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

 

 

 

Digg This

Stuffed Peppers OR Punjene paprike

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I sorted out my image posting problems, thanks to the kind people who replied to my pleas! Once again, thanks, people! Here is a post, long overdue, that I prepared ages ago, but I’m posting it only now.

Stuffed vegetables are hugely popular in my part of the world: courgette, aubergine, sometimes tomatoes, but above all – peppers (punjene paprike in Croatian). Basically, uncooked peppers are stuffed with a mixture of beef (and sometimes pork) and uncooked rice. The peppers are then placed in a big pan, and covered with very smooth tomato sauce, to simmer until done. Every cook has his or her own variant of the recipe, adding a bit of this, and a bit of that, too add their own personal touch. This is how my mum makes stuffed peppers (punjene paprike).

Stuffed peppers were my favourite dish when I was growing up. I used to break the pepper in half, scoop out the meat, eat it, and leave the pepper ‘skin’ on my plate! Nowadays I know better, and eat the pepper, too! I love the combination of meat, pepper and tomato sauce. I love to dip bread in the sauce, or a piece of potato. This makes me smile already! Gosh, I had this this a few days ago, and I’m craving it already!

This is not a quick dish, but it is well worth the time. The peppers taste great the next day, too, so we often make a larger quantity. We did this this time, too, and had it the next day, too! Yum! Lucky me! We – I mean mainly mum! I was busy taking photos and making notes, during which mum was wonderfully patient! I thought she’d chase me out of the kitchen, me and my clicking, and moving the dishes around! – Thank you, mum! 🙂

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Stuffed Peppers / Punjene paprike

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SOURCE: mum’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 20 – 30 min

COOKING TIME: 2 – 2.5 h

CUISINE: Croatian

SERVES: 14*

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INGREDIENTS

14 large peppers*

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STUFFING

1 kg beef mince

0.5 kg pork mince

1 small bulb of garlic, finely chopped or crushed

2 eggs

1 mug of rice (uncooked)

a small bunch of fresh parsley

some bread crumbs

a little oil

salt, pepper,

vegeta (optional)

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TOMATO SAUCE**

Recipe HERE. Please note that you will need to double or even tripple the quantities for the sauce if you are making the recipe as above, i.e. not scaled down.

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METHOD:

I. Tomato sauce

  • Prepare the tomato sauce first, if you don’t have it already made. 

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II. Prepare the peppers

  • Now prepare the peppers. Wash them, and remove the core and the seeds. See photo below.

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III. Stuffing

  •  Mix the ingredients for the stuffing together in a bowl. Adjust the seasoning.

Stuffing 

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IV. Stuff the peppers

  • Stuff the peppers with the mixture, but do not overfill.

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V. Assembling and cooking

  • Place the peppers in a pan, with the opening pointing upwards (see photo below).

  • Pour the tomato sauce over the peppers. Simmer for 2 – 2.5 hours. Add some flour mixed with water to thicken the sauce to the desired consistency.

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  • Serve with boiled potatoes, or mashed potato.

NOTES

* If you are using large peppers, allow one per person per serving. If you’re using small peppers, allow 2 per person per serving. We got 14 servings out of these peppers.

** We normally make it in advance.

Suggestions

You can use beef mince only. Mum sometimes adds cubes of pancetta to the sauce.

Why not use a mixture of your favourite spices to spice up the mince? I might do that myself, although there is nothing wrong with going simple, and enjoying the tastes of the meat, and the vegetables just the way they are!

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Verdict

As I said, this used to be one of my favourite dishes when I was growing up. I still like it a lot! What more can I say? 🙂 Do try this recipe!

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Cuttlefish Risotto

I would normally happily eat pretty much anything, and there aren’t very many things that I don’t like. In fact, I can’t think of any, except for… squid! Brrrrr…  My brothers and my uncle fish for squid, and all my family adore it and eat it fairly frequently, depending on how successful their fishing trips are! However, I rather dislike both squid and cuttlefish; fried or grilled, baked in the oven or in peka (cast iron dish covered in burning wood, very popular in Croatia). There is something about the structure, and the taste that doesn’t appeal to me at all. Unless they’re prepared in a risotto or a brudet (fish stew eaten with polenta), when the rubbery chewiness of the flesh is softened into flavoursome meatiness that melts in the mouth. The risotto, also known as the black risotto, is one of my favourite! I bought some fresh cuttlefish at the fishmonger’s this week, and made it for my boyfriend and me. Here is the recipe. You can use either cuttlefish or squid. Enjoy!  

 

Cuttlefish Risotto or Black risotto

(Croatian: Crni rizot) 

Serves 2  

Ingredients 

 Vegetable oil

2 onions, chopped finely

1 medium to large carrot, grated

1 clove of garlic, chopped

500 g cuttlefish (cleaned weight), the ink reserved

Water

Tomato pure

A splash of white wine

a little chopped parsley

2 bay leaves

a small sprig of rosemary

150 g Arborio or some other risotto rice

salt, pepper  

Method 

Fry the onions for a little in some vegetable oil. Add grated carrots. Fry the carrot and onion mixture, stirring occasionally, until it becomes soft, and the onions become slightly browned. Halfway through, add garlic. Be patient, as this can take a while. Please don’t be tempted to do this quickly, as this is an important step. 

When the onions are done, add the chopped cuttlefish and fry it. When it’s done, add a little water and stir. This will further soften up the onions, so they are almost melted. When the water evaporates, and some more, and repeat the process until you get a mushy saucy mixture. Add the cuttlefish ink to colour the risotto black. Add a little of tomato pure and some more water to cover the cuttlefish. Cook until it becomes soft. Then, add the wine, rosemary and the bay leaf. Add rice and season to taste. Cook until the rice is soft, stirring occasionally. Add more water if necessary later on. 

Serve with a green leafy salad. In Dalmatia, we often use a very simple vinaigrette made with some red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a little salt to season the salads. The flavour of the risotto nicely contrasts with the vinegary flavour of the salad. Try using this simple vinaigrette with your choice of salad leaves. 

Enjoy!     

 

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