Friday, 26 December 2014

Charred Aubergine and Tomato Dip - میرزا قاسمی - Mirza Ghasemi


Summer is the season for party food and with a few more days left in the year many of us are preparing for New Year's Eve.  I hear from many food lovers to post recipes with aubergines (eggplants) and here we go!  This dip is traditionally cooked as a vegetarian dish with eggs. The Caspian region is famous for this dish.  I decided to go against tradition and tweak the recipe to make a dip for this party season.     

A quick post for today to wish you a very Happy New Year!    



   
Ingredients:

2 Aubergines
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, crushed or finely chopped
2 Tomatoes, skinned, seeds removed, finely chopped
1 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
4 Tablespoons Walnuts, roughly chopped
2 Tablespoons Mint, chopped
Salt and Pepper to season


  1. Prick the aubergines with a fork and place them directly over an open flame (gas stove, BBQ or charcoal BBQ) until the aubergines are completely charred; skin is blackened and soft.
  2. Allow the aubergines to cool and remove the skin.  Process in the food processor until smooth.
  3. Heat olive oil in a fry pan and add crushed garlic.
  4. Once garlic has browned, add the tomatoes.
  5. Stir until the tomato pieces become soft.
  6. Add the aubergines and tomato paste.
  7. Continue to fry for about 5 minutes. 
  8. Stir in the walnuts and chopped mint.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve the dip cold with flatbread. 



Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Pistachio and Saffron Marshmallows


"Iran is the land of secret recipes, poetry and flowers" said Anthony Bourdain.  You may think his description isn't accurate, let me try to explain! 


Rosewater, orange blossom water and saffron are the most popular flowers used in cooking.  Damask rose petals and bitter orange blossoms go through a very simple process of steam-distillation.  The process was developed in Iran by the first known Persian chemist; Avicenna.  A large pot is filled with water and rose petals, simmered for hours and steam is condensed in a small bowl which is rose water!  The most fragrant orange blossoms are from bitter oranges (seville orange).  We are lucky enough to have a tree at home which gives us enough blossoms for jam making.


My grandmother  (Dade-Bajee) made batches and batches of orange blossom water and mum made rose petal and orange blossom jams for us.  Almost two decades later, mum made a small jar of orange blossom jam.  In NZ, trees and flowers beautify the streets, but in Iran streets are lined with bitter oranges and in spring footpaths are covered with blossoms!  Probably enough blossoms for the whole city to make jam and extract blossom water and I am not exaggerating.  


Eating flowers may be a strange concept but Persian cuisine would not have existed if it wasn't for a few very essential flowers.  I can't begin to imagine how I could cook without saffron! 



  
I made a batch of marshmallows last week and loved every step of it.  If you have tried homemade ones or bought gourmet ones from specialty stores then you'll know these ones are far better!  I thought I'll make it super fun by adding ground pistachios and saffron to my batch of marshmallow for that very Persian floral flavour.  The recipe is adapted from Donna Hay.  I am a little disappointed that the rich yellow colour doesn't show very well in the photo, but very happy with the marshmallows!  They toasted very well and kept well in an airtight container. 


Ingredients:

1/2 Cup warm water
4 Tablespoons powdered gelatine

1.5 Cups caster sugar
1 Cup liquid glucose
1/2 water
1 Teaspoon saffron threads dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
1/4 Cup ground pistachios (grind it in a coffee grinder)

1.5 Cups icing sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch                                                       

                  
Method:

. Place the gelatine and warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer, stir well to combine and set aside.
 
. Place the sugar, glucose and extra water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil and cook without stirring for 5-6 minutes or until soft ball stage (115°C/240°F) on a sugar thermometer.  

. With the mixer running at a high speed, gradually add the hot syrup to the gelatine mixture. Add the saffron and beat for 10 minutes or until thick and fluffy. Fold in ground pistachios.

. Pour into a lightly greased 25 x 35cm (9¾ x 13¾ in) baking dish lined with non-stick baking paper and refrigerate for at least an hour.

. Place the icing sugar and cornflour in a bowl and stir to combine. Turn the marshmallow onto a surface lightly dusted with a little of the icing sugar mixture. 

. Cut into 5cm (2 in) squares. (To cut the marshmallow cleanly, dip the knife into boiling water and wipe dry between each incision).

. Dust with remaining icing sugar mixture and store in an airtight container.

. This recipe works very well with hand-held mixers.

. I used a 20cm x 20cm dish for very thick marshmallows.



Friday, 21 November 2014

Broad Bean and Dill Rice - Baghali Polo - باقالی پلو


Broad bean and dill rice served with braised lamb is a Persian spring dish. A couple of weeks ago, we harvested our handful of broad beans and cooked dill rice with fresh broad beans from our garden and the week after I baked a birthday cake, a massive four layer cake, and made tiramisu.  In short, this is my food news!


I sat in front of a computer screen many times over the last two weeks and have tried my hardest to write a blog post about food.  Every time, I tried and failed because I couldn't make sentences out of words in my head and at times there were no words in my head.  This time, I did not have a story to tell and the smell of food did not lift me and take me to another place and time.  So, I decided to forget about writing.  


The other day, I came across an article in the NZ Herald.  I read the paper or at least try to skim through it daily and every time I do this I'm reminded of an old Law Professor from the Bronx.  She was just like most law lecturers, too passionate about her stuff and full of energy, in fact so much energy that made my brain cells hurt and like every lawyer I know, she was socially awkward.  She said to read the paper daily, get to know who is who and who is not who, study the paper daily so you won't become that socially awkward person who lacks current knowledge and understanding of what reality is. I listened to her and if I am socially awkward at least I understand what my reality is!


Now back to that Herald article, it said:

"We should absolutely not worry about cosmic spanners, good or bad. They will come regardless. And we need to trust we have the strength to overcome if and when they do. Instead, we should focus on the nuts and bolts of everyday life. The tiny stuff. I cannot help but feel that the happiest way forward is to lean hard into joy. Lean much, much harder into the moments of joy and comfort accessible in every ordinary day that passes"

I have focused on downhill battles recently too much, and forgot about everyday joyful moments.  In fact, I forgot what everyday joy is for me anymore.  In everyday life, if you don't pause for a while, it's too easy to lose track of the kind of joy and comfort that article was referring to.  I cook and bake for the joy I get out of it, not because I have an obsession with eating.  Here is my foodie joys and comforts of the last couple of weeks: pulling broad bean plants out of the garden, spending a few moments looking at our roses, peeling broad beans over a quick chat, then taking photos (even though a frustrating experience, it gives me an opportunity to learn), then celebrating maman's 65th birthday and making her favourite dessert.




Ingredients:
2 cups basmati rice or other good quality long grain white rice
2 tablespoon salt
Oil for tah-deeg
2 table spoon Oil or Butter 
2 litres water
2 tablespoon saffron dissolved
extra water
1/4 Dried Dill Leaves  (or 1 cup fresh leaves, chopped)
500g Broad Beans, frozen, thawed and peeled
Dissolved saffron (optional)



Method:

  1. Soak dry dill leaves in a big bowl of water for at least one hour. If there is any foreign matter it'll end up in the bottom of the bowl.  
  2. Follow our recipe for chelo 
  3. Add the soaked dill leaves and broad beans 2-3 mins to boiling rice before draining the rice.
  4. Once drained, mix the rice with a spoon to ensure it's evenly mixed. 
  5. Follow the rest of the Chelo recipe for steaming. 
  6. Optional: Mix some cooked rice with dissolved saffron. 
Serve with lamb shanks 



Last week, we celebrated Maman's birthday and she got her favourite dessert, tiramisu.  Her birthday cake was an almond cake filled with mascarpone and passionfruit curd then covered with Swiss meringue buttercream and sprinkles, topped with edible flowers.  


Saturday, 1 November 2014

Sumac and Saffron Chicken with Barberries



Weeknight dinners don't need to be complicated or time consuming.  A simple healthy dinner can be prepped the night before and all there is left to do is minimal cooking which is perfect for this time of the year leaving more time for outdoor activities.  Saffron chicken is a simple dish cooked in a pot with a few ingredients and usually served with rice, but this version can be grilled on a barbecue or baked in an oven.    I made this on a weekend day and went to the trouble of making wraps from scratch, but if you don't have time there is always the option of buying them.    Sumac and saffron can be found in most grocery stores these days and barberries are found in specialty stores.  



This recipe has been published in the second issue of Eat New Zealand, head over to their website and subscribe to a free monthly e-magazine.  




Ingredients:

6-8 Boneless Chicken Thighs 
1 Onion, sliced 
1 clove Garlic, crushed
2 Tablespoons Sumac
1 Lemon, juiced
1 Teaspoon Saffron Threads
2 Tablespoons Barberries
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Teaspoon Salt


Method:

1. In a small ramekin, place the saffron threads with 2 Tablespoons of boiling water.  Cover and allow to brew for at least 30 minutes.
2. Mix onion slices, crushed garlic, lemon juice, sumac, saffron, salt and olive oil in a bowl, and add the chicken pieces. 
3. Ensure all the chicken pieces are covered with the marinade.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (for best result marinate overnight).
4. Place the chicken pieces on a baking tray, sieve the marinade over the chicken pieces. 
5. Bake in a hot oven at 220C for about 20 minutes or until golden. Test the chicken pieces by cutting the thickest part and see if juices run clear.
6. Once golden, sprinkle the barberries over the chicken pieces and bake for 2 minutes.
7. Serve with a salad, mint yoghurt and lavash wraps. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Persian Cress and Pomegranate Salad

Hello My Persian Feast Lovers!

It's been a long while since our last blog post.  We've been busy with two classes organised by Wellington Foodies at Crave Cooking School.  We've thoroughly enjoyed bringing you mezze classes and we have loads of fun stuffing vine leaves and sipping tea! If you have attended one of our classes, a big thank you for coming along.  It was our pleasure meeting you and sharing with you our love of cooking.  If you are keen to attend our next class, keep an eye on Wellington and Auckland Foodies pages!


At our second class, we had tea brewed with real rose petals with rose shortbread after eating what we cooked ... what a feast that was!




Not very long ago, I took a photo of New Zealand grown pomegranates and now the American ones are on the market.  Pomegranates are in season in autumn in the States and we get container loads of it here from now until January.  It is a delicious fruit and goes well with meat and in salads. 
  


What is in season right now and is growing in abundance in our backyard is Persian cress (Persian Broadleaf); a peppery and aromatic herb similar to rocket and watercress.  Traditionally, we always ate it fresh as a side dish mixed with other fresh herbs.  A few months ago, I came across an article by The Independant about this lovely herb and how British diners are eating more exotic leaves these days.  It has not yet hit store shelves here in New Zealand and I thought I better get a head start and make a light salad for a Persian feast.  



Ingredients:

1 Baby Cos Lettuce roughly chopped
1 Cup Persian Cress Leaves
1/4 Pomegranate, seeded
1 Lebanese Cucumber, sliced
1/4 Cup Whole Pistachios, slightly roasted
1/4 Cup Sugar

Dressing: 

1 Tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses
5 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Salt and Pepper 


  1. Place sugar in a small saucepan and heat it until completely melted golden.
  2. Add pistachios to melted sugar, stir to coat the pistachios with sugar. 
  3. Pour the pistachios on a baking sheet to cool.
  4. Place the dressing ingredients in a jar, put the lid on the jar and shake well.
  5. In a large platter, assemble the salad greens, top with pomegranate seeds and pistachios.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad before serving. 




Sunday, 15 June 2014

Lamb and Barley Soup - سوپ جو - Soup-e Jo


Autumn, my favourite season, is over.  The end of pomegranate season marks the end of autumn.  Luckily, the weather is still mild and pleasant and has that autumn feel to it.  We dried a few trays of pomegranate seeds in the oven and set them aside for maman's chicken and pomegranate stew (sometimes with slices of fried eggplants).  Most pomegranates are imported from USA around Christmas time, which is the Northern Hemisphere's autumn. This year, it has been great seeing NZ grown pomegranates in the markets. We have the sour smaller variety which is perfect for cooking (not to be eaten fresh).  There hasn't been much activity in the back yard recently.  Our backyard girls (chooks) got out of their coop a few times when I was looking after them and feasted on fenugreek, lettuce, spinach, coriander and parsley seedlings. So, quite a slow start to harvesting winter greens.  We dug up Jerusalem artichokes and pickled them with chillies and herbs.  This autumn, has definitely been a great chilli season! 


I came home the other day with a leg of lamb, probably the biggest leg of lamb I have ever bought ... 3.5kg!  I struggled to carry it up the stairs with the rest of the groceries.  Fearing what maman would say about the size of it, I pre-empted her reaction by saying I am going to make soup with the off cuts.  She happily got into trimming, slicing, portioning and freezing, and I was looking up recipes of all things lamb online!  It didn't take me that long to come up with the idea of lamb steaks and herbed couscous.  Maybe for next time, but this time it was time for a hearty soup. 


Soup was always a dinner we had when someone was sick in our household and I still associate soups with illness!  The chicken and noodle soup I always had was thick and hearty with chunky vegetables, a whole bunch of chopped parsley and a generous dash of lemon juice.  The smell of parsley and chicken was way too strong for my liking.  Once I tried to make the same soup for maman when she was sick.  I made my brother drive all over Auckland to pick up a bowl of chicken soup from me and take it to maman.  I had a call from her the next day to say "thank you but you shouldn't have".  I got the message ... when she says you shouldn't have, it means it wasn't great!  At that moment, I told myself chicken soup isn't my forte. 


I have never attempted to recreate that soup since that day, but instead I found a new favourite soup.  Lamb and mint is a no brainer and with the addition of barley, it becomes a hearty and nourishing soup. Soups are the easiest foods to cook, but the ingredients must be carefully selected for an amazing soup.  Fried onion flakes, mint and garlic along with kashk (yoghurt or sour cream substitute) are typical toppings for Persian aash (or soups). They are not decorations!  They add extra creaminess, texture and flavour to soups and are absolutely essential so, best to make the extra effort.  




Ingredients:

300g Lamb (neck and shanks are great but any other slow-cook suitable cut is fine)
1/2 Cup Barley
2 Tablespoons Dried Mint Leaves
2 Teaspoon Turmeric
4 to 5 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 Cup finely chopped leeks (or 1 medium onion)
2-3 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt and pepper to season
Oil for cooking
2 Medium Onions Sliced
Greek Yoghurt to serve

Method:

  1. Soak the barley for a couple of hours before cooking.
  2. Saute chopped leeks with turmeric until soft.
  3. Add the meat pieces and brown them on high heat.
  4. Add enough water to cover the meat, reduce heat and cover.  You can use stock if you have any.
  5. Once cooked, pull the meat off the bones and discard the bones.
  6. Add the barley and 2 more cups of water.
  7. Once the barley is cooked, add dried mint and allow to simmer for at least 10 minutes.
  8. Once cooked to your liking, season the soup.
  9. To make crunchy onion flakes, Slice the onions about 2mm thick.  Add to a sauce pan of boiling water for about a minute and drain.  Place on a tea towel to dry.  Heat some oil in a small sauce pan, add the sliced onions in batches and fry until golden.  
  10. Serve this hearty soup with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt and topped with crunchy onion flakes.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Quince and Vanilla Bean Jam - مربای به - Moraba-ye Beh


This is the last quince post for this year!  Last year, I struggled with finding the right quince for making jam.  If you have ever cooked quince before or made jelly with it, you'll know very well that all quinces are not the same. Sweet ones cook very quickly and turn into mush, and sour ones are firmer and take much longer to cook. Quince has high levels of pectin which diminishes as it ripens so, the trick is to find the ones with perfect levels of pectin for jam and jelly making.  This year, a few kilos were brought up from Canterbury from a cousin's tree. These quinces were not photogenic and looked a little neglected and I had enough of cooking with quince this year but they were perfect for jam making so an opportunity not to be missed. 


Today is Mother's Day and a perfect day for baking scones which are perfect for maman!  one of her favourites.  Everytime we cut open a quince, we keep the seeds.  Quince seeds are tossed on a tray and left on our kitchen bench for a few days to dry, then stored in a jar. Quince seed tea is perfect for sore throats and coughs in winter.  We always have a little jar full of these seeds in preparation for winter ills.  


This batch turned out quite chuncky but feel free to cut quince into cubes or it can even be mashed before sugar is added if you prefer a more spreadable jam. There is no need to add pectin to this jam as quince is naturally high in pectin.  The deepness of the colour depends on how long it has been simmered and on the quince itself :) 


Ingredients:
1.5 kg Quince
2-3 cups water
400g White Sugar
Half a Lemon
Half a Vanilla Bean Pod (optional)

  1. Peel and slice quinces.  Save the seeds, dry them on  tray and store in a jar. 
  2. In a pot, add water to the quince and simmer on low heat for 5-10 minutes (until quince starts to soften).  Vanilla is optional and can be added at this stage.
  3. Add sugar and lemon juice.
  4. Simmer on low heat until quince turns red and sugar syrup has thickened.  This can take upto an hour. 


Sunday, 4 May 2014

Baklava Cake (Gluten Free)





Baklava comes in many forms and shapes.  Persians do not make the traditional filo pastry filled baklava, but instead they make a thin almond cake soaked heavily in syrup and cut into small pieces.  In Turkey, I came across so many varieties of baklava that if I tried to write down a list of flavours, the list will probably be a few pages long!  It really is a baklava haven!


Baking a good looking and delicious cake can sometimes turn a dull day into an exciting adventure.  It is magical and fascinating how eggs aerate, how sugar can melt by whisking it, how a cake rises and turns into a golden goodness and not to forget the anticipation of eating it.  Baking is a delicious adventure and knowing the science of it all doesn't stop me from having fun with it and making discoveries.  


I made this cake for those who prefer a light cake syrup with mild flavours and it was the first time I made it gluten free which worked out pretty well.  I used honey in the syrup but sugar will be fine.  This is our first entry for Sweet New Zealand, a monthly blogging event, and this month it is hosted by Sue from Couscous & Conscience.  


This coming Sunday is mother's day and it will be a perfect afternoon tea :) 


Ingredients:

6 eggs
1 cup caster sugar
3/4 Cup cooking oil
2.5 cups almond meal
1 cup rice flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cardamom powder
2 teaspoon rose water


Syrup:
1/2 cup honey (or 1 cup sugar)
1 cup water
2 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons rose water
Juice of half a lemon

Decoration:
Half cup roasted almonds (whole, sliced or slivered)
Half cup white sugar
Half cup crushed pistachios




Method:

  1. Beat sugar and eggs on high until it turns white (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add oil and mix until combined.
  3. Fold in the almond meal, baking powder and rice flour carefully.
  4. Bake in a 23cm lined tin at 160C for 50 minutes.  
  5. Cool in the tin.
  6. Pour warm syrup over the cake before serving.
  7. To make the syrup, in a sauce pan mix all ingredients.
  8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.
  9. To make the almond praline, melt sugar in a small sauce pan until golden and add the almonds.
  10. Pour the hot praline on a baking sheet and allow to cool.
  11. Once completely cool and hard, crush it in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or in the food processor.

I'll leave you with a scanned photo of me sitting in a mosque in Turkey in 2004 dreaming of making baklavas all day long and eating it too ;)


                                             

                                                        




Stuffed Capsicums and Eggplants - دلمه - Dolmeh


It has been too long since our last blog post!  Here is a short update of what I have been upto ... I attended a photography and food styling workshop with Helene Dujardin end of March with a few bloggers and food writers, continued my two days per week of consuming 500 calories and still firmly believe it's all for better health, Easter came and brought 3 hot cross buns, endless chocolates which I'm still struggling to get through and visited Auckland museum and the art gallery, spent 23 hours in Christchurch attending a family funeral, made plans with Miss 5 to bake a strawberry shortcake later this month and on Anzac Day a visit by an old friend! ... a lot more happened in between ... I visited our local member of Parliament to discuss issues facing Bahai's in Iran.  Maman was away on a completely un-planned tiki tour of New Zealand and we crossed paths in Christchurch. She arrived home today happy and ready to look after her chooks. I am looking forward to a long weekend visit by Master 7 and Miss 5 later this month. 


I made these stuffed veggies a few weeks ago for no reason other than I was given a can of Turkish stuffed vine leaves and it reminded me of stuffed capsicums, but I also wanted to learn how to make them.   I realised this is quite easy and does not require a great deal of experience.  If you want to give it a go you'll need to visit your Indian grocer and buy chana dal (or Lapeh in Persian shops).  Chana dal looks very similar to yellow split peas but has a different texture, flavour and holds its shape once cooked.  




Ingredients:

3/4 Cup Rice
1/4 cup Indian Chana Dal or Persian Lapeh
300g Ground Meat (lamb or beef)
1 Onion, chopped
3 T Dill, dried 
2 T Summer Savoury / Tarragon leaves, dried
1 T Mint, dried 
1 Tablespoon Tomato paste
Salt, pepper, cooking oil and turmeric

6-8 Capsicums

  1. Wash and soak chana dal and rice for a few hours. 
  2. Saute onions with a little oil and turmeric.
  3. Add mince and stir to ensure the mince does not stick to the pan and that it browns evenly.  Add herbs.
  4. Par-boil the rice and chana dal and add it to the meat.  Stir in salt and pepper to season.
  5. Cut the top of each capsicum and discard the seeds.
  6. Fill each capsicum with the meat&rice mix to about 1cm off the top (room for rice and chana dal to cook).  Place the tops back on the capsicums.
  7. Place the capsicums in a pot.  Fill the pot with 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon of tomato paste.
  8. Cook on low heat for about 45min-1 hour until the sauce has thickened and the rice is completely cooked. 



Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Spiced Quince and Lime Shortcake


Well, yeah, another quince post!  I did say I am on a mission to change how we use quince!  All week I planned the photo of this shortcake in my head, not only the shortcake but how I wanted the photo to turn out.  It is not an amazing photo neither are the props but by the time Saturday came around I was so tired of thinking and rethinking the photo that all I wanted to do was to dive in, bake, take a photo and just eat a slice.  In the process I forgot to check whether I had all the ingredients.


It is autumn - I am reminded of this fact every morning I step out of my car breathing the crisp fresh autumn morning air.  We have had the same three back yard chooks for the past 18 months.  They are amazing animals, not only they give us eggs but they remind us of when daylight savings is about to begin and when it is time to end.  They don't like our visitors much (I think they chicken out really!).  When the weather is getting cold and days are getting shorter they lay less eggs and during summer they lay everyday. Being just the beginning of autumn, their body clock is adjusting and they stopped laying eggs for a couple of weeks now and our egg tray is completely empty.  On Saturday morning, in the middle of kitchen chaos I had to pop out to the shops to buy eggs.  By the time I got back, there was an egg in the coop ... maybe they know me too well!  


Shortcake is a cross between a cake and soft biscuit without all the formalities of cake making.  It is quick and versatile.  If you are not in the mood to cook quince for this recipe, you can always use apples and berries. 



Ingredients:

125g Butter, softened
125g Caster Sugar
Vanilla Essence
1 egg
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder

Sliced Almonds
Demerara Sugar

2 Quinces, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cardamom pods
Juice of 1 lime


Method:
  1. Place quince slices, water, sugar, lime juice and cardamom into a small sauce pan and simmer on low heat until the quinces turn slightly pink. 
  2. In a medium bowl, mix butter, sugar, vanilla and egg with a fork.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder and almond meal.
  4. Line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  5. Pour half of the cake mix into the lined pan and flatten the base.
  6. Cover the base with cooked quines.
  7. Pour the rest of the cake batter in the tin and flatten the cake sighty.
  8. Sprinkle with demerara sugar and sliced almonds.
  9. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes.


Monday, 31 March 2014

Quince and Lamb Stack - تاس کباب - Toss Kebab


I am on a mission this autumn to change the way we use quince. We have been ignoring quinces far too long!  Of course, cooking with quince is no foreign concept to a Persian.   I agree, quince cannot be eaten raw but this is no excuse for ignoring this beautiful magical fruit.  Whenever I talk about cooking with quince, I hear stories about someone's mother or someone else's grandmother had a quince tree and used to make quince paste, jelly or jam. Really? I am not referring to quince paste.  I am talking about using quince as an ingredient and as a star of a dish.  Quince is a very strange fruit, it starts off yellow but when simmered for a long time it turns pink/red.  Quince is fragrant, delicate, slightly tart and full of pectin. It goes well with red meat and is fantastic in baking.  


I love autumn not only because quinces are in season, but because the weather is perfect, not too hot with crisp fresh air and crimson red leaves everywhere.  It is the time of the year, we start to cook more comforting hearty dishes and the evenings start to get longer perfect for the season's endless apple crumbles.  Having received my first quinces last weekend, I cooked a very hearty but super effortless lamb and quince stack.  Like lasagne, I layered all ingredients and left it to simmer on low heat until completely cooked.  I am not quite sure why this dish is called 'toss kebab', it could be because ingredients are tossed into a pot?? maybe.



Ingredients:

2 large Onions
1-2 Quince
500g Lamb Shoulder or Leg cut into steaks
3 Large Potatoes
3-4 Tomtoes
2 Capsicums (optional)
Eggplant, Carrots, Prunes are also optional
Cooking oil, turmeric, salt and pepper


Method:
  1. Peel and slice the onions about 2cm thick. 
  2. In a medium pot, Saute the onions in a little oil and turmeric on high heat, until softened.
  3. Reduce the heat and cover the onions with a layer of lamb steak.
  4. Add about half a cup of water, a little salt and pepper for seasoning.  
  5. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. At this stage, there should be a lot of liquid in the pot almost like soup.
  7. Add a layer of peeled and sliced quince, then a layer of potatoes, capsicums and finally a layer of tomatoes.
  8. Cook for a further 20 minutes, check the potatoes and quince.
  9. Simmer on low heat until the liquid has thickened and about 1cm of sauce is left.  




Thursday, 20 March 2014

Rose and Rice Shortbread (GF) - Chickpea and Cardamom Shortbread (GF) - نان برنجی و نخودچی

Berenji


Tonight is a special night, it is Naw Ruz eve.  Naw Ruz (literally meaning new day) is the Persian new year and is celebrated at the precise time of the vernal equinox, first day of spring.  Naw Ruz is celebrated by Persians of all religions (and no religion) as historically it was a tradition which began during the first Persian empire.  Symbols of new life made their way into Naw Ruz festivities and became known as the Haft-seen (the seven S's).  Seven items symbolising new life are displayed on a table which is the only decoration used for Naw Ruz.  For Bahai's, Naw Ruz is a holy day and is celebrated differently in different parts of the world.  As Bahai's have no rituals and traditions, we are free to celebrate this holy day however we choose to do so. 


Naan Nokhodi



I miss how Naw Ruz used to be, I miss the sweet smell of baking, I miss the sound of nuts cracking, I miss watching little goldfish in a little blue bowl with rippled edges, I miss Naw Ruz laughter and I miss the excitement of not knowing who just knocked on our front door waiting to say "Happy Naw Ruz". It was the only anticipated day in the entire year, we had two weeks off school, wore our new clothes, visited family and friends, ate endlessly and collected our Eidee (gift of money).  On the thirteenth day, we packed our sabzeh and tossed it in a flowing stream to officially end the Naw Ruz festivities. 



Lentil Sprouts

I have vivid memories of how we used to celebrate Naw Ruz back in Iran.  We had the usual sabzeh (sprout) and goodies.  There are two very traditional types of shortbread served at Naw Ruz celebrations.  Rosewater and rice flour shortbread and chickpea with cardamom shortbread.   As I am hastily typing this post and frequently glancing at the TV screen, I am also smelling fresh herbs, rice and fish as maman is busy cooking dinner.  Herbed rice and fish is a traditional Naw Ruz eve meal and so is Kuku Sabzi.  Ash-e reshteh is served for Naw Ruz day lunch as noodles resemble threats of life. 





Chickpea and Cardamom Shortbread (Naan Nokhodi, Nokhodchee)


120g Vegetable Shortening
25g Butter (softened)
125g Icing Sugar
2 Teaspoons Cardamom Powder
2 Cups Chickpea Flour, pan roasted and sieved

Method:

  • Cream butter, vegetable shortening and icing sugar.
  • Add cardamom powder and 1 cup of flour.
  • Mix and continue to add chickpea flour gradually until the dough is not sticky.  This dough should not stick to your hands.
  • Roll small amounts of dough to about 1cm thickness, cut with a small cookie cutter.
  • Bake at 150C (not fan forced) for about 12-15 minutes. 
  • Cookies come out of the oven slightly soft and harden when cooled.
  • Do not brown the cookies.
  • Sprinkle with crushed pistachios.


Rose and Rice Shortbread



125g Butter, softened
1/2 Cup Icing Sugar 
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 egg
2 Tablespoons Rosewater
1.5 Cups Rice Flour (finely ground)
Poppy Seeds for decorations



  •  Cream butter and sugar first.  
  • Add egg and rosewater and combine well.
  • Add the flour and baking powder gradually.  The dough is slightly sticky.
  • Measure approx. tablespoon sizes of the dough, roll it and flatten the top slightly or with a toothpick make crosses on top.
  • Sprinkle with poppy seeds before baking.
  • Bake at 150C (not fan forced) for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Cookies should not be browned.
  • Ensure the centre is cooked. 


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Lemon and Saffron Braised Lamb Shanks - ماهی‌ چه



Lamb, glorious lamb I say!  We are a family of lamb eaters and I say it with such pride!  In New Zealand lamb is huge if you haven't heard ;) and it is lamb lovers haven.  Lamb has a very edgy flavour and delicate texture when cooked well, compare it with beef and all you get is complete let down!  Cheaper cuts of meat usually make a perfect hearty dish and require longer cooking time.  Lamb shanks if seasoned well and cooked for the right amount of time are perfect for weekend cooking and keep well as leftovers.  


Lamb goes well with most veggies and is perfect with mashed potatoes.  Persians eat mashed potatoes believe it or not, and it is not just a classic English food.  Boiled potatoes are mashed and then fried in onions and mint leaves.  A flavoursome and aromatic mashed potato with mint is perfect with lamb and we all know lamb and mint is one combo no one can argue with. 


As we are pressured to buy leaner cuts of meats (thanks Jamie Oliver!), we still need fat on most cuts of meats to be able to cook perfect dishes! When choosing lamb shanks, it is best to go for the ones with slightly more fat than the leaner ones if you want the humble overlooked and uncredited lamb shanks to melt in your mouth and amaze everyone at a dinner table, it is best to stick with fatty shanks.   


As lamb can be quite smelly for some people, it best to marry it up with aromatic hebs. Everyone has a recipe or knows someone who can cook the best lamb shanks but a good recipe is not needed and all you need is a little patience.  Saute chopped onions and garlic until golden and add the lamb shanks with a little water and simmer it until the meat is cooked.  At this stage, feel free to add herbs and spices and in my case I have gone down the Persian flavour path and added dissolved saffron with lemon peel and juice with salt and pepper to season it.  I have jazzed up my mashed potato with fried onion flakes and mint oil. 

There you go a hearty dish with help from our number one enemy 'Fat'.





Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Watermelon, Feta Cheese and Bread - نون و پنیر


Summer is about to end in this part of the world and we have been endlessly indulging in the simplest summer meals.  Chilled yoghurt soup and watermelon served with feta cheese are humble quick dishes served on long summer nights.  The refreshing and vibrant summer produce are so satisfying right now.  Juicy sweet watermelon is balanced perfectly with the sharp saltiness of feta cheese (or grilled halloumi) and it really is summer soul food. If you haven't tried yellow watermelon yet, you are not missing out!


Another cooling snack is cucumber sliced and sprinkled heavily with golpar namak