Spice up your Salads

A Persian meal is always served with some fresh vegetables be it in a salad or a dish of sabzi khordan or both. Fresh vegetables are essential for vitamins and minerals which help prevent illness and have many other benefits such as an aid to our digestive system, skin, hair and bones but salad’s can become a little boring unless you spice them up. A perfect way to add flavour is through the use of herbs.

One of my favorite herbs is mint and it makes for a perfect salad dressing.  Mint is easy to grow and you can grow it all year around and it’s easily sourced in a dry form from any supermarket.  This recipe below is one I use regularly and completely transforms even the most basic of salads into some something delicious.

  • 4 desert spoons of olive oil
  • 1 desert spoon of grape vinegar or apple vinegar ( these are gluten-free. Malt vinegar contains gluten)
  • A teaspoon of fresh or dried mint finely chopped
  • A teaspoon of fresh flat leaved parsley finely chopped
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Take your basic salad ingredients and cut into mouth size pieces.

2. Your dressing ingredients: Olive oil, Apple vinegar, salt and pepper, mint and parsley.

3. Chop the ingredients

4. Add the chopped parsley and mint to the basic salad ingredients

5.Take the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and whisk with a fork and then pour over the salad.

Nothing could be easier and you have yourself a tasty, zingy salad.

Nooshi joonet . Enjoy

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Salad Olivieh

This recipe is very simple and easy to make. It’s really a meal in itself,  delicious for lunch or dinner and ideal for a buffet at a party. I have made it for picnics with kotlets and stuffed it into pitta bread for a working lunch. Its versatility is vast. It’s very similar to Russian Salad but personally I have never felt the need to try that. I am always being asked to make Salad Olivieh for parties and gatherings.  Everyone loves it. It’s completely gluten-free which is always a bonus for me.

SALAD OLIVIEH

This recipe will serve up to 4 people. Most of the work is in the preparation of the ingredients.

Ingredients:

  • 400 gr’s Cooked chicken pieces shredded into small pieces no larger than the size of you nail. I usually use breasts but you can use the equivalent of any chicken meat.
  • 4 large potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed
  • 3-4 hard boiled eggs roughly mashed
  • 2 sticks of celery finely chopped
  • The heart of a lettuce finely chopped
  • 100 gr’s of pickled gherkins or dill pickles. These should not be sweet. Chop them finely.
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1 medium carrot grated ( optional)
  • 2-3 teaspoons of lime juice
  • mayonnaise
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • It’s always best to prepare all your ingredients. There’s a  lot of vegetables to peel and chop, cook  and mash.
  • If you have to cook the chicken specifically for this dish you can either fry it or poach it. I usually poach it in seasoned water with a teaspoon of lime juice.

Once you have finished all the preparation and the cooked ingredients have cooled down, add all of them together in a large mixing bowl. Por on the mayonnaise, add the lime juice, salt and pepper  and gently mix. The ingredients should adhere to each other with the mayo and now your Salad Olivieh is ready to serve.It should be served cold.

Present the Salad Olivieh in a dish of your choice and decorate with strips of  carrot, or gherkins and olives. You can decorate it in which ever way you choose.

In this picture I have presented the Salad Olivieh on individual serving dishes with some other vegetables and pitta bread.

Nooshi Joonet ~ Enjoy

Sabzi (Persian herbs). Everything you want to know

Sabzi is one of the great characteristics of Persian cuisine. It refers to the leafy part part of the herb and is used both in Khoreshts for flavour and bulk and in sabzi khordan as an accompliment to meals. Some herbs are easy to grow yourself such as mint, and coriander and there’s nothing more satisfying than picking  herbs fresh from your own garden. However I haven’t had much luck with tarragon here in the UK. Sabzi is always best fresh but this isn’t always possible and it’s difficult to produce enough to meet all your needs. A great alternative is sabzi khoshk or dried herbs and most of these are easily sourced and  available in nearly all supermarkets. When using dried herbs its advisable to soak the herbs before use to ensure  maximum flavour. You can buy almost all the dried herbs you need for each dish you want to make from an Iranian Grocery store. If you want to make a persian omelette for example, look for Sabzi Kukoo.

For a list of the herbs you need for Persian recipes follow this link

Main Herbs

Parsely or jafari You may know that parsley is native to Mediterranean land and has been used by the ancient Greek and Romans. What you may not know is that Persians have cultivated and used parsley in a wide variety of dishes for thousands of years. Parsley is part of many herb mixes of Persian cooking such as Sabzi polow, Ghormeh sabzi, Aash, Karafs and Kuku herb mixes.

Dill weed or shivid is extremely aromatic and is mainly used for food seasoning in many countries around the world. Persians, however, have used dill weed in a unique way in rice dishes such as shevid polou  (Dill and rice mix) and Baghali  polou (broad beans and rice). It is also mixed with other herbs as part of preparing other delightful meals like sabzi polou (a rice dish), khoreshte karafs  (a stew) and kuku e sabzi  (vegetable omlette).

Coriander or Gheshniz. Corriander is native to Iran and easily found in any supermarket across the globe. It’s also easy to grow here in the UK. It has a distinctive musky smell and is used  in salads, and for  Ghishniz polou and kuku. No persian kitchen would be without it is some form, either fresh or dried.

Fenugreek or shanbalileh is one of the world’s oldest and widely used medicinal herbs. It has a variety of attributes and is used for increasing libido in men and as an aphrodisiac generally. The seeds have to be ground and can be used to make tea, for fevers,  to reduce menstrual pain and treat skin infection.  The leaf of the fenugreek is high in iron and helps with respiratory and sinus problems. In persian cooking it’s used in Aash ( soup) and in khoreshts such as ghormeeh sabzi.

Tarragon or tarhoon is again heralded for having many health benefits. Its used for the relief of stomach cramps, toothache, menstrual pain and as a cure for bile and high blood pressure. It’s a vital herb in the Persian diet, used on its own or with pickles torshi and in khoreshts. It has a peppery aniseed taste and is grown easily in Iran although I haven’t had much success growing this myself.

Mint or nanar is another vital. This is very easily grown yourself and spreads rapidly so once you start to grow it, you shouldn’t ever have a problem with quantity again. Used in a variety of dishes from must o khiar a yoghurt and cucumber side dish to chai tea. Its eaten with meals on its own, mixed into salads, and as one of the many herbs needed in khoreshts. You can also buy ab nanah  or mint water. I always keep a bottle at hand as its great for stomach ailments and indigestion. I have found it really useful if by some accident I have eaten something glutenous…. it helps relieve the cramps.

Sweet Basil or reyhan is widely grown all over the world and a favoured herb of the Italians. However was originally native to Iran and was grown there over 5,000 years ago. It has a sweet pungent taste, is easily grown at home on your kitchen window sill or in the green house during colder months and in your garden during the summer. It can be frozen and kept for several months. Health benefits are numerous: asthma and diabetes and as an antiviral to name a few. Sweet basil is a great compliment to all the peppery herbs in sabzi khordan and is widely used in many recipes.

Cress or shahi in contrast to basil has a peppery taste. High in iron, calcium and folic acid its a great immune booster as well as a stimulant, a diuretic and good for the digestion. In the east it’s often marketed as a sexual stimulant for men .. I can’t verify that! On the minus side, it is known to cause cystitis in some women because of its strong alkaline properties. Cress  is fairly widely used in persian cooking for its strong flavour. It makes a great addition to sabzi khordan and can be easily grown at home in pots or in your garden. If you buy  cress, please ensure you wash it thoroughly as commercial growers use animal waste to promote its quick growth.

Leek chives or tareh are from the onion family and have a distinct onion garlicy taste. It’s the green hollow stems that are used both in cooking and for sabzi khordan. Leek chives are so easy to grow at home. Once planted they are prolific and will sprout up all over your garden.  They require very little attention and can be chopped and frozen to see you through the winter months for cooking with.  Health wise they are very similar to garlic but less strong and are thought to be good for the circulation.

Radish or torabeh is a wonderfully colourful addition to sabzi khordan and Salad Olivieh. The skin is bright pink in colour and white inside and it really compliments the range of green herbs both in appearance and texture. The texture is moist and crunchy amidst all the softness of the herbs. Radishes are easily available from your supermarket all year-round. The radish is a root vegetable, easily grown in your garden during the summer months. There are a huge variety to choose from. Persian radishes are also easily grown here in the UK. They are slightly more peppery than european radishes. The only problem I’ve had growing my own is a lack of consistent sunlight, hence the end result is a little smaller than I would expect to have found in Iran. Medicinal benefits include protection against coughs and colds and general infections and as a cure for constipation.

Shallots or musi are from the onion or piaz family and available in most suppermarkets globally. Slightly sweeter,  firmer and harder than an onion shallots are  smaller in size.  shallots are a natural inhabitant of Iran and generally favoured above the onion because of their whiteness and strong taste. They are so hard that they often need to be soaked before the can be used. They are usually eaten with kebab and used to make ma’ast musir.

Sabzi Khordan

Sabzi khordan literally means ‘ eating greens’ and refers to a collection of herbs and vegetables that are traditionally served with lunch and dinner. Sabzi khordan is usually made up from the herbs above but it can be whatever you want it to be, what ever is available to you and seasonal.

To go with the herbs it would be traditional to add walnuts or gerdu and feta cheese or panir. The walnuts are usually soaked in water before serving to soften them.

If you are having a dinner party and want to prepare your sabzi khordan dish before hand, you can cover the herbs with a damp paper towel and add the walnuts and feta immediately before serving.

Sabzi khordan offers a light and refreshing side dish to main meals and is rich in nutrients and vitamins. It’s also a colourful addition to your table with the greens and pink radishes.

Iranian restaurants often feature ‘sabzi khordan’ as a starter ( grr… a personal irritation)

Salad Shirazi

Salad Shirazi

A delicious summer side dish with a real zing , easy to prepare and an excellent palate cleanser. All the ingredients can be easily sourced wherever you live.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 Iranian cucumbers or 1 large european cucumber diced.
  • 3-4 tomatoes
  • 1 red or white onion
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of lime juice (or as an alternative you can use cider vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  • a handful of mint chopped

Method:

  1. wash all your ingredients thoroughly
  2. dice the cucumber, tomatoes and onion and place in a dish
  3. combine the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and whisk with a fork
  4. Pour over the salad ingredients and then sprinkle on the mint.
  5. Gently mix