Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Zucchini Frittata- Kookoo-ye Kadoo Sabz- کوکوی کدو سبز

For the next month or so we thought we better bring you a series of Fresh&Fast meal ideas.  To kick this off we started with what is in season in Aotearoa; zucchini (courgette).  Frittata is famous as an Italian dish but many variations of frittata exist in most cuisines.  The Italian frittata has a dairy base (millk, cream and cheese) for a lushicous creamy texture and eggs to bind ingredients together, but Persian kookoos have only eggs apart from the main ingredients.  

Kookoos are traditionally fried in a fry pan, rather than baked in the oven, but then again you can bake a kookoo too!  It is great for a quick summer dinner and very fail proof.  While kookoo is cooking, you'll have enough time to toss salad greens together and slice a rustic loaf of bread.


3 Courgettes or Zucchini, grated
1 Medium Onion, grated
2 Large Eggs
Salt and Pepper to season
Dried Herbs (parsley, mint, ...)

  1. Place the zucchini in a fry pan.
  2. On medium heat, stir fry the zucchini until most of the juice has evaporated.
  3. In a large mixing bow, place the onion, eggs and the zucchini with the seasoning.
  4. Add your favourite fresh or dried herbs and mix with a fork until the eggs are well mixed.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick 20cm fry pan and pour the mix.  Leave the heat on medium.
  6. Once the edges are fully brown and slightly crisp, slide it onto a plate.  This stage will take around 15 minutes.
  7. Turn the kookoo upside down, back into the same fry pan to cook the other side.  It should take a further 5-10 minutes.
  8. Serve with salad,yogurt and bread
Alternatively, spoonfuls of the mixture can be fried. 

Monday, 18 February 2013

Zereshk Polo - Barberry Saffron Rice - زرشک پلو

Zerehk polo is an elegant rice dish and it is a true melting pot for humble ingredients, with their bold and bright colours, to naturally unite to form a dish that is not just rice.  There are plenty of accompanying ingredients used in creating a comforting rice dish but, zereshk polo with it's simplicity and minimal ingredients has a class of it's own.  It certainly is a celebration of flavours with rice serving as a neutral backdrop  for the tart jewel-like berries to complement the sweetness of saffron.  It is no wonder that it is usually served for elaborate dinner parties and special occasions. 
Zerezhk is usually sweetened with sugar and fried in butter, but do not be afraid to step away from this traditional method.  We make it without sugar and fry in cooking oil or olive oil. To refresh your mind about cooking rice follow our recipe for CheloYou should be able to find saffron in almost every supermarket. Zereshk is available from Persian or other ethnicity shops.   Making this rice is very much free form and no recipe is needed.  Simply adjust the portions of each ingredient to suit your own taste.  However, a great zereshk polo has generous amounts of saffron and zereshk. 
It can be done by placing a little oil in a fry pan and once heated add zereshk.  Stir until zereshk is plumped up and add desired amount of sugar.  Add dissolved saffron once the sugar is dissolved and mix with a little cooked rice.  This should only take a few minutes.

There are two ways that you can make zereshk polo.  One method is by mixing as explained above and the other is below: 

3 cups basmati rice or other good quality long grain white rice
3 tablespoon salt
Oil for tah-deeg
2 1/2 litres water
2 tablespoon saffron dissolved
1 cup zereshk
3 Table spoon Oil or Butter
3-4 Tablespoon sugar
  1. Follow the recipe for Rice - Chelo and parboil the rice. 
  2. Heat a non-stick or heavy-based pot.  Add enough oil to cover the base. Pour little rice mixed with saffron into the pot and spread to cover the base. 
  3. Half the remaining rice.  Mix one half  with cooked zereshk and 2 teaspoon dissolved saffron.
  4. Place a  layer of plain rice in the pot followed  by a  layer of mixed zereshk saffron rice. continue layering until its finished.  
  5. Use the end of a wooden spoon and lightly push it few times into the rice, about 2-3 cm deep to make wells to trap steam. Cover the inside of the lid with a tea towel or two layers of paper towel. Place the lid on firmly.
  6. Cook for further 30 minutes on low heat. 
  7. Remove the lid, put a serving platter on the top of the pot and turn the pot upside down to remove the rice completely into the platter or spoon the rice out carefully not to disturb the tah-deeg, then break the tah-deeg and arrange it around the rice or in a separate plate. Serve with roasted or grilled chicken or meat, and accompanied by salad or Maast-O-Khiar

Zereshk Polo made with mixing rice with sauteed berries

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Shireeni-e Keshmeshi - Black Currant Cookies - شیرینی‌ کشمشی

The word shireen (sweet, شیرین) is used very much in the same way as it's meaning is used in English.  Someone can be described as shireen, sweets are called shireeni, foods can be shireen and it's also a girl's name. Shireeni keshmeshi is sultana cookies and it is very pliable when warm. It is one sweet that uses every day pantry stables and very quick to prepare and bake.  It is thicker than tuile biscuits and a little crisp.  We opted for Black currants instead of raisins or sultanas.  Here is how to make it:


3/4 Cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1/2 Cup  cooking Oil (not olive, peanut or sesame oils)
1 Cup plain flour
1/2 Cup Black currants
1 Tablespoons rosewater or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. In a large bowl, place the sugar, eggs and rosewater.  Beat with a fork until mixed well.
  2. Add oil and mix well.
  3. Add flour and mix until lumps are gone.
  4. Stir through the currants.
  5. Drop teaspoon sizes of the thick batter on lined baking trays, leaving about an inch in between them.
  6. Bake at 160C - 180C until edges are golden.
  7. Cool on cake racks.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Ice Cream - Bastani - بستنی

I can barely remember the first time I proudly made ice cream as a 12 year old. I had a recipe book from a friend, it's tired pages were slightly torn, the writings in black and had no pictures. I made the ice cream mixture and left it in the freezer to come back to it later for further mixing. I was easily distracted and didn't know how quickly it can freeze. When I opened the freezer door, low and behold, I found the mixture turned into a hard block of yellow ice! It was of course on the same very hot day when Dade-Bajee (my grandmother) dropped by our place on her way home from her shali-zar (rice field).  Oddly enough she went directly for the Yakhchal (refrigerator) door to grab something to cool her down.  I can now imagine how difficult it was for a grandmother to work in the middle of summer  harvesting rice.  Although, it was magical at times to drop by as a child and see how the crop progressed or to have fun planting rice into the muddy watery soil but there was no magic for the adults.  

Not long before the grandparents decided to go into rice farming, Agha Joon (my grandfather) lost his job when the effects of the 1979 Islamic revolution hit the citizens of Iran hard.  As we saw the gradual changes during the interim military government, we knew what the consequences of the Islamic revolution would be.  I was in grade 4 and my brother in grade 1, and we all lived through the most worrisome times of our lives without any stability.  One day, there was shortage of bread and the next day shortage of fuel and the story would go on and on.  The most distressful outcome of the revolution was complete ignorance of the most basic human rights for non-Muslim citizens of that country despite the fact that to this day Iran remains a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDH).   As part of all of those changes, suddenly most adults in our family lost their jobs in government offices and institutions.  Dade-Bajee was brave and despite her health and age decided rice farming was the way forward. 

I could clearly judge as a child that she needed something refreshingly cold to cool her and yes, Dade-Bajee found the best thing for herself; a stainless steel bowl full of custardy coloured ice frozen hard.  She quickly grabbed it and looked quite pleased.  Without paying any attention to what was going on around her she sat in the Birooni (outside sitting area) and started scrapping it's contents with a spoon and eating it.  As soon as she came in, I started to think about how angry she must be that mum left me alone at home.  So, I quickly started to explain before she asked but she showed no interest.  By the time I stopped talking, the bowl was licked clean, and she got up to leave. 

Persians know how to indulge when it comes to food and were quite adventurous with creating new foods.  The story of Persians inventing, ice cream sounds like a servant got very drunk and poured a little Shiraz on  snow covered footpaths and decided to serve it to his King who was also quite drunk.  That little incident happened around 400 B.C. and later with the invention of yakhchal (basements used as chillers) in winter months the snow was stored for use during warmer days.  Seriously, who would have thought that Persians can put Granita (the Italian iced treat) under their belts.  Of course, a little later on came the invention of Faloodeh which is vermicelli noodles served with crushed ice and flavoured with rose water and fruit syrups as sweetener.

However, Europeans perhaps had better ideas and they used dairy (milk and cream) as a creamy base for ice cream.  The shah and royalties always brought back what they enjoyed during their trips to the West and ice cream was one of those souvenirs.  Mozaffaroddin shah was the first person to bring it back to Iran and to establish an ice cream factory in his palace.  Akbar Mashti, who opened the first ice cream shop in Iran, is also the inventor of the most preferred ice cream flavour combination for Persians; rose water, pistachio and saffron.  He was a true marketing genius, if you ask me, he played it safe and simple, and his creation became famous as "Bastani-e-Akbar-Mashti". 

Bastani-noony (ice cream sandwich) is a very popular way of eating ice cream in Iran.

Here is the recipe:

5 egg yolks
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup cream
2 tablespoons rosewater
2 tablespoons dissolved saffron
Chopped pisatchios, as desired
  1. Combine egg yolks and sugar in a heat-resistant bowl. Place over a saucepan of simmering water and whisk constantly with a whisk or electric hand beaters for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale and a ribbon trail forms when the whisk or beaters are lifted.
  2. Remove the mixture from the heat, add rosewtare and saffron and whisk until cooled to room temperature (the mixture will thicken further as it cools).  Whisk the cream in a medium mixing bowl with a whisk or electric hand beaters until soft peaks form.  Stir the milk into the egg yolk mixture until well combined.
  3. Fold half the cream into the egg yolk mixture with a large metal spoon or spatula until almost combined. Add the remaining cream and fold gently until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add pistachios and fold gently.
  5. Pour the ice-cream mixture into an airtight container and seal.
  6. Place into the freezer and freeze for 8-10 hours or until firm. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
  7. About 20 minutes before serving, transfer the ice-cream to the fridge to allow it to soften slightly. Serve as desired.
Making ice cream without ice cream machine:

Place the ice cream mixture in a stainless steel bowl and put in the freezer. When it becomes partially frozen, that is , the sides and bottom are almost firm and the middle is still liquid, take out the ice cream and , using a whisk, beat the mixture vigorously to incorporate air and break up the ice crystals, until it becomes creamy. Return the bowl to the freezer and repeat the process 4 to 5 times more, beating vigorously each time. Lastly, transfer the ice cream to a freezer- proof container,  cover and freeze until ready to serve.

Or simply, place the mix in an ice cream maker bowl and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Persian Love Cake

I got to know this cake from My Kitchen Rules (Australian TV show).  I can comfortably say that this is not a cake of Persian origin, and I am not sure whether nutmeg is used in Persian sweets.   The history of Iran's baking is very much like the Indian sweets.  It consisted of sweet breads, fried or cooked sweet nibbles rather than what we associate today's baking with (cakes and baking in an oven).  Of course, now days most Persians claim most of Persian pastries and cakes as their own.  But what we must truly realise is that the traditional Persian sweets were very limited and specific to their regions.

As Iran underwent modernisation, naturally what lacked in the cuisine was adopted from other nation's cuisines.  The heavy influence of the European was not only apparent in the country's social development but also in Iran's bakeries.  These modern bakeries emerged in the prime of Pahlavi's dynasty when foreign ties were at their strongest.  Bakers of that time cleverly adjusted each recipe to suit their own market.  Distinctive Persian flavours were added to European pastries and cakes and suddenly Iran had it's Sweet Revolution! Widely accepted amongst the young and the old and voila! ... Iran's Westernisation of baked sweets swept aside the traditional sweets, and I think I can safely say that the traditional sweets became victims of Westernisation and simply became the "forgotten sweets". 

Now back to this cake, I do not fully understand the fuss over this cake.  It is simply a gluten free cake with Persian flavours.  I do not know whether the history of this cake is recorded anywhere but my dear Google informs me that the history of this cake is not very rosy.  A French lady baked this cake for a Persian prince to show her love for him but little she knew that he is allergic to saffron and he dropped dead after a bite or two. 

The recipe is from Gourmet Traveller and I left out nutmeg but instead used cardamom, rosewater and dissolved saffron. 


3 Cups Almond Meal
1 Cup Raw Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
120g Softened Butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
250g Yoghurt
1 Teaspoon Ground Cardamom
2 Teaspoon Rosewater
2 Teaspoons Dissolved Saffron
3 Tablespoons Slivered Almonds
3 Tablespoons Silvered Pistachios
  1. Preheat Oven to 180C.
  2. Combine all dry ingredients.
  3. Rub butter with fingertips until the mixture turns into crumbs.
  4. Sprinkle half of the mixture into lined baking tin (I used 26cm) and press with the bake of a spoon.
  5. Add eggs, yoghurt, cardamon, rosewater and dissolved saffron to the rest of the mix and mix with a spoon until smooth.
  6. Pour over the base.
  7. Scatter slivered almond and pistachios over the cake.
  8. Bake for roughly 20 minutes (until fully risen)
  9. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for a further 20 minutes (to stop over-browning it)
  10. Cool in the tin.

Hint: As this is a gluten-free cake, the mix is very sticky therefore, grease the baking tin generously with oil and line it with baking paper.  When turning the cake out of the tin, loosen the sides with a knife first.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Mint and Cucumber Quencher - Sekanjabin - سکنجبین

Nothing quite beats a perfect quencher on a hot summer day.  Mint and vinegar work magically together and you will twitch involuntarily when drinking this summer beverage.  Sekanjabin is a syrup essentially made of vinegar (serkeh) and anjabin (honey).   Traditionally made of honey but nowdays it is made of sugar.  Sekanjabin is watered down into a drink, or served on it's own as a dip for lettuce leaves.  On the last day of Naw Ruz celebrations (Sizdah Bedar) it is a custom to eat lettuce leaves with Sekanjabin. 
There are many versions of Sekanjabin recipe, but here is my version:


4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup red wine vinegar (the cheap stuff's better for this)
fresh mint, as much as you can get, crushed lightly
grated cucumber

  1. Bring the water, sugar and vinegar to a boil and then simmer until reduced ( 20 minutes is a good rule-of-thumb).
  2. Remove from heat, add the mint and allow to steep for about 15 minutes to an hour.
  3. Remove mint completely and drain syrup into glass bottles.
  4. Dilute between 8:1 to 15:1 with water and serve with plenty of ice and grated cucumber.