Musician Anaida, the 'oova oova' girl who broke the music pop charts in the 90s, grew up in Abu Dhabi, tuning her body to the healthy cooking of her naturopath mom. She has created a pop-up Persian menu at Sodabottleopenerwala's Thane outpost, that's on offer till February 25. And this, she says, is a food that's not just finger-licking good, but is packed with healing properties too.
One dish that stands out is the Corriander Chicken Soup. "My friends call it my magic soup for its get-well-soon properties," she says, adding that it is laden with pearl barley, mixed sprouts, turnip, mushroom, carrots and roasted vermicelli, a pick-me-up for anyone feeling under the weather.
"Coriander, or geshneez as it is called in Hindi and Farsi, for its anti-inflammatory properties, turnips or shalgam as an antibiotic, onions for crunch, and garlic for its content of vitamin C, vitamin B6 and Manganese," she explains, adding that the ingredients are good for the skin, hair, eyes, cholesterol, blood sugar and diabetes.
Persian food, she explains, has no masala like Indian cuisine does. It has more of sauces. "Every household follows a lovely tradition of placing a basket with around dozen different fresh herbs and vegetables (mint, basil, leek, radish, carrots, etc) which they eat raw along with the food," says Anaida. As far as spices go, saffron is a core spice in every dish, along with cinnamon," she adds.
In this cuisine, rosewater is commonly used in desserts. "The Shole Zard, is a sheera consistency made from wheat, fruits, dry fruits and nuts. Each spoonful has a rich flavour of saffron and rose, the dried fruits and nuts add a crunchy texture. I like using certain kind of rose petals in my cooking. They are so pleasing to the senses," she explains.
If you are tired of tomato and onion gravies, let Persian food inspire you to turn fruits and dry fruits into thick sauces. The Fesenjan is a chicken dish cooked in walnut and pomegranate paste sans oil. "Finely grate the walnuts and add pomegranate juice or puree. Once the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and allow the gravy to continue cooking till the walnuts give out oil," says Anaida. This gravy needs no oil, as the walnuts cook in their own oil. "Once the gravy is cooked, add in the chicken piece, and let it cook for a two to three minutes and you are done."