Wednesday, 20 February 2013
Monday, 18 February 2013
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 Chelo! You 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:
- Follow the recipe for Rice - Chelo and parboil the rice.
- 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.
- Half the remaining rice. Mix one half with cooked zereshk and 2 teaspoon dissolved saffron.
- Place a layer of plain rice in the pot followed by a layer of mixed zereshk saffron rice. continue layering until its finished.
- 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.
- Cook for further 30 minutes on low heat.
- 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
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
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
- In a large bowl, place the sugar, eggs and rosewater. Beat with a fork until mixed well.
- Add oil and mix well.
- Add flour and mix until lumps are gone.
- Stir through the currants.
- Drop teaspoon sizes of the thick batter on lined baking trays, leaving about an inch in between them.
- Bake at 160C - 180C until edges are golden.
- Cool on cake racks.
Friday, 15 February 2013
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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Add pistachios and fold gently.
- Pour the ice-cream mixture into an airtight container and seal.
- Place into the freezer and freeze for 8-10 hours or until firm. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month.
- About 20 minutes before serving, transfer the ice-cream to the fridge to allow it to soften slightly. Serve as desired.
Or simply, place the mix in an ice cream maker bowl and follow the manufacturer's instructions.
Tuesday, 5 February 2013
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.