Nightingales and Roses

When I was 10 years old, we moved to Teheran. My dad is a civil engineer, and he was working for Sir Alexander Gibbs, specialising in dams and irrigation. The Shah of Iran was investing in infrastructure, building the Lar dam in the Alborz mountains, to the north of Teheran. 

We lived in north Teheran, in a dilapidated house that belonged to a dentist. It had a walnut grove, cherry trees, red and white mulberry trees, and a pomegranate tree. It was lovely. Our family employed Zara, a woman from Tabriz in the north west of Iran, to help out. She cooked us traditional Persian food. 

Particular favourites included Lubiya Polo, barbary nan, thick white yoghurt sold in blue-glazed earthenware bowls, nougat, salted pistachios, chicken stuffed with walnuts and plums. Zara showed us how to wash long-grain rice and cook it so it formed a delicious buttery crust at the bottom of the pan. I’ve longed to try these dishes again, and I’d love to revisit Iran to eat these dishes as an adult. 

It is only in the last few years that I have been able to find recipe books for Persian delicacies. Nightingales and Roses has to be the best. It is written by Maryam Sinaiee, who was born in Teheran, and only moved to the UK in 2011. She writes a food blog, and keeps alive the very strong tradition of Persian cookery. The book takes care to explain the balance of ingredients, how meals are structured and how the seasons bring their own flavours. The recipes are easy to follow, and any new techniques are well explained. 

An excellent book. 

 

Lamb stew with dried limes, vegetables, and borlotti beans (Khoresht-e Gormeh Sabzi)

I can’t believe I haven’t shared this recipe before. It uses the vegetables that are making a come-back after the winter, and is also a good way to use some of the Allium triquetrum leaves as they start to grow. It is a very unusual flavour for western palates, the dried limes and turmeric give the stew a rich flavour. I used the recipe in ‘Nightingales and Roses’ and added the vegetables growing in the garden. I wonder what it would be like with a bit of lovage?

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-4 dried limes (from Persepolis or other online shops)
  • 100g parsley
  • 100g coriander
  • 100g spinach or chard
  • 1 handful of kale tops
  • 1 handful of Allium triquetrum or inner leaves from small leeks
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 500g lamb (from shoulder or best end of neck) in large pieces. 
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 can borlotti beans, drained 

METHOD:

  • Cover the limes in hot water, and weigh them down with a small plate so that they soften over the next couple of hours. 
  • Strip the leaves from the parsley and coriander, and rinse all of the green vegetables, and leave to dry. 
  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a casserole dish and cook the onions until they are golden.
  • Add the lamb and turmeric and fry until the meat is browned. Add enough stock or water to cover the meat and bring to a slow simmer. Continue to cook on a low heat for an hour. 
  • Use a food processor to chop the green vegetables finely. You’ll need to do this in batches. 
  • Heat 2-3 tbsp oil in a pan and add the chopped vegetables, and cook until they begin to darken. Add the fried vegetables to the stew. 
  • Add the limes to the stew. To enhance the flavour, stab them a few times before putting them in. Braise for another 30 minutes
  • Add the borlotti beans and simmer for another 30 minutes. Check the flavour and add salt to taste. 

We had this with plain rice, and it was phenomenal. The main part of the stew is the beans and vegetables, with lovely tender lamb morsels. 

Persian Lamb and Celery Stew (Khoresht-e Karafs)

We got hold of some locally raised mutton the other week, and the first thing I made was this, so delicious. I love Persian food, and this recipe is just wonderful, so subtle and warming. It should be served with barberry rice, (zereshk polo), but we had it with plain rice, because I didn’t know at the time. 

The recipe is from Maryam Sinaiee’s book, Nightingales and Roses. All of the recipes I have tried from this book have been easy to follow, and delicious. She also writes a food blog called The Persian Fusion, which has a good gluten-free section as well. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large head of cellery
  • 100g flat-leaf parsley
  • 80g mint leaves
  • 6 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 500g lamb or mutton, cut into chunks (preferably lamb neck fillet or lean shoulder, but I had a bit of leg)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp plain foulr
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • juice of half a lemon
  • black pepper

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy casserole dish, and fry the onions over a moderate heat, until they start to brown
  • Add the lamb/mutton and the turmeric, and fry until lightly browed on all sides. 
  • Pour over boiling water, to cover the meat by a couple of centimetres. Bring to the boil, and then lower the heat so that the lamb/mutton can cook for the next hour. 
  • Next up, prepare the herbs. Remove any tough-looking stems from the mint and parsley, and add any leaves from the celery. Put them in a food processor, or slice finely. This makes quite a mound of chopped herbs. 
  • While the lamb continues to cook, cut the celery stalks into 2 centimetre pieces. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, and add the celery along with 2 tbsp water, and cover. The celery should cook for about half an hour, until almost soft and beginning to brown at the edges. 
  • Once the meat has been cooking for an hour, add the cooked celery pieces with all their juices. 
  • In the frying pan, heat another 2 tbsp oil, and add the herbs and flour, stir and cook for 4-5 minutes, making sure that the herbs don’t burn. Add the cooked herbs to the stew. 
  • Bring the stew back to the boil and cook for another hour (possibly an hour and a half) – the meat should be really tender and the sauce should be thickened. 
  • Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste, cook for a further five minutes. 

Serve with rice; I will test out the Zereshk Polo recipe soon. 

Green bean and potato kuku (Persian frittata)

We have a lot of potatoes at the moment, so I’m digging around in the recipe books for new things to do. This is a recipe from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. This is quite filling, and is good cold the next day as well. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tbsp oil
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and diced (around 1 cm cubes)
  • 3 packs of green beans (around 600g)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • a large pinch of salt 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten. 

METHOD:

  • Heat about 3-4 tbsp oil in a deep frying pan and cook the potato cubes for around 10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oil and put in a bowl lined with kitchen paper.
  • Fry the beans and carrots in the same oil for around 10 minutes, and then add them to the potatoes. 
  • Set the oven to 200C. Mix the salt, flour, baking powder and spices.
  • Beat the eggs, add the vegetables and flour/spice mix and stir to combine. 
  • My frying pan has an oven-safe handle so it is perfect. Otherwise use a shallow casserole dish. Put 2 tbsp oil in the pan and heat it in the oven for four minutes so it is hot. Pour in the mixture, and bake for 30 minutes, so the top is golden. 
  • Remove from the oven, allow to cool a little, and cut into wedges. 

 

Beef stew with fried peaches

This is a Persian recipe, which we made with some locally raised beef. The co-op has some peaches ready for ripening at home, which are ideal for this recipe, which is from Maryam Sinaiee’s book, Nightingales and Roses.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large white/yellow onion
  • 450g beef, cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 firm peaches
  • 20g butter
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Tiny pinch of saffron
  • chopped pistachio nuts

METHOD:

  • Put the saffron in a small cup and add a tiny amount of boiling water, and set aside
  • Heat the oil in a large flat casserole dish, and gently fry the onion until it is beginning to brown. 
  • Add the beef, turn up the heat a little, and fry until browned. 
  • Add the turmeric, cumin, white pepper, coriander, stir and add the tomato paste. Cook for another two minutes, stirring until the meat is well-coated. 
  • Add just enough boiling water to cover the meat, and bring back to the boil, then add the cinnamon and salt. Turn the heat down very low, and braise for a couple of hours, until the beef is very tender. 
  • Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to peel the peaches, halve them to remove the stones, and cut each half- peach into three segments. 
  • Melt the butter in a small frying pan, and fry the peach segments over a medium heat, until they are beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. 
  • When the beef is tender, add lemon juice to taste, and add a teaspoon of saffron water. 
  • Arrange the peach segments over the stew, spoon over the sauce, cover and cook over a low heat for a further 5 minutes
  • Garnish with chopped pistachio nuts, and serve with plain rice. 

Lamb and Carrot Stew with pickled sour grapes

So delicious. I tried this recipe from the marvellous book, ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. I had to order the grapes pickled in brine from Persepolis in Peckham. They also have excellent quality saffron and other essential Persian spices. If you can’t get pickled grapes, something else sour would do, such as lime or lemon juice, or small gooseberries. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • around 400g boned lamb, for example, leg steaks or boned shoulder, cut into fairly large chunks. 
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 25g butter
  • 500g carrots (around 5 medium carrots) chopped into batons around 3cm long. 
  • a tiny pinch of saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 4 tbsp pickled sour grapes. 

METHOD:

  • Over a medium heat, fry the onion in the olive oil, until beginning to brown. 
  • Add the meat, turmeric, cinnamon and cumin, and fry until the meat is browned. 
  • Stir in the tomato paste and salt, and stir and cook for another couple of minutes. Pour over enough boiling water to cover the meat, bring to a simmer and set to cook over a low heat for an hour and a quarter or so. 
  • Meanwhile, cut the carrots into batons and fry in the butter until beginning to caramelise at the edges. 
  • When the meat is almost cooked, combine with the carrots and add the saffron water, and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or so.
  • Check the seasoning, add the pickled grapes and stir. When you are sure the meat is really tender, serve with basmati rice. 

 

Lamb chops, Persian style

This is an excellent recipe for a beach barbecue (ready for when these are allowed). The chops can be put in the marinade in a sealed box, and they are all ready to cook when you get to wherever the barbecue is. I have also defrosted chops whilst marinading them. Not sure if that is allowed but it worked. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8 lamb chops
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 10 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp orange peel slivers
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g plain Greek Yoghurt
  • A good pinch of saffron threads in 2 tbsp water. 
  • Some more lime juice and 2 tbsp melted butter for basting

METHOD:

  • Put all of the ingredients in a plastic box with a good lid. Shake them together and marinade for a minimum of 8 hours. 
  • Under a hot grill, cook the chops for around 3 minutes on each side, basting with melted butter and lime juice. 
  • OR get the barbecue on, and when it is really hot (around 30 minutes) put the chops on, basting with butter and lime juice, and cook for around 3 minutes on each side. 

Serve with pitta bread and salad garnished with spring onions and basil. 

Lamb and prunes (Persian Style)

This is a classic combination of lamb and prunes, found across many cultures and cooking styles. This particular recipe is from the north west of Iran, near the border with Turkey. It is totally delicious and relatively easy. I found the recipe in the magnificent book ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Of course, we don’t have 100% of the ingredients in South Uist, but she makes suggestions that helped me to adapt to local circumstances. 

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 400g lamb neck fillets or lean tender lamb (I used boned lamb chops)
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp madras curry powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 8 dried apricots, chopped in half
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tsp salt 
  • 100g yellow split peas
  • 8 prunes
  • Oil to fry the potatoes. 

METHOD:

  • Heat 2 tbsp cooking oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat until they are browning. 
  • Add the meat, turmeric and curry powder, and continue to stir and cook until the meat is browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for another couple of minutes, and then cover the meat in boiling water. Bring to the boil and simmer for an hour and a half, until the meat is tender. 
  • Meanwhile, soak the apricots in water for at least 30 minutes
  • Meanwhile, cook the yellow peas – put them in a small saucepan and cover with water, and simmer over a low heat. The peas should be soft but still firm. Drain and rinse with cold water. 
  • Meanwhile, peel and dice the potatoes, and put them in cold water with the salt. 
  • When the meat is nearly tender, drain the apricots and add to the stew along with the prunes and split peas. Add a little water if needed to make sure all the ingredients are covered. Bring back to the boil and continue to simmer until the peas are soft. 
  • About 30 minutes before serving, check for seasoning. Drain the potatoes, and fry them in hot oil for about 10 to 15 minutes until golden and crispy. 

Serve the stew with the fried potatoes on top. This goes well with plain rice. 

Persian rice, beef and cabbage

This is a truly delicious meal, I keep sneaking back for extra portions. It uses a surprisingly small amount of meat to make a meal for around eight people. 

I derived the recipe from the astonishingly good book, Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. There are a couple of tweaks to match local circumstances and my store cupboard. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400g basmati rice
  • 400g white cabbage – I used a whole sweetheart cabbage
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 200g mince
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 5 tbsp tomato puree OR 250ml passata
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 20g butter

METHOD:

  • Put the rice in a large bowl, and cover with water, stirring to loosen any surface starch. Drain, and repeat this step three times, then leave the rice to soak in salted water for 30 minutes or more. 
  • Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pan. Bring the water back to the boil, and cook uncovered until the rice grains are on the surface of the water. This takes about six minutes or so. The rice should feel cooked, but still with a little bite to it. 
  • Drain the cooked rice and rinse with cold water to separate the grains and stop them cooking. 
  • Chop the cabbage coarsely and saute it in 1 tbsp of oil over a medium to high heat, seasoned with the black pepper. After five minutes, as it starts to brown, remove from the pan.
  • Add a bit more oil to the pan, and the chopped onions, fry for around 10 minutes until starting to brown. 
  • Add the mince, turmeric, and cumin, and fry until the mince is well browned. 
  • Add the tomato paste, salt and cabbage. If you are using tomato paste and not passata, then add 200ml boiling water. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. If the mixture is looking a little dry, or starting to catch, add another drop of water. 
  • Using the large pan, put a couple of tablespoons of oil at the bottom, and heat it. Then add alternating layers of rice and cabbage mixture, starting and ending with a rice layer. Wrap the pan lid in a tea towel and jam it firmly on top. 
  • Put the pan over a medium heat and cook until the outside of the pan is hot. 
  • Melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, and pour this over the top of the rice mountain in the pan. Put the pan into an oven at Gas 3, 170C, and bake for 30 minutes. 
  • When the dish is done, it should be turned out onto a platter, and served with yoghurt, pickled vegetables, and a salad of herbs. At this time of year, not that many delicious herbs in the garden, so I skipped that bit. 

 

Sweet and Sour wild goose with almonds

We have some wild goose breasts in the freezer, and I am always looking for good ways to cook them. Somewhere I have a traditional goose soup recipe to try, but before I could test it,  I came across a recipe for a lamb dish in Nightingales and Roses by Maryam Sinaiee. 

I must tell you, it was sensational, best recipe ever for wild goose. Spices are available from Seasoned Pioneers, and the other ingredients I got from Persepolis in Peckham. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g slivered or flaked almonds
  • 2 dried limes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 goose breasts, sliced into strips
  • 1 teaspoon of ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • 100g dried barberries
  • 30g butter
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water
  • a small pinch of saffron, ground and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • a teaspoon of brown sugar or date syrup
  • a large pinch of salt, to taste

METHOD:

  • Cover the almonds in cold water, and leave to soak. 
  • Cover the limes in boiling water, and put something on top to weigh them down so they remain immersed
  • Heat the oil in a heavy pan, and fry the onions over a medium heat for around 8 minutes, stirring frequently to make sure they don’t stick as they fry – they should be sticky and beginning to brown. 
  • Increase the heat to high, and add the goose meat and turmeric. Fry until the meat is browned on all sides. 
  • Add the tomato paste, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the cinnamon and enough water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and then simmer for half an hour. 
  • Rinse the limes, and pierce them in three or four places. Add them into the stew along with the drained almonds, and simmer for another half an hour. 
  • Fry the barberries in the butter. 
  • Just before serving, when the goose is cooked, check the flavour. Add salt and sugar to balance the sourness, and boil off any excess water. 
  • Add the rosewater, saffron water and barberries, and serve with plain rice.