1) Jeweled Rice (Morasa Pulao)
Serves 4 as a starter
Iran is home to some of the most stunning ranges of rice dishes and pulaos. It is a mainstay at most weddings and banquets, with the jeweled, glorious, and shimmering stripes of nuts and fruits mixed in with steaming saffron rice.
- Salt and black pepper
- Flavorless oil, for frying
- Butter or ghee, for frying
- 75g orange peel
- 600g basmati rice
- 50g pistachios
- 50g almonds
- 3 tsp ‘rice spice’ (advieh pulao – usually 2 parts cinnamon to 1 part each ground cardamom, rose petals and nutmeg)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
- 100g raisins, soaked and drained
- 100g barberries or cranberries, soaked and drained
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- ½ tsp ground saffron steeped in boiling water
- First you have to prepare the fruity, nutty bits. Blanch the nuts in boiling water and then fry the raisins and barberries separately in some butter, until they are puffed. Then fry the onion, orange peel, and carrot in oil until they are soft.
- Cook the rice according to instructions, and add the rice spice with liquid saffron until they are cooked.
- Turn the rice out and lay out the stripes of the jewels on top in pretty rows, with some color contrast. Most Iranians serve the jewels mixed into the rice, since it is easier to prepare, but it isn’t to everyone’s liking. Serving them on top is easier and looks superb as well.
2) Cauliflower & Chickpea Tagine With Harissa And Preserved Lemon
Serves 4 to 6 people
This dish is typically cooked in the wooded Middle Atlas region and the lush valleys that lead up to the High Atlas. It is a great way of preparing cabbage, broccoli or cauliflower and is served with bread to mop up the sauce.
- 1 cauliflower, trimmed into small florets
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 preserved lemon, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1-2 tsp sugar
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 2-3 tsp harissa
- A bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Salt and black pepper
- First heat the oil and butter in a base of tagine or in a heavy-based saucepan. Then add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes till they are soft. Now add some sugar, coriander seeds and garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until the garlic and onion begin to color. Now toss in some cauliflower florets and chickpeas.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, and stir in the harrisa. Pour enough water to cover the cauliflower, and bring the liquid to boil. Now reduce the heat, put on the lid and cook the tagine for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.
- Add salt and pepper to season the tagine and then toss in half the coriander and half the preserved lemon to cook for a further 5-10 minutes. Now garnish with the remaining preserved lemon and coriander.
3) Mujaddara (Rice With Lentils)
Serves 4 to 6 people
Every country and region in the Middle East has their own lentil and rice recipe. It is great comfort food, which is sweet and earthy, and often topped with caramelized onions. It is a favorite amongst Syrian and Lebanese families, who often eat it with a lemony salad.
- 80ml olive oil
- 80g long-grain rice, washed well and drained
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 185g brown lentils
- 25 litres water
- 1 medium brown onion, finely diced
- ½ tsp cumin
- First heat some oil in a pan and fry the diced onion until they turn soft. Now add half the water and lentils to bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat down and cover to let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Now add some rice, mix it well and cook for 15 minutes. Stir it frequently and add water gradually until it is absorbed.
- The dish will be ready when the lentils have broken down to a puree and the rice grains have swollen or almost burst. It will look like a khaki brown porridge.
- Now add the cumin and stir it well. Heat the remaining oil and then cook the sliced onions over a low to medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until they are caramelized. Now serve at room temperature and garnish it with onions.
Makes 10 pieces
Bourekas are traditionally baked puff pastries, which are served with either spinach, cheese, mushrooms or potatoes. You can add nigella seeds, which are found in supermarkets or can even substitute with black or white sesame seeds.
For the caramelized onions
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 medium onions, thinly and evenly sliced
- 4 tbsp butter
For the Bourekas
- Plain flour, for sprinkling
- Nigella seeds, to decorate
- A pinch of grated nutmeg
- A pinch of black pepper
- 500g puff pastry
- 4 dried apricots, cut into very small cubes
- 375g ricotta
- 225g mild goat’s cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 large egg, beaten
- To make the caramelized onions, heat the frying pan over medium heat and melt some butter in it. Now add half the onions and sprinkle 1 ½ tsp of salt over them. Now add the remaining onions and the salt. Don’t stir the onions in the first 15 minutes of cooking and leave them alone to caramelize. Then reduce the heat to low and stir it occasionally to prevent the onions from burning. Now cook them until they are a deep brown, rich color and remove them from heat to cool completely.
- To make the Bourekas, line a baking sheet with baking paper, and then add in the goat’s cheese, dried apricots, ricotta, thyme, pepper, salt, nutmeg, and caramelized onions.
- Cut the puff pastry in half, and roll one piece out on a lightly floured surface until it’s in a 5 mm-thick sheet. Now take half of the cheese mixture and spread it horizontally across the sheet on the closest end to you. Tightly roll the pasty around cheese into a large log and then repeat this step into a second piece of pastry. Now transfer both the rolls into lined baking sheet and then leave it to chill for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5 and then remove the rolls from the fridge. Brush the tops with egg, and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Now make slices on top of each roll to make 5 evenly spaced deep slits of 5mm. Now bake until they are golden brown for 35 minutes.
- Remove the Bourekas from the oven, cut all the way down the slits and then serve.