I wanted to make something different to contribute to the family Christmas table and I thought for a change I’ll make something for tea! That is ‘tea time’! Tea time is an important ritual in England and especially on Christmas day!
I made this gluten free but you can easily use a wheat flour cake recipe.
~Make your sponge as you usually would but add two teaspoons of liquid saffron for a rich yellow colour and 1 teaspoon of vanilla for taste. You could opt to add rosewater as a substitute for vanilla but I think it might be too much if you use it for the icing too. I used two medium eggs in the sponge recipe but you may prefer to add a teaspoon of flour to thicken the mixture up again.
~Remove the sponge from the oven, set to the side and leave to cool.
~Take a bowl and add a tablespoon at a time of icing sugar. Add a teaspoon of liquid saffron and a teaspoon of rosewater initially and just keep adding until you have enough colour and taste to suit you! There is no right or wrong here, its completely personal taste. Pour over the cake.
~ Roughly crush the pistachio nuts and sprinkle over the sponge. Finally sprinkle crushed rose petals over the iced sponge and there you have it!
I thought I’d have a go and make something new for our family Easter meal and settled on ‘Shirin Polou’ as it looks so delicious in all the pictures I see . The other thinking behind this choice was that it’s full of fruit and nuts and somehow captures the taste of summer, which is a great thought and something to look forward to!
I once had Shirin Polou back in Iran…. a long time ago but I’ve never made it myself. So it was a little bit of trial and error and learning as I went along. My only error was not to make enough liquid saffron but the recipe below should be fine. In the end it turned out well…. according to my resident expert!
Cut the peel from the orange and slice into small slithers
Slice the carrots into thin small slithers
Soak the barberries, rinse and drain
Roughly chop the pistachio nuts into medium-sized pieces.
Grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar in a pestle and mortar, add to 1 medium cup of boiling water, cover and leave to stand.
Thoroughly rinse and then pre soak the rice for at least 2 hours
Boil up a large pan of water add a teaspoon or two of salt according to your own taste.
Add the rice and allow to simmer until the rice has grown and is soft to bite.
Drain and rinse and then put to one side.
Meanwhile, place the orange peel in a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about a minute then drain. This is to remove the
Combine the orange peel, carrots, raisins, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 mins. Drain and put to one side.
In a large pan add 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil and heat.
Add a few drops of saffron and if you want to make a good taadig, add some thin slices of potatoes.
Add a layer of rice, then a layer of the carrots, orange peel and raisins.
Continue to alternate the layers as above, ending with a rice layer.
Add a teaspoon of advieh, a tablespoon of ghee or butter, cover with a padded lid and cook on a low heat for about 50 mins.
5 minutes before your ready to serve take the sliced almonds, pistachio nuts and barberries and cook in a pan over a low heat for a minute or two. Add the saffron liquid and allow to simmer for a few minutes.
Place half of the nuts, barberries and saffron onto the rice and gently begin to spoon onto your serving dish. When you reach the bottom of the pan, remove the taadig and place around the rice or serve separately.
Finally take the remaining nuts, barberries and saffron and place on top of the rice.
Serve with any poultry, chicken, turkey or duck and salad.
Shirin Polou is usually served at a celebration of some kind.
Persian Kebabs are well known for being the most delicious kebabs and that’s all down to the marinade. You can use veal, beef , or chicken and this is the recipe for one of two marinades we use. The other marinade uses mast or natural yoghurt rather than zafaran. Both are divine.
Ingredients for the marinade :
500 gr’s Lamb
1/2 teaspoon of zafaran
1 desert spoon of Lime juice
salt and pepper
Wash, trim and cut the lamb into large cubes
Place the meat into a bowl
Roughly chop the onion into quarters
Pour on the zafaran and mix it well
Add salt and pepper, lime juice
Leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour before grilling
Put the meat onto skewers and grill or BBQ until brown
This a sweet rice dish, an easy and quickly prepared desert which can eaten warm in the winter or cold in the summer. It’s completely gluten-free and you can decorate it any way you wish, add a few strands of za’faran, fruit or nuts or both, sprinkle with powdered cinnamon. Kids love it and a tempting dish for those who are convalescing.
1/2 litre of milk
50 gr’s rice flour
100 gr’s caster sugar
2 tablespoons of rose-water
Heat the milk in a pan
Add the rice flour, sugar and rose-water and stir
Continue to stir until the milk boils and thickens
Serve in individual dishes and decorate as you please.
Khoreshte Khalal is a regional dish from the Kermanshah province in Iran. Usually it uses black zereshk or barberries which are commonly found in that region. They are smaller , slightly more robust and taste slighty more sour than red zereshk but as they are less easily sourced outside of the region, red zereshk can be substituted. Limu amani are whole dried limes which you will find in any Iranian grocery store and often in Indian grocery shops in the UK. See my notes on Za’faran and how to use it before starting this recipe. This recipe is completely gluten-free and suitable for coeliacs.
This is a special dish, often served to guests and a much guarded secret for some reason! I’ve been unable to find other recipes for it but learnt this from an expert Kermanshah cook first hand! It takes a few hours to make and is usually better served the following day but it’s well worth the wait. I hope you enjoy it.
500 gr lamb
1 large onion
3-4 limu amani ( persian dried limes)
150 gr zereshk (red or black) or a good handful
150 gr sliced khalal ( sliced almonds) or a good handful
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
2 cubes of sugar or equivalent in granulated sugar
2 desert spoons of tomatoe purée
1 cup za’faran infused water
dice the onion
cube the lamb removing the fat
Crush the limu ormani and remove the pips to avoid an unpleasant bitterness
prepare the za’faran infusion using sugar to grind.
Pick out the unwanted dried bits of stem and then wash and drain the zereshk as they are likely quite dusty.
Gently fry the chopped onion in a little oil until it changes colour and when beginning to turn golden add the turmeric and continue to stir. You may need to add a little more oil as the turmeric soaks up oil.
Add the cubed lamb and continue to fry until the lamb changes colour
Add the crushed limu amani. You will begin to smell the wonderful aroma of the limes. This takes a few minutes.
Add a little water, a good pinch of teaspoon of salt and stir in
Now add enough water to cover the meat and simmer on a low heat for approximately 1/2 an hour. You will need to hover over it and top up the water from time to time.
After 30 minutes add the tomatoe purée and a cube of sugar or equivalent and leave to simmer for over a low heat for about an hour or so, adding more hot water if needed. The water should always just cover the meat.
After about an hour take another pan, a small frying pan is ideal and heat it without adding any oil. Add the zereshk and cook off the excess water from their wash. You should see steam coming off from them and then they begin to change colour ( this is not obvious with black zereshk). Add a little good oil and then add the khalal and stir. Add the cup of za’faran infusion and allow to cook for about a minute.
With this khoreshte you are aiming for a sweet and sour taste combined. You can alter the balance to suit your own preference.The colour of this khoreshte should be reddish brown.
Serve Khoreshte Khalal with naan and/or rice and salad, natural yogurt and a dish of sabzi khordan.
Saffron or za’ferân is a delicate spice derived from the crocus flower. Widely used in the east it is a much under used spice in the west. It has many medicinal qualities and is said to help ward off depression and make you laugh… that can’t be bad! The ancient Persians were feared by their enemies as they developed a reputation for using it as a drug to sedate and as an aphrodisiac . Alexandra the Great is reputed to have stolen the idea from the Persians and used Persian za’feran in his baths, for his food and as a cure for battle injuries. No doubt he tried it with the ladies too. Other uses include help with child-birth, as a dye and as a cure for headaches.
Saffron is widely available and can be found in most supermarkets. There is a large amount of Spanish saffron on the market but I recommend you buy a high grade saffron such as Iranian za’faran as its colour and scent is much stronger and you will therefore use less of it. Most Iranian grocery stores stock it but I have to warn you, its expensive. If you don’t live within access to an Iranian grocery store, try an indian one.
~STORAGE OF SAFFRON~ What ever you do, you must store it in a cool, dark airtight container otherwise the colour and scent of the za’faran will diminish.Never leave it on the shelf or it will be almost useless and taste less.
~PREPARATION OF SAFFRON~ I usually grind mine in a pestle and mortar as I need it. However many cooks grind it in advance. I don’t think there is any advantage either way. If the meal you are cooking is sweet, such as Khoreshte Fesenjun, use a tiny pinch of sugar to help grind it down but otherwise use a tiny pinch of salt. Once your za’faran is ground to a powdery like substance it is ready for use.
~TO MAKE LIQUID SAFFRON~Take a pinch of za’faran and place it in a small cup. Add a little boiling water and stir and then cover and allow to infuse for at least 30 minutes. The longer you leave it, the richer the color. Once you’ve made liquid zafaran you can keep it in the fridge for about 2-3 days, but cover it with cling film first!
Za’faran is used every day in Iranian cooking not only to enhance the flavour of the food but also for decoration. Its used in a variety of dishes across every meal. I even place a tiny pinch of it when I make chai ( black and flavoured tea) …. a cup of za’faran infused chai everyday can help ward off depressive thinking. It certainly cheers me up as it soooo delicious. You can also use za’faran flavoured ‘nabat’, a sugar candy used to sweeten chai. Nabat can be bought at most Iranian grocery stores. Unfortunately this isn’t widely available and I have not yet seen it in a supermarket in the west.
DECORATIVE USES ~ Most Iranians use za’faran to decorate and flavour rice dishes. I often use it in throughout the cooking process and as for a decorative finish. This is a picture of Zereshk Polou, steamed Iranian rice with zereshk ( barberries and slithers of almonds) and I will feature the recipe soon.
Za’faran has a huge number of uses in an Iranian kitchen. It’s an essential and fundamental feature of Iranian cooking.