Persian Feast in My Kitchen: The mains

Here is the next stop on our journey into the Persian kitchen, our next adventure in taste.

I’ve got to warn you: don’t read this if you’re hungry.

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MAINS

Saffron Rice (V)

Rice-stuffed chicken

Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel (Iranian stew)

Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce

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Saffron Rice

From The legendary cuisine of Persia – by Margaret Shaida

Rice holds a special place in Persian cuisine, and fragrant, long-grained rice is the centre-piece of every festive table. It is also one of the staples; there are many different type of rice, and there are different ways of cooking it.  Famously, one of them is polow where the rice is layered with a combination of meat, vegetables, fruit and spices and then steamed to perfection. Even more famously, and uniquely  Persian, is the fluffy steamed rice rice with the rich golden tah dig (from the Persian for ‘bottom of the pot’), the special crust that forms at the bottom of the pot. This is the pride of every Persian cook, and the mark by which his or her skill is measured.

Where Iranian rice is not available, both Batmanglij and Shaida recommend using Indian basmati rice. Put simply, tah dig is made with a mixture of saffron, butter, yoghurt and rice. This mixture is put at the bottom of the pot, and the rest of the rice (parboiled) is put on top and then steamed. But this is an art, really. For an excellent tutorial with pictures, please see My Persian Kitchen’s blog on cooking rice in the Persian style. Alternatively, Shaida’s very informative book has 4 pages on how to cook this rice dish! This is what we used.

I must admit something here. I committed the capital sin of Persian cooking: I messed up one of the most important dishes of our feast, our rice. I turned off the wrong hob. Instead of rice, I turned off something else which stopped cooking when it shouldn’t have done, and the rice continued cooking when it shouldn’t have done. Hence the burnt specks in the pic below. Sorryyy A!

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Rice-stuffed chicken and Persian saffron rice – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

Rice-stuffed chicken

Morgh-e tu por ba berenj

From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 58)

Chicken stuffed with rice fragrant with saffron, sweet from the almonds and the spices, slightly sour from barberries and lime juice. This was one of my favourite dishes of the whole feast! It is truly special, and really very tasty. I adored it, and my mouth is watering even as I write these lines. (Trust me, it was much much better than what you might think from the picture.)

This is how you make it. The onions and garlic are sautéed until golden. Then you add dried rose petals (:)), advieh, rice and seasoning, and stir fry or a few minutes. Add chicken stock and cook until the rice is done. Then, add barberries, almonds, raisins, lime juice and saffron water. – It tastes amazing even at this point! – You use this mixture to stuff the chicken and then roast it. What you get is wonderfully moist meat, with a sublime stuffing.

Now, all strict carnivores please skip a line and don’t read what I’m about to say. Go and look at the lamb koresh below.

For my vegetarian friends and readers: forget about the chicken (and chicken stock) and turn this into a really special vegetarian treat.

IranianFeast06.09 082 Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

 

Potato and lamb koresh with orange peel

Koresh-e qeymeh

From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 128)

Slow-cooked koresh is a type of fragrant Persian stew. We choose this one with lamb and yellow split peas (the tiny golden nuggets you can see in the picture above). Flavoured with aromatic whole dried limes so characteristic of Persian cooking, advieh, orange peel and saffron, and garnished with strips of fried potatoes. It was delicious.

 

Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce

Koresh-e fesenjan

From A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij (pg. 125)

This koresh combines the Persian love of pomegranate and walnuts with duck; an affinity that goes back to the ancient Persia, according to Batmanglij. And indeed, the combination is intriguing. At once both dark and deep from the walnuts and the duck, and at the same time light and sweet and sour from the pomegranate molasses. With a hint of cinnamon to round it off. Do give it a go. Perhaps you’ll need to give yourself a bit of trouble with the garnish, as it’s not very photogenic, but it’s certainly tasty. I would suggest balancing it out with some lighter dishes though, as it may be a bit too strong-flavoured for a one-dish meal.

I would like to add a short note here. In the 4 books that we had, we struggled to find vegetarian mains, and had to adapt some dishes, e.g. the stuffed tomatoes. If you know any vegetarian Persian mains, please let me know. I’d be interested to find out.

In any case: these were our mains. The sweet baklava is next. Until then…

 

 

 

Here are the other posts from my Persian series:

Persian feast in my kitchen: Intro

Persian feast in my kitchen: the first courses

Persian baklava: the sweet end to our feast

 

And check out:

Persian food blogs

 

 

 

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Persian feast in my kitchen: Intro

I mentioned earlier my culinary explorations: my friend A. and I get together and explore a cuisine of our choice. So far we cooked Sichuanese, Moroccan and Persian, just before my old kitchen went out. Tonight, I’ll tell you about our Persian adventures because – guess what – we have some photos from that! We exchanged some food for Sam’s photographic excellence – a great move – and voila!

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Iranian yoghurt salad – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

 

A. is very passionate about Persian cooking, which is an understatement, to tell you the truth. It was his fine idea to cook this feast.

It was a serious undertaking, mind you. Sometimes I think you must be mad to do it, which I suspect we were/are. It took us a week to plan it (decide on the recipes, devise the plan of action, etc.), a day to shop for it, and a day and a half to cook it. But it was all well worth it!

Take a look at the menu:

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FIRST COURSES

Yoghurt Salad (V)

Feat & walnut salad with herbs (V)

Stuffed peppers, aubergines and tomatoes in a tangy tomato sauce (V) –

Herb Kuku – Iranian baked omelette (V)

Lamb fillet kebabs

 

MAINS

Saffron Rice (V)

Rice-stuffed roast chicken

Potato and lamb koresh (Iranian stew)

Duck in walnut and pomegranate sauce

 

DESSERT

Iranian almond and rosewater baklava served with vanilla ice-cream

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We also made advieh, a Persian spice mixture:

 

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Advieh – Photo by Samantha Twigg Johnson

 

Persian or Iranian cuisine has been, and still is, among the greatest in the world. With their sophisticated tastes and techniques, Persian cooks have influenced Indian and Middle-Eastern cooking. I chose this yoghurt salad for introduction because it gives indication of what Persian food is like: the use of yoghurt, walnuts, fresh herbs, attention to details in presentation. But more about this next time.

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Iranian yoghurt salad – Photos by Samantha Twigg Johnson

 

Now, before I leave for tonight, I want to share with your our bibliography:

 

A Taste of Persia: An Introduction to Persian Cuisine

A taste of Persia – by Najmieh Batmanglij

This is an excellent book, and we found most of our recipes were from it. Clearly presented, with pictures of all dishes, and a helpful list of ingredients at the end. Excellent introduction into Persian cooking.

 

New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies

New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies – by Najmieh Batmanglij

Interesting, and larger in scope than A taste of Persia, but I was slightly put off by the presentation of the recipes.

 

The Legendary Cuisine of Persia

The legendary cuisine of Persia – by Margaret Shaida

This is a very informative, and beautifully written book on Persian cuisine. I bought it after our cooking session.

 

The Persian Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Middle East

The Persian Kitchen: Home Cooking from the Middle East – by Neda Afrashi

Another lovely book on Persian food and customs.

 

This is to tickle your imagination until next time. I hope you enjoyed it, and I hope it has made you at least a little curious about Persian cooking.

 

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Here are the other posts from my Persian series:

Persian feast in my kitchen: the first courses

Persian feast in my kitchen: the mains

Persian baklava: the sweet end to our feast

 And check out:

Persian food blogs

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