One of the things I love about cooking and Persian food in particular, is that anyone can create something beautiful that will nourish you with as little as two ingredients. Is it a science? Some chefs say so. Catering college trains the classics into chefs, where every single element is so precise that when finished it is utter perfection. But. What about instinct? Does instinct have a place in modern-day cooking?
I read an interview last week on Michael O’hare. He was on Great British Menu a few years ago and in 2014 he set up a restaurant with as little as £5000 called ‘The man behind the curtain’ this restaurant now holds a Michelin star. When he was asked if he had been to catering college his response was ‘No. All you need, to be a chef, is to love cooking and love eating!’
Is he right? Ok, some of us have a natural ability and some of us need a lot of training but is that not true of most skills/trades and vocations? I am not a chef. I am a wife, a mummy, a field marketeer and I love food! I love eating it and I absolutely love cooking it!
The notion that ‘real’ cooking is a science seems alien to me and relatively frightening as I’m pretty sure I flunked science or I may have scraped through with a C in some kind of new mixed sciences.
I loathe following a recipe or instructions generally and the thing I have most struggled with when starting this blog is that I want to share mine and my family’s food with as many people as I can reach, however, I rarely weigh or measure anything and my cooking is so far from being scientific that it’s almost religious.
When baking I decide what ingredients to use based on how I want the cake to taste texture wise. If I am looking for a cake that is moist and rich I will opt for oil instead margarine, baking fat or butter. If I am looking for sticky and decadent I will add sour cream or yoghurt, and the same goes for my cooking.
So many people have asked me how I cook my rice. It’s hard to give a recipe that says something along the lines of ‘add water up to your first knuckle on your index finger, add salt until it’s salty enough, and oil to look about the size of the palm of your hand!’ Is anyone interested in that kind of recipe? It’s how I learnt to cook. I used to watch the pressure cooker filling with ingredients without anything being measured just instinct, practice and tasting at each stage.
When chatting to a friend about my challenge and the fact that I am deconstructing every meal to weigh and measure things, she suggested I write it as I go… So in a bit of a test I’m going to share one of my really quick recipes in my own way and if anyone gives it a go I would love to know how you get on!
The below is my recipe for ‘Mast o Khiar’ which is a delicious Persian cold cucumber soup. It is similar to a minted cucumber yoghurt & really fresh and I make it to go alongside practically every rice dish.
Iranian’s absolutely love cucumbers & will eat them like a fruit. My uncle & my dad used to have a bowl of mini cucumbers on the table and a little bowl of salt that they used to dip them in which I am told is quite common in most Iranian households. My little sister now does the same.
There are so many different versions out there for this little dish but this is the way I have been making it for years and it is really simple. Some people put raisins in it, some use a mix of greek yoghurt and natural yoghurt and some use garlic. I tend to keep mine really simple and I never use raisins as my husband dislikes any form of dried fruit.
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A good dollop of low-fat natural yoghurt
A small handful of finely diced cucumber
A dash of dried mint
A few springs of fresh chopped mint
A little chopped walnut
A few ice cubes and a sprinkling of dried rose petals and walnuts to decorate
Slice it all up and mix together.
Serve with anything! It’s delicious 🙂