"One thing is quite clear: Persian food is not the same as Arab food. Nor is it a variation of Indian food or of Ottoman food. It is its own distinct cuisine, with its own distinct history and traditions, and it deserves to be better known and appreciated in the West." Greg Malouf
It's a long time since I have cooked a David's special meal, but for some reason - boredom probably - I suggested that we do this again. So he had a think and then said 'something Persian'. Note Persian not Iranian - which is probably a bit unfair. After all it's the same country and the same people, but I guess because of their very restrictive current regime Iran is not something we really like to think about. Yet alone their food. And there aren't really a lot of Persian/Iranian restaurants in Melbourne are there? Although Rumi springs to mind.
Anyway I have two beautiful books on the food of Persia - Yasmin Khan's Saffron Tales and Greg and Lucy Malouf's Saraban, so I had no worries about finding something great to eat.
I should mention that I also had Tess Mallos' The Complete Middle-Eastern Cookbook and Claudia Roden's Book of Middle Eastern Food. As usual though I was sucked in by the beauty of the two books above. And as I flicked through them I was not disappointed. In fact the problem was too much to choose from.
Persian food is delicious. I still remember the most wonderful Persian meal we had in the Hyatt Regency in Dubai which began with one of my favourite ways of starting a meal - a basket of herbs - Sabzi Rhordan. You just collect together as many herbs as you can, perhaps some cucumber and radish and feta cheese, and eat with pita bread. The simplest and most delicious start to a meal you can devise.
Their stews - we are having a stew today - often contain some kind of fruit - and spices of course. And saffron is big. So what were my choices? Two from Greg Malouf - Lamb with prunes and honey - Khoresht-e aloo (which I think I have made before) and Beef ribs braised with orange - Khorest-e naranj, which needed Seville oranges and so was not possible. Doesn't it look delectable though? Alas no picture of the lamb with prunes and honey.
There were lots to choose from in Yasmin Khan's beautiful book. Apricot and prune chicken stew (Aloo mossman) - no David wouldn't like the apricots, Lamb and mixed herb stew (Ghormeh sabzi) - I think I have made this before too. I could have tried kebabs and roasts, and even meatballs, but there was usually an ingredient which was either out of season - pomegranates - or difficult to find - barberries - so I fixed on the one at the top of the page - Chicken stew with spinach and prunes (aloo esfinaj). I hope it will work out Ok because I am using frozen spinach and I just found out I don't have enough, but it will have to do.
I'm not going to ignore Greg Malouf though as I am serving a side salad - Shaved cucumber and pomegranate salad. Well I hope I am. I have one very old pomegranate in the fridge which I am hoping will render up some seeds. If it doesn't I will cheat and go for cranberries instead. Not at all the same thing but they might do.
And in the middle of all of this I had to work out what to cook with my grandchildren at the weekend. Because of the lockdown we decided to have another Zoom cooking class. After a bit of discussion the majority came down in favour of enchiladas. I confess I don't know much about Mexican food - mostly because David hates chillies, so I shall just have to put in some mild chillies and then substitute peppers. Maybe a tiny bit of chilli powder. It does look as if you can virtually make up the filling yourself though - and the sauce. Brown beans were suggested in the filling. I might even do a Felicity Cloake and use up some that are lurking in my reserve drawer - real dried ones that is. I think I just have to soak them overnight and cook them tomorrow.
Sorry - all a bit boring no doubt, but I actually hope it inspires you to try some Persian food some day - or go out and buy one or both of those books. Or go to Rumi when it reopens.