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!    


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. 


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                                                       


. 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.