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'.