Persian (Iranian) cuisine is said to be all about balance of flavours and textures. Every meal, therefore comprises a mix of spicy, sweet and sour as well as soft and crunchy items. And no Persian meal is complete without an abundance of herbs which are treated like a main ingredient, rather than a garnish. Try these Persian dishes for a variation in your Ramadan dinners.
Ash Reshteh (Noodle soup)
2tbsp canola oil
1 onion – diced
½ cup brown lentils
5 cups water
1½ cups ash dried herb mix
1 can chickpeas (400g)
1 can pinto beans (400g)
250g flat noodles
4tbsp olive oil – divided
1 large onion – thinly sliced
4cloves garlic – minced
2tbsp dried mint
1 cup whey
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion until golden brown. Add lentils, turmeric, salt and water, bring to boil and simmer over medium heat for about fifteen minutes, covered. Add the herbs and cover with the lid. Cook for another thirty minutes. Once the lentils and herbs are cooked, add beans and chickpeas. Stir and cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes. Add Persian flat noodles and stir. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Serve with ‘kashk’ (yogurt whey) and toppings.
Heat 2tbsp olive oil over medium heat and fry the sliced onion and garlic until caramelised. In another pan, heat the remaining olive oil, saute turmeric and mint for 10 seconds. Top the soup with caramelised onion and garlic, mint and kashk (yogurt whey).
Gheymeh (Beef and split pea stew)
250g mutton or beef
50g raw split peas
2tbsps tomato paste
3 dried lemons
1tbsp rose water
Brewed saffron, sugar, salt, pepper and turmeric – to taste
Fry onions till golden, add the garlic, pepper and tomato paste. Then, add tomato paste and fry. Add sliced meat and fry it a little, just to change colour. Add the raw split peas, 3 glasses of water, cover with lid and cook for 1 hour. Add dried lime and let it continue to boil for 1 more hour. After 1 hour, take the dried lime out of the stew and add salt, saffron, and cinnamon to simmer for a 8-10 minutes. Then add rosé water and sugar, as required, to suit your taste. (Add the sugar ½tsp at a time, to check that it does not get too sweet.)
Serve hot with steamed rice and potato fries.
Sholeh Zard (Saffron rice pudding)
1 cup Jasmine rice
6 cups boiling water
2 cups granulated sugar
2⅓ cups extra boiling water (to be added later)
¼ cup rosewater
¼tsp ground saffron
Chopped pistachio nuts
Dried rose petals
Wash rice well and add to boiling water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour, till most of the water is absorbed and the rice is tender. It should have a sticky texture when pressed with fingers. Add 2⅓ cups boiling water, 2 cups sugar, ¼ cup rosewater, and ¼tsp saffron. Increase the heat to medium low and continue cooking until the rice begins to thicken. Use a wooden spoon to stir several times so the Sholeh Zard does not stick to the bottom or sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
Pour into serving bowls and set aside to cool. Then, refrigerate for 1-2 hours until completely chilled. Remove and garnish with ground cinnamon, slivered pistachios or almonds, and a few dried rose petals before serving.……………..
Bamiyeh (Pastry soaked in syrup)
3 cups all-purpose flour
6tbsp butter – cut into pieces
1½ cup water
3tbsp extra fine semolina
Peanut oil for frying
1½ cup water
1¾ cup sugar
1tbsp lemon juice
In a saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for or 10 – 15 minutes over low to medium heat, until you get a thick, syrupy texture. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
In a non-stick saucepan, add the water, butter and salt, and bring to a boil.
Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon until you get a shiny, thick, and smooth consistency. Put the pan back on low heat and keep mixing with a spatula for 4 to 5 minutes to obtain a thick and dry dough. Remove the dough from the pan, place it in the bowl of a stand mixer and allow to cool.
Later, using the blender, stir in the cornstarch, semolina and eggs one at a time. (Wait until each egg is well incorporated to add the next one.) Work the dough well in order to incorporate air and until it becomes a pipeable dough.
Then, pour oil for deep frying in a wok. Fill a piping bag with a fairly wide star tip. Press out 4cm long strips, cut them off with scissors and drop into the oil at room temperature. Now, heat the pan over medium heat. As the oil heats up, the pastries will gradually rise to the surface and swell. Move them with a spatula for even frying – golden brown on all sides. Remove the Bamiyeh into a colander for draining excess oil, then transfer in the cooled syrup. After a few minutes, remove from syrup, let excess syrup drip off, and place in a serving bowl.
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