A Culinary Exchange

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | SHARMILA CHAND
Published Apr 21, 2019, 12:16 am IST
Updated Apr 21, 2019, 12:16 am IST
The fragrance, flavours and colours of Persian cuisine have long transcended geographical borders to reach other parts of the world, including India.
Kubideh kabab
 Kubideh kabab

Versatile, robust and colourful, Iranian cuisine is a beautiful amalgamation of traditional food and diverse cultures. Due to its strategic location along the ancient Silk Route, Iran adopted the culinary flavours and styles of its neighbours and invaders, dramatically changing its culinary landscape. Thus, one can find gastronomic influences from Greek, Turkish, Central Asian, Russian and even the Mughal dynasty in the vast spectrum of Iranian food. Persians, belonging to Iran’s native ethnic group, have immensely influenced the culinary culture, lending Iranian cuisine its alternative name as Persian cuisine.

Historically, Iran’s staple food has been rice and bread called ‘naan’. The cuisine is largely based on a local variety of rice called berenj. A plate with a heap of rice — either ‘chelo’ or plain, cooked rice topped with vegetables, fish or meat; or ‘polo’ — rice cooked with several ingredients, is a typical Iranian meal. And one doesn’t have to look far for our connect with Persian cuisine. Naan was brought to India during the Mughal era, while the word biryani comes from ‘birinj’ or rice and ‘biryan’ or ‘beriyan’ means fried or grilled in Persian. Dating back to nearly 4,000 years ago, it is said people in Central Asia cooked meat with their rice and called it ‘polow’, which has in turn given us pulao. Baghali polo is one of their most popular rice dishes made with saffron, fava beans and green dill, served with lamb.

 

The Indo-Persian narrative also takes us to our much loved ‘tehri’. Comm-only called as tahari, this mix of rice and vegetables with its origins in Persia, came to be cooked in India as a vegetarian biryani option for the Hindu vegetarian nobles of the Mughal empire.

And then of course, there are the kebabs and koftas. ‘Kee-bahbs’ in Persia were succulent and tender with several varieties including koobideh, barg, chenje and bakhtiari. The popular Indian nargisi kofta is a variant of the tabrizi kofta. While the Persians used minced chicken, in India, the nargisi kofta is primarily made of minced goat meat. Likewise, the Kashmiri aab gosht is similar to the Persian version.

Brinjal or aubergine is also common to both Indian and Persian cuisines. Just as we prepare baigan bharta, kashke bademjan is made up of smoked aubergines and kashk — a yoghurt used in Iranian cooking.

Among the treasure of spices, we have borrowed several from Persia, notably cumin seeds, black pepper and saffron. “The use of garam masala in Indian kitchens comes from the Persian ‘advieh’, a blend of five or more different spices,” explains Iranian MasterChef Feridoun Sohrabi Shahsavar, who has curated a unique dining experience at SET’Z at DLF Emporio, New Delhi.

“Indian and Iranian cuisines use some common ingredients and spices like eggplant, onion, garlic, dry fruits and saffron,” he says, adding, “However, the proportion and method of how they are used vary significantly. In Iranian cooking, the spices are used to enhance the flavour of the other ingredients while the Indian cooking method uses these spices to alter the level of taste and heat across dishes.”

Coming to desserts, Persian halva is traditionally known as ‘HAHL-wah’, made with sesame and is very close to our own halwas, especially Grandma-style attey ka halwa. Faluda kulfi also has its origins in Persia. As early as 400 BC, ‘falude’ (faluda) was invented in the ancient Persian city of Shiraz (known for producing some delightful wines too). Made of vermicelli, and nicely flavoured in rose water along with ice mixed with saffron, fruits and other flavours, falude was a summer dish for royalty. Served at almost every corner in India as well as fine dining tables, faluda is our humble delectable version.

Kubideh kabab
Ingredients

180 gm mutton, minced
40 gm onions, chopped
5 gm white pepper
5 gm black pepper
5 gm broth powder
10 ml saffron water
Salt to taste

Method
Take the minced mutton and add chopped onions, broth powder, salt, white/black pepper powder, saffron water.
Mix it well and put it on the barbeque skewers. Grill it in the barbeque and serve with various salads, rice and sauce.

Meygoo Kabab
Ingredients

11-15/300 gm prawns
Salt to taste
5 gm white pepper
5 gm black pepper
5 gm broth powder
10 ml saffron water
10 gm onions, chopped
20 gm bell peppers

kesn

Method
De-shell the prawns. Add salt, white pepper, black pepper and chicken broth powder. Now add saffron water and mix it well with the prawns.
Insert it on the barbeque skewers one by one, placing a coloured bell pepper each between the prawns. Barbeque it and serve with different salads, rice and sauce.

Kashko Bademjan
Ingredients

80 gm egg plant
15 gm onions, chopped
10 gm garlic, chopped
5 gm broth powder
5 gm black pepper
5 gm white pepper
5 gm turmeric powder
2 tbsp olive oil
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste

Kashko Bademjan

Method
Peel out the eggplant, slice it and deep-fry it after adding some salt. In a frying pan, pour olive oil and add chopped garlic, chopped onions, salt, broth powder and turmeric.
Now add the fried egg plant and serve it in a round mold with curd, fried onions and chopped parsley as garnish.

Ash Reshteh
Ingredients

15 gm spinach
15 gm parsley
15 gm coriander leaves
15 gm garlic, chopped
10 gm onions, chopped
15 gm kidney beans, boiled

ui

15 gm white beans
15 gm chick peas
3 gm white pepper
5 gm black pepper powder
5 gm broth powder
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil

Method
Clean, cut and fry the leaves. In a pan, add olive oil, then add chopped garlic and chopped onions. Sauté it and add boiled kidney beans, chick peas, white beans, tomato paste, lemon juice, black pepper, white pepper powder and broth powder. Cook it well.
Now add the fried leaves and cook it till you get the desired consistency. Serve it in a soup bowl, add yogurt and saffron water.

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