Aubergine and Yoghurt Dip

This is a very easy Persian version of a common middle-eastern dip. Be prepared to get a bit messy for the best results. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large aubergines
  • 1 tbsp very good quality olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 200ml plain full-fat greek yoghurt
  • 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 180C. Rinse the aubergines and prick them with a fork in a few places. Put them in the centre of the oven on a rack with a baking tray underneath. Bake for one hour. 
  • Remove the aubergines from the oven, let them cool until you can handle them. Peel off the skin and chop the flesh. 
  • Put all the chopped aubergine into a bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix well. I used my bare hands to squish the aubergine well, before beating with a fork. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  • Transfer to a serving dish, garnish with saffron water, a tablespoonful of plain yoghurt and mint leaves. 
  • This recipe is best made 24 hours in advance, and stored in the fridge. Remove from the fridge 10 minutes before serving. This is good served with bread. 

Yoghurt and Cucumber Salad

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. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 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

METHOD:

  • 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. 

Pumpkin, ginger, and potato gratin

I’ve had this recipe for years and years. I think it is best with a firm squash or pumpkin, like butternut squash.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 lb pumpkin or squash, cubed
  • 1 1/2 lb potatoes, boiled for 15 minutes and cubed
  • 1 oz grated ginger
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 1 oz butter (omit for a vegan version)
  • 3 floz olive oil
  • 1 oz wholemeal breadcrumbs

METHOD:

  • Melt the butter and the olive oil together and add the ginger, cumin and cardamom, and start to fry, for around 30 seconds
  • Add the potato, pumpkin and fry for another 10 minutes, until the pumpkin is softening and the potatoes are starting to brown.
  • Season with salt and pepper, put into an oven-proof gratin dish, and sprinkle with the breadcrumbs.
  • Place under a hot grill for a few minutes, until the top is crips and the interior is bubbling.

Mexican rice

I have no idea if this recipe is Mexican at all. I got it from my friend Kay, who I think got it from a book called the Vegetarian Epicure which I have never chased down yet.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large onions
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 floz olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 cups of white rice
  • 1 1/2 pints of tomato puree (I use canned chopped tomatoes which I blend, or you could use passata)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 14 floz water

METHOD:

  • Chop the onions and garlic and lightly fry in the oil.
  • Add the ginger, coriander, cloves and pepper, and stir for 30 seconds
  • Add the rice and stir, cooking until the rice seems to be turning clear and beginning to brown
  • Add the tomato puree, salt and water, and simmer for 25 minutes

Butterbean and tomato soup

This is a very easy recipe, can’t recall where it is from. I usually have these ingredients in the house, so I can usually make this.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can butter beans
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 pints of stock
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • olive oil or butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp honey or sugar
  • chopped parsley to serve

METHOD:

  • Gently cook the onions in the olive oil until well cooked, very soft.
  • Add the beans, stock, tomatoes, bayleaf and then simmer the soup for half an hour
  • Season to taste, with the salt, pepper, honey.

Serve with brown toast and garnished with chopped parsley

 

Green beans with coconut

I have three recipes for green beans with coconut. This is a very easy version.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 lb green beans in 1 inch lengths
  • 2oz grated coconut
  • 4 tbsp chopped coriander leaf
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 chopped green chilli
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 tbsp oil
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

METHOD:

  • Combine the coconut, coriander, asafoetida, green chilli and salt in a dish.
  • Blanch the beans in boiling water for 3 minutes
  • In the oil, fry the sesame and mustard seeds together with the cayenne pepper – after about a minute, the seeds will pop, so take them off the heat at that point.
  • Add the beans to the mixture, and cook on a low heat until they are tender
  • Add the coconut mixture, and serve

 

 

Spinach and Feta Pie

Spinach grows well in the Uists, and it is also often available in the co-op.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg spinach
  • 1 small onion finely chopped, or six spring onions
  • 50g butter
  • 125g Feta Cheese
  • 1 dsp chopped fresh fennel or dill
  • 100ml cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • flaky pastry
  • Small grating of nutmeg

METHOD:

  • Gently fry the onion in the butter until soft, then add all the spinach, and cook until it has all wilted down
  • Mash the cream, herbs, and cheese together
  • Mix the cheese and the spinach together, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg
  • Put the spinach and cheese mixture in a pie dish, and use the flaky pastry to cover
  • Bake in a medium hot oven for 30-45 minutes until the top is crisp and golden.

If you were going to be really authentic, this would be made with filo pastry to create little triangular packets. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQITqEJ-TvQ shows you the technique.

Persian herb omelette

A Kookoo is a large omelette dish from Iran. It has a little flour and raising agent added, and it is baked in the oven, a bit like a Spanish frittata. It tastes wonderful, spiced and flavoured with herbs. It often has vegetables in it as well. This version is full of herbs from the garden, with spices and barberries, which I sourced from Seasoned Pioneers.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 50g butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup of chopped herbs, to include chives, parsley, fennel
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp dried barberries

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 170C
  • Melt the butter in an 8 inch frying pan or skillet that will go into the oven
  • Break the eggs into a bowl, and lightly beat in all the other ingredients
  • Pour the egg mixture into the pan and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes

Serve with salad and bread, possibly a little Greek yoghurt. A herb Kookoo is a traditional New Year dish, a taste of the start of spring.

Mashed potatoes and pears with ginger

This is an astonishingly good combination to serve with pork.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Enough potatoes for the number of people being served
  • About half that quantity of hard pears
  • Salt, pepper, butter
  • A tiny amount of finely chopped crystalised ginger

METHOD:

  • Peel and boil the potatoes as you would normally for mashed potatoes. Drain them, saving the boiling water
  • Peel and core the pears, and poach them in the potato water until they are soft
  • Mash the pears and potatoes together with salt, pepper, butter and the chopped ginger

Spanish scrambled egg with mushrooms

I love the Moro cookbook. The recipes are simple and the flavours are bright and fresh. We had mushrooms and we had eggs so I followed their recipe. Just like you’d think, but better.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g mushrooms, a mixture of wild and fresh if available, including porcini, chanterelles, etc. We used horse mushrooms
  • 3 tbsp organic olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 25g butter
  • 6 organic free-range eggs, preferably local
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 40g slice serrano ham, optional
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • salt and black pepper

METHOD:

  • Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms.
  • Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic. Fry it until it begins to colour.
  • Immediately, add the chopped mushrooms and stir well. Fry for around 4 minutes
  • Add the sliced ham at this point, if you are using it.
  • Season with salt and pepper, and put the fried mushrooms aside in a bowl.
  • In the same pan, melt the butter
  • Meanwhile, break the eggs with the milk, and stir until the yolks are broken; the mixture should not be well mixed.
  • Add the eggs to the melted butter and stir until the eggs begin to set
  • Add the mushroom mixture and the chopped parsley, and continue to stir until the eggs are as cooked as you wish them to be. The white of the egg should be set.

Serve with toast.