I was at a launch day this week in London and was asked by a delegate what nationality I am. When I replied that I am Iranian I received a lovely response. He told me that all of the Persians that he has met are “charming” and “the food, well the food is divine”!
I have to agree on both points, but then I am rather biased.
He proceeded to tell me all about the rice his friend’s mother made whilst he was at university. I smiled as I listened to him tell me that he has never seen or tasted anything like it since. This, in my experience is the exact reaction that most people give when they try Persian food for the first time.
Sometimes when I’m cooking away and pottering around in my kitchen, something I do more often that I care to admit, I forget to write things down or take photos despite my husband reminding me. I guess it’s because growing up with it and cooking it daily myself, I forget that Persian food still isn’t quite as accessible as Indian food, Chinese food or even Lebanese food. Still, in the UK, there is a lack of good Persian restaurants and even then they are mostly in the bigger cities.
However, restaurants aside I honestly think that some of the best Persian food you will ever eat is real home cooked Persian food. The reason I say this, is because the flavours that we use, most of the time, are so delicate that they need a lot of love and oodles of attention to get the taste of the dish perfect! In a professional kitchen things are done at such a pace to get the food out that the flavours, even though still wonderful, never taste quite the same as when it’s cooked at home with that extra little bit of love. I have told more waiters than I care to admit“lovely thank you but not quite as good as my dads!” when asked “how was the Ghormeh Sabzi?” maybe it’s the traditionalist in me?
I don’t profess that my own cooking is perfect and many a time I have absolutely wrecked a meal that I have cooked a million times before with no issue. When the pressure is on, mostly if I am cooking for my dad, I totally and utterly mess it up! I once completely forgot to add salt and oil to a Lubia Polo (rice with green beans and tomato) which any Iranian will know is a total travesty to this wonderful rice dish, and I only realised when I served it to my dad (I am shaking my head now in memory of that day!)
Having said all of that, if you ever stroll by a Persian restaurant, go in! Cancel your plans for the afternoon, do not hesitate, sit down, ask for a cup of strong Persian chai whilst you pour over the menu and then order a ‘Mirza Ghasemi’ with some fresh ‘Lavash’ whilst you decide what your next mouthful will consist of… make mine a Chelow Kabab!
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My Little Persian Potatoes
6/7 Maris piper potatoes – peeled and chopped into 1.5″ chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic bulb – into cloves with husks removed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1tsp chipotle chilli flakes
1 tbsp plain flour
A good glug of olive oil
Blanch the potatoes for 5 minutes in boiling water with the salt.
Add the oil to a roasting pan and put in a pre heated oven for 5 minutes at 200′ (fan)
Drain and shake the potatoes in the pan with the lid on until they all look a tiny bit dishevelled.
Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and shake again until coated.
Pour into the roasting dish, be careful as the oil will be hot and may spit at this point.
Cook for 35 – 45 minutes shaking a few times in between.