I’ve been eating a lot of salad this summer, this is a good one to serve with some of the other dishes that I’ve posted this year. It is from Nightingales and Roses by Maryann Sinaiee. I have adapted it a bit, because we don’t get a lot of pomegranates on South Uist, but you can add these for an extra burst of colour and flavour.
Half a long cucumber
About the same weight in cherry tomatoes
About the same weight in spring onions
A couple of sprigs of fresh mint
A good squeeze of lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Peel the cucumber and dice
Cut the tomatoes into 8 (half, half and half again)
Chop the spring onions into small circles
Chop the mint finely
Mix the chopped ingredients.
Just before serving, mix in the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
I can hardly wait to tell you about this recipe, or to eat it again. It is delicious, and dangerously garlicky, so I think I will be in trouble at work tomorrow. I made it with tinned beans, but the original recipe starts from scratch. I got the recipe from the remarkable book, Nightingales and Roses. These are recipes from all over Iran, organised by seasonal availability of ingredients. Where she wins over my other current favourite book, Jerusalem, is her serving suggestions.
1 can of cannellini or borlotti beans
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small bulb of garlic, with the cloves peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
3 tsp of dill seed, or 5 tsp dried dill weed, or 30g fresh dill, chopped
salt, to taste
Melt the butter in a medium lidded frying pan, add the oil and then the chopped garlic, and fry until the garlic is turning golden.
Add the turmeric, pepper, dill, and salt, and then add the can of beans including the water they are in.
Bring to a simmer, and cook, until the mixture is getting drier and thicker.
Make 4 wells in the bean mixture, and into each well, break an egg. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat until the eggs are cooked to your liking.
The book suggests serving this with a little rice, with side dishes of olives, chopped radishes, smoked fish. We were not so dainty, and served this with a side salad with herbs and some bread, olives and labneh.
This is just too good to be true, and too good not to share. The Hebrides produces the main ingredients so well. Mint and rhubarb grow in my garden, and there are sheep all around. The recipe is Persian, and this version comes from ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee.
5 tbsp vegetable oil, or 50/50 oil and butter
2 onions, finely chopped
400g lamb, off the bone and cut into large cubes
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
120g parsley, finely chopped
50g fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp flour
3 stalks of rhubarb sliced into 2cm lengths
2 tsp date syrup, or brown sugar
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a casserole dish, and lightly brown the onions.
Turn up the heat a little and add the lamb, turmeric, salt and pepper, and fry until the meat is browned on all sides
Pour over boiling water, so that the meat is covered by around 2 cm of water. Simmer for an hour and a half.
Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan, and cook the herbs for four to five minutes, until they start to darken.
Add the flour, and continue to stir and cook for another three minutes or so.
Add the herbs to the lamb stew and simmer for another half an hour, to make a thick minty stew. At this point, the stew can be set aside and can be finished another day. Just add the herbs, and then stir and freeze, and then do the half hour simmer on defrosting.
Add the rhubarb and date syrup, stir it in and then cook the stew on a low heat for another 10 to 15 minutes. Don’t stir, as this will break up the rhubarb
I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle.
I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make.
4 tbsp olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped finely
1 tbsp turmeric
1.5 litres boiling water
50g arborio rice
1 can of chickpeas, drained
1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
300g spinach, chopped
1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
Black pepper to garnish
Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end.
Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes.
Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle.
Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper.
For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs.
When I was much younger, I lived in Teheran, and we used to have barbecues when we were out and about – often my dad would barbecue chicken, but we’ve had some amazing meals. We had a sort of portable barbecue, and some rush fans to get the charcoal glowing hot.
I made these kebabs under the electric grill at home, but they would taste so much better cooked under an open sky, the sun throbbing in the sky, with mountains on the horizon and an icy river flowing through the rocks below.
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
1kg beef mince, or 50/50 beef and lamb
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
A pinch of saffron, ground in a pestle and mortar and dissolved in a tsp of hot water
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp salt
Chop the onion and garlic, and put it in the blender with the lime juice and blitz it.
Put the meat, onion/garlic/lime, salt, pepper, saffron and baking soda in a large bowl. Kneed the mixture with your hands for 15 minutes to make a paste
Divide the meat into eight or so lumps, and press this around the skewers. The skewers should be flat, so that the kebab doesn’t spin round. We used some stainless steel strips cut into 18 inch lengths. Mold the meat around the skewers. Once they are ready, set aside in a cool place.
If you are using a barbecue, this should be lit and burning for around half an hour before cooking, so that the charcoal is glowing hot. We had the grill set to high.
In a small pan, melt the butter and combine with a dash of lime and a pinch of salt. A little cayenne pepper could also be added here.
Brown the kebabs quickly on each side, so that the outer layer is firm; this is to stop the kebabs falling apart.
Baste with the butter and lime, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
Serve with flat bread, and salad. The kebab can be garnished with lime juice or sumac powder. The best salad would be yoghurt, spring onions, herbs and garlic, perhaps with some walnuts.
Some of you will know that I spent some time living in Teheran when I was a child. Zara used to work for our family as a housekeeper, and she used to cook wonderful Persian home-cooking for us. Our favourite was a dish called Loubia Pollow, made with rice, beans, tomatoes and lamb. We also used to eat the most delicious barbari bread and thick plain yoghurt sold in blue earthenware bowls.
I have sought to recreate the flavours of the food we ate there, and have never managed to get it quite right. Persian food is very complex and sophisticated, from ancient civilisations, combining the herbs and spices of east and west.
There are a few sites online where you can look up Persian recipes, but the flavours and end-results are unfamiliar to most. I have one recipe book, A Taste of Persia which is aimed at the US market, and has all the ingredients in cups. I’ve been working my way through the recipes and re-jigging them to suit local ingredients and UK directions.
1 cucumber, peeled and finely diced
1 500g tub of full-fat plain Greek Yoghurt
A bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp fresh dill or fennel leaf, chopped
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
Garnish of fresh mint, rose petals, dill leaf, chive flowers, chopped walnuts, chopped radishes etcetera
Combine all the ingredients, mix well and adjust the seasoning.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, and up to four hours before serving. Take out of the fridge ten minutes before serving and garnish.
I think I may have cracked this wild goose recipe challenge again: A Persian herb stew with goose in it. I adapted the recipe from one in ‘A Taste of Persia’ , very tasty. I prepared it one evening, then finished off the cooking the next night.
3 tbsp butter
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pair of goose breasts, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp saffron in 1 tbsp hot water
1 whole dried persian lime, punctured with a sharp knife (lime was mail order)
1 can red kidney beans, drained
3 tbs sunflower oil
2 cups of mixed chopped herbs including fresh coriander, parsley, dried fenugreek leaves OR