|Dishes||Falafel (vegan), Fesenjan, Kuku Sabzi, Tahdig|
|Population||83,183,741 (17th largest)|
|Land mass||1,648,195 km2 (17th largest)|
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Iran, or Persia, is a West Asian country bordered by four other Asian nations, as well as the Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Iran is one of the world’s oldest civilisations, recorded to have originated in the 4th millennium BC, and has a very rich history. It is now an Islamic democracy under the rule of the autocratic ‘Supreme Leader’ (Ali Khamenei). This government is viewed as authoritarian based on its abuses against human rights and civil liberties. The country is rich fossil fuel reserves, contributing to its ‘middle power’ status.
The mixture of different ethnic groups and the ancient history of Iran, combines in a cuisine with many diverse influences and flavours. Characteristic flavours are saffron, dried limes (anything sour!), cinnamon, and parsley.
Bridget made a favourite of her’s – Falafel! Falafel has traditionally been made with fava beans in Egypt and other Arab countries, however, Persian falafel is made of chickpeas. Ideally, you would use dried chickpeas but those can be tricky to get your hands on at times. Mwara made Tahdig, which is a crispy rice dish meaning ‘bottom of the pot’ which has strong saffron flavours and a delicious texture. She also made Kuku Sabzi , a festive herb omelette, and Fesenjan, a pomegranate-chicken-walnut stew.
- 2 cups of dried chickpeas (soaked overnight) or 2 tins of chickpeas
- 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
- 2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- salt + pepper to taste
- veg oil (for frying if choosing to)
- Soak the dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight if you are using. The peas will double in size. Drain the water and rinse the chickpeas well.
- In a food processor, blitz the chickpeas with the onion, garlic and parsley until a nice paste-like consistency is reached. You should be able to squeeze a clump of dough together and it hold its shape. If the mixture is too dry, add some water, and if it is too wet, then add some plain flour.
- Next add the sesame, baking powder, salt + pepper and mix well. Then form a nice ball and put the falafel dough in the fridge to chill. This step is optional but it will help with the forming of the falafel balls. To form the falafel, use the same scoop or spoon to make even-sized patties or use your hands (wetted with some water) to form large golf ball-sized falafel and squish them down slightly. You do you!
- When it comes to cooking the falafel, the traditional method is to fry the falafel. This involves heating a 1-inch depth of veg oil in a large skillet and frying the falafel on each side until golden brown (3-5 minutes).
- Serve with warm bread, some veggies and a tahini dip! YUM!
Tahdig (Persian scorched rice)
- 3 cups basmati rice
- 1/2 tsp saffron
- a pinch of salt
- 1 large flour tortilla
- 3 tbsp veg oil
- 2 tbsp butter
- Mix the saffron into 1 cup of warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes so the saffron can release its flavor.
- Prepare the rice by rinsing it under cold water. Then put 8 cups of water and some salt in a large pot and bring it to a boil over a medium-high heat. Add the rice and cook it for 5 to 6 minutes. Then drain and set aside.
- Oil the bottom of a 10-inch lidded nonstick pot and press the tortilla down evenly on the bottom.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the cooked rice, the veg oil, the butter and 3 tbsp of the saffron water. At this stage, you can add in some extra ingredients such as dried cherries, cinnamon, and orange zest.
- Spread the rice mixture evenly over the tortilla. Finish by dotting the top with a bit more butter and then pour the rest of the saffron water on top.
- Wrap the pot in a tea-towel and cook on the hob (or in the oven) on a medium heat for 30 minutes until the rice is crispy at the edges. Be careful not to burn the rice though!
- Once its cooked, invert the pan over a large plate and flip the dish upside down so that the crispy tortilla is on top!
Kuku Sabzi (herb omlette)
- 3 large bunches of coriander
- 3 large bunches of parsley
- 1 large bunch of dill
- 2 leeks
- 1 cos lettuce heart
- 3 tbsp + 1/4 cup of olive oil
- salt + pepper to taste
- 2 tsp dried dill
- 1 tbsp fenugreek
- 1 tsp tumeric
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 4 tbsp butter
- 6 large eggs
- Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C and prepare your dish by lining either an 8-inch square pan or 9-inch round cake pan with parchment and oiling the whole pan generously with olive oil.
- In a food processor, combine the parsley, cilantro, dill, onion, leeks, lettuce and 3 tbsp of olive oil until everything is finely ground.
- In a large bowl, whisk the tumeric, salt, pepper, fenugreek, dried dill and baking powder. Then add in 2 of the eggs and whisk until blended, before adding in the rest of the eggs and whisking until just combined. Now fold in the herb-veg mixture into the eggs and pour this into the prepared pan.
- Bake in in the pre-heated oven until the center of the omelette is firm (20 – 25 minutes). Set the omelette aside to cool for 10 minutes and then run a knife around the edges to loosen the kuku. Then invert onto a plate and remove the parchment from bottom, before re-inverting it onto your serving plate!
Fesenjan (Persian chicken and walnut stew)
- 6 – 8 chicken thighs
- 4 cups of walnuts, halved
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 tsp tumeric
- salt + pepper to taste
- 1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 2 tsp sugar
- Start by toasting the walnuts in a dry skillet pan on a medium heat, stirring them until lightly toasted.
- Next brown off the chicken thighs in a large pot by frying them in 1 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp olive oil on a medium-high heat. Season with salt at this stage and remove from the pan when done.
- In the same pan (add more oil if necessary), sauté the onion for 5 minutes. Add the chicken thighs back to the pan and pour over the chicken stock, simmering this mixture covered for 30 minutes.
- Then stir in the walnuts, pomegranate molasses, spices, sugar and saffron. Reduce the heat, cover and cook this for 1 hour, stirring now and then to prevent any sticking or burning.
- When the chicken is soft and falling apart, the stew is cooked. You can season with some more salt/pepper/sugar at this point and then enjoy (ideally with some pomegranate seeds and walnuts sprinkled on top)!
and see you in Israel! M + B x