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.
This is from ‘Cook for Syria’ recipe book, from the club of the same name. The food is great, as is the idea behind the project. This recipe looks quite long, with lots of ingredients, but it didn’t involve anything complicated, and many of the steps can be done while other bits are cooking.
- 1 dessert-spoonful of olive oil
- 100g shredded cabbage, kale or brussel sprouts
- 1 tbsp sumac powder (from seasoned pioneers)
- 1 tsp red chilli flakes or powder
- 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tbsp runny honey
- salt and pepper
- 2 onions, finely sliced
- Olive oil
- 160g puy lentils or other green lentils
- a bay leaf
- 160g basmati rice
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- olive oil
- 1 tbsp tahini
- 6 tbsp greek yoghurt
- Coriander leaves, chopped.
- To make the cabbage/kale layer, chop the leaves and mix with the sumac, chilli, sesame seeds, 1/2 tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt, and put it into a roasting dish. Roast for 15 minutes at 150C
- To make the butternut squash layer, mix the squash with 2 tbsp olive oil, thyme leaves, honey, salt and pepper. Put this into another roasting dish and roast for 30 minutes at 180C
- The rice layer has more steps. First of all, slice the onions finely, and fry gently in olive oil until beginning to brown and caramelise. Set aside.
- Rinse the green lentils in cold water, then cook in plenty of boiling water with the bay leaf and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Rinse the rice in cold water, then cook in plenty of boiling water for around 6 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water, and return to the pan. Leave the pan in a warm place for 15 minutes.
- Mix the lentils with the rice, the fried onions, and add the lemon juice.
- Make the yoghurt dressing: heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a small pan, then add the cumin seeds. After a minute, add the ground cumin, stir, and then beat into the yoghurt, with the tahini.
- Take 1 large platter, and put the rice and lentil mix at the bottom, then the squash, and top with the cabbage, garnish with coriander leaves.
- Guests should help themselves, adding as much of the tahini/yoghurt dressing as they wish.
Last weekend, a friend and I dug up the last of last year’s carrots, where they had overwintered in the ground. I froze some and I also made this soup. I kind of made it up as I went along, using some ingredients that I already had.
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 red chilli pepper, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 400g approx chopped carrots
- 500ml vegetable stock (or other stock)
- 150ml sour cream
- Juice of half a lime
- salt and pepper
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves
- A pinch of chipotle smoked pepper (from Seasoned Pioneers)
- In a saucepan, fry the chilli and the onion slowly in the olive oil, until the onion is softening.
- Add the cumin and the carrots, and cook for another five minutes or so.
- Add the stock, and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Take of the heat, and add the sour cream, lime juice, salt, pepper, chipotle pepper and coriander leaves.
- Use a soup wand to make a smooth creamy soup. Add a bit of stock or water if the soup is too thick.
Serve with brown toast.
My brother-in-law, John, served this to us one evening. It was only the second time we met and the soup was one of the many highlights of the evening. The taste recalls the evening around 25 years ago.
- 1 large white onion
- 3 tbsp olive oil or butter
- 400g mushrooms
- 1 tsp dried dill
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1 pint of stock
- 1 tsp miso (you can substitute marmite if no miso available)
- 150ml sour cream
- 3 tsp lemon juice
- Finely chop the onion and fry gently in the oil, with 1/2 tsp salt
- Chop the mushrooms and add to the pan
- Add the dill, thyme, paprika and cayenne, and cover. Cook slowly for around 7 minutes.
- Add the stock and miso and bring to a simmer for three minutes.
- Liquidise, and add the sour cream and lemon juice.
- Reheat without bringing to the boil.
Serve with brown bread.
Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Pasta is another recipe book that has stood the test of time on my bookshelf; I bought it in 1997. I have already got some of Rose Elliot’s other recipe books, but this one lifted vegetarian cookery to another plane, into something fresh and colourful. Several of my other recipe books at the time were a bit worthy. The book is illustrated with wonderful photographs, as well as plenty of practical and tasty recipes.
The recipes are divided into types of pasta recipe, starting with soup, moving onto salads, simple dishes, and then the classic sauces and baked pasta dishes. Most of the ingredients are readily available locally, and the methods of cooking are easy to follow.
One difficulty that I have is that the index could be better. If I have, for example, leeks and carrots, I would like to be able to find recipes that use these ingredients. The index only lists dishes by recipe title or type of pasta. But that is a minor grumble.
I recommend this book to you all.
In 1983, I was living in Edinburgh. My boyfriend at the time announced that he wanted to be a vegetarian, and after a short discussion, we renounced meat. I can no longer recall his reasons, but for myself, my concerns were around animal welfare and factory farming, especially for pigs and chickens. I also was aware of the environmental impact of feeding livestock as opposed to using land to grow plant-based food.
One of the first recipe books we acquired was Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking. I think we didn’t get much past the first chapter, there were so many delicious recipes. The book includes recipes from Syria all the way through to Japan. There are chapters on Vegetables, Pulses, Rice, and Eggs, for example. The chapter on condiments, dips, chutneys and relishes is wonderful; Madhur Jaffrey explains that this allows each diner to ring the changes with combinations of different flavours.
I find that I don’t cook some of the more complex dishes. Although I love the illustrated guide to making tofu, I have never tried this myself. I’ve also struggled to find some of the ingredients listed, especially for some of the Korean, Japanese and Chinese dishes.
To compensate, this is a book full of wonderful recipes, properly indexed. The book isn’t full of glossy pictures, but there are 500 pages of advice, descriptions of ingredients and flavours, techniques and culinary tips. The food I have produced from these pages has been outstanding.
I had two more large beetroot left, so I made this soup, adapted slightly from Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, which I bought in 1983s. The link is to a subsequent edition.
- 2 large beetroot, peeled and diced
- 500ml water
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or a 2cm stick of cinnamon
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 level tsp ground black pepper
- Sour cream or double cream
- Cook the chopped beetroot in the water. Simmer for about an hour, to make sure the beetroot is really soft.
- Drain the beetroot, and make the liquid up to 450ml if necessary.
- Add the beetroot back to the liquor, along with the tin of chopped tomatoes and use the soup wand to liquidise
- In a saucepan, fry the spices in butter, and then add the beetroot and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Strain the soup through a coarse sieve to remove the whole spices, and then add the cream, and reheat.
Initially, I wasn’t sure about this soup. It looks odd, but then I caught myself having extra portions. It is even better after being frozen, it seems to enhance the walnut flavour. It is worth spending some time reducing the walnuts to a paste before adding.
- 1 cauliflower
- 1 onion
- 2 bayleaves
- a pinch of paprika
- salt and pepper
- 450ml stock
- 450ml skimmed milk
- 50g walnut pieces
- Chop the onion finely and cook slowly in butter until soft and beginning to brown.
- Chop the cauliflower into florets and boil in the stock with 2 bayleaves until tender, at least 10 minutes.
- Remove the bayleaves, add a pinch of paprika, salt and pepper, and puree the cauliflower and stock until smooth. (I used a soup wand)
- Grind the walnuts and pound to a fine paste in a pestle and mortar.
- Add the cooked onions, ground walnuts and skimmed milk to the cauliflower base, and puree again.
- Strain through a coarse sieve to remove any lumps.
- Bring the mixture back to a simmer for two minutes before serving.
I love fennel, especially with fish dishes. This method is truly delicious and very easy. I found it in Honey from a Weed by Patience Gray. I left out the tomatoes that she suggested, because I didn’t have any. She suggests a specific type of tomato that I have never seen here.
- Fennel bulbs: allow one large bulb for two servings
- Parmesan cheese
- Slice each fennel bulb into quarters vertically, and cook for five minutes in salted boiling water.
- Drain the fennel well, and then braise in a heavy pan in the butter for around 15 minutes.
- During the cooking process, sprinkle the fennel with the parmesan cheese, turning the pieces so that the cheese coats the fennel. Continue to cook, so that the fennel is lightly browned.
- If you have some pomodori appesi, (baby tomatoes stored on the vine) – you can add these to the dish at the end.