From flatbreads to dips, spice blends and kebabs, enjoy flavours from the spice-rich Persian cuisine at an ongoing food festival
With a history of two and a half thousand years, Persian cuisine, now known as Iranian cuisine, is replete with strong scents and flavours. "The food at the courts of ancient Persia included stews flavoured with cinnamon, mint, and pomegranate, stuffed fruits and vegetables, and tender roasted meats. These dishes have influenced India too," says Swasti Aggarwal, food strategist at Foodhall where a Persian Food Festival is currently on.
The fest features Persian flatbreads, dips, kebabs, spice blends and desserts. You can pick up Iranian imports like figs, barberries, dried Iranian lime and pink pistachios. You can also learn to make Ghormeh Sabzi and the traditional Eggplant and Tomato Stew from a live counter.
Before you tuck into the feast, here’s what’s cool about Persian cuisine:
1) It is closer to Indian and Pakistani cuisine than Middle-Eastern as it uses similar spices and herbs, and relies heavily
2) Saffron and other spices are hallmarks of the cuisine as it includes a herb platter featuring cilantro, mint, parsley, feta-like cheese and walnuts, served with every meal.
3) The recipes include generous amounts of dried and fresh fruits like plums, pomegranate, raisins and sumac
(a tangy powder made out of a berry).
4) The barberries or zereshk polo are a rich source of antioxidants including melatonin, which helps improve sleep and immunity.
5) "While dining at a Persian’s home, leave a little food in your plate after you finish eating. The host considers it his duty to provide more food than you can eat," says Aggarwal.
>> Komaj is a sweet bun stuffed with bananas and dates eaten as a tea-time snack. Nan-e-Barbari is a classic Persian flatbread that can be served with dips or spiced olive oil. Sheermal is a saffron flavoured flatbread.
Advieh Khoresh, a staple Persian spice blend
>> Kashke Bademjan is eggplant, yoghurt and walnut dip while Mast-o-Khair is a savoury yogurt dish topped with toasted walnuts, cranberries and swirled with rose petals, mint, herbs, dill and toasted cumin.
>> Shole Zard is a rose water and saffron flavoured rice dessert.
>> Advieh Khoresh is a staple spice blend in Iranian kitchens, used for meat stews.
>> The popular Jujeh Kebabs are made of chicken and seasoned with saffron and orange zest. Kebab Koobideh is a minced meat kebab made with onions and parsley.
>> Ghormeh Sabzi is a traditional slow-cooked stew featuring a variety of herbs, spices, vegetables and beans.
Recipe for Kebab Koobideh
Mutton mince: 800 gms
Chopped onion: 100 gm
Chopped parsley: 8 gm
Sumac powder: 20 gm
Saffron: 0.1 gm
Salt: 3 gm
Crushed black pepper: 1 gm
Turmeric powder: 1 gm
Egg yolk: 30 gm
Butter: 20 gm
Raw papaya paste: 60 gm
>> Mix all the ingredients together properly and season well, refrigerate overnight.
>> Press the meat around long, thick metal skewers and shape evenly.
>> Barbeque each side for about 8 to 10 mins, turning frequently.
>> Cook almost 80% in Tandoor or pre-heated oven in high heat.
Recipe for Borani Esfanaaj (Iranian Yoghurt and Spinach Dip)
Spinach: 500 gm
Chopped onion: 70 gm
Minced garlic: 30 gm
Olive oil: 25 gm
Crushed black pepper: 1 gm
Salt: 2 gm
Walnut giri (roasted and crushed): 150 gm
Chopped fresh mint: 30 gm
Hung curd: 100 gm
Fresh cream: 70 gm
Cream cheese: 40 gm
>> Wash the spinach leaves, drain and blanch in boiling water, refresh, squeeze excess water, chop and keep aside.
>> Saute the blanched & chopped spinach in olive oil with onion, garlic and cool.
>> Toast and roughly crush the walnuts, reserve few for garnish.
>> Add all the ingredients together and roughly blend to mix all together
>> Adjust seasoning and garnish with sliced walnut.