Get a taste of Iran with a selection of authentic and flavoursome recipes by chef Atoosa Sepehr.
In Iran, they call pomegranate the fruit from heaven, and as a child growing up in Isfahan, I remember taking great care not to waste a single seed. For this salad, it is best to use baby cucumbers because they tend to be crunchier. I have used golpar, which has a fruity, citrusy aroma with a slight bitter edge; however, if you can't find golpar, the salad will still be delicious.
500g baby cucumbers, or 1 large cucumber
1 red onion
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
1 tsp dried mint
5g fresh mint leaves, chopped
For the dressing:
50ml fresh lime juice
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp sumac
¼ tsp golpar powder (optional)
1. Cut the cucumbers into slices about 3mm thick; if you are using a large cucumber, first cut it in half lengthways and slice each half separately. Add to a large bowl.
2. Cut the onion into fine slices to make onion rings; add to the bowl.
3. Add the pomegranate seeds, dried and fresh mint; set aside.
4. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix well, adding salt to taste.
5. Add the dressing to the salad, mix well and serve immediately.
Persian dal, a vegetarian dish, is easy to make and very tasty. Although it looks a little like Indian dal, the combination of ingredients is quite different. Dal adas originated in the city of Bushehr in the south of Iran, on the Persian Gulf. It is usually served with Persian rice.
3 tbsp vegetable or light olive oil
3 large onions, finely chopped
1 large bulb of garlic, cloves separated and crushed
½ tbsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
200g red lentils, rinsed
750ml vegetable stock
1 large potato (about 250g), peeled and chopped into roughly 1cm cubes
30g tomato purée
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
¼-1 tsp chilli powder
Chopped fresh coriander and red chilli to garnish (optional)
1. Add the oil and onions to a large pan on a medium heat and fry for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and beginning to turn golden brown.
2. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
3. Add the turmeric, cumin and cinnamon and stir for 30 seconds before adding the lentils and mixing well.
4. Add the stock, stir, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes.
5. Add the potatoes, give it a good stir, put the lid back on and cook for a further 20-25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender, stirring every now and then to prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
6. Add the tomato purée, lime juice and chilli powder to taste and stir well. Taste and add salt if needed. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes without the lid (if the texture is too thick, add a little boiling water). Scatter over some chopped coriander and chilli, if using, and serve.
This delicious dish is from the Gilan province in northern Iran. Like so many recipes from the north of the country, it includes a generous amount of garlic. The combination of cooked garlic, butter, turmeric and dill produces a beautiful aroma and taste. I like to use baby broad beans even though they take longer to prepare. Baghali ghatogh can be eaten with bread or with rice and served for lunch or dinner. Serves 4
750g podded broad beans (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tsp ground turmeric
30g fresh dill leaves, chopped
Freshly-ground black pepper
1. Place the broad beans in a pan, add one teaspoon of salt and 1 litre of boiling water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3-6 minutes or until the beans float and are tender (cooking time will depend on the size and tenderness of the beans). Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to prevent the beans from cooking further.
2. Squeeze the beans out of their skins and set aside.
3. Add the oil and onions to a large frying pan (about 30cm in diameter, ideally non-stick), and fry on a low to medium heat, stir to coat the onion in the oil, and fry for 10 minutes or until soft and lightly golden, stirring occasionally at first and then more frequently to prevent the onions from burning.
4. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the turmeric and stir for 20 seconds before adding the butter, stir until the butter has melted and then add the broad beans and chopped dill. Mix well and season to taste. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Break the eggs onto the bean mixture in four different places and give the pan a couple of shakes to spread the egg white. Cook, uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. (If after 8-10 minutes the beans look dry or likely to burn, put the lid on for 2-3 minutes until the eggs are cooked to your liking.) Sprinkle some freshly-ground black pepper on top before serving.
From a Persian Kitchen - Authentic Recipes & Fabulous Flavours From Iran by Atoosa Sepehr, published by Robinson, £26 in hardback.