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