. cook and stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil( if sugar crystals present, cover and boil until sugar is dissolved). Uncover and use clean spoon to stir on medium heat for 10 minutes longer. The thermometer should read 275 F ( It's good to use thermometer but not necessary for this size batch).
  • Pour the hot mixture over the Meringue ( Do Not Scrape Saucepan) and  with a large wooden spoon stir until blended. 
  • Mix melted butter and rosewater
  • Gradually add rosewater mixture and pistachio until blended. 
  • Transfer to prepared pan and stand for several hours before cutting in small pieces. Wrap in wax paper. Store in cool and dry place.