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The Persian Fusion

The Persian Fusion

My Authentic and Fusion Persian Recipes. Happy Cooking!

How to Use Rose Petals in Cooking

How to Use Rose Petals in Cooking

Have you ever wondered how to use fresh or dried rose petals in cooking and baking? Or whether you can use the petals from the roses in your garden in food? When I was growing up some dishes in our house were always flavoured or […]

Pistachio, Basil & Feta Pesto

Pistachio, Basil & Feta Pesto

I wrote this recipe for pistachio, basil and feta pesto long ago but kept procrastinating about posting it. Spaghetti and linguine with pistachio pesto is a favourite in my home and when I shared a picture of my pesto and the pasta I made with […]

Persian Chicken & Aubergine Stew (Bademjan-Ghooreh Mosama)

Persian Chicken & Aubergine Stew (Bademjan-Ghooreh Mosama)

 

Believe me, I know I’ve posted too many aubergine recipes here but it just happens! Aubergine is one of the most used vegetables in Persian cuisine and available throughout the year. A whole lot of Persian dishes, from stews to dips, including this chicken and aubergine stew recipe, are made with aubergines. That’s why I keep posting aubergine recipes. I have no choice, you see?

My lot never get tired of having aubergine stews (khoresht bademjan). These stews, whether with meat or chicken or meatless, are yummy and comforting. Like most other Persian stews khoresht bademjan is served with piles of fluffy rice and tahdig (the coveted crust from the bottom of the rice pot) and accompaniments such as fresh fragrant soft herbs (sabzi khordan), pickles, salad and yoghurt. Doesn’t that sound like a feast?

Don’t be put off by the mention of unripe grapes in the ingredient list. I know it’s not an easily available ingredient but this stew with its buttery fried aubergines can be made without it too and will be equally delicious in its own right. Bear with me and I will tell you all about unripe grapes and what to substitute for them if you can’t find any.

 

In Persian cooking unripe grapes are commonly used as a souring agent like limes and lemons.

 

Bademjan-ghooreh mosama hails from the Caspian Sea region in the north of Iran but it’s quite popular throughout the country now. In the summer it’s made with fresh unripe grapes (ghooreh) and in the winter with unripe grapes preserved in brine (ghooreh ghooreh) or frozen unripe grapes.

When I moved to the UK six years ago I thought finding Persian ingredients such as brined unripe grapes or verjuice would be very difficult. Soon I realised that London is the most amazing of all cities and probably the most cosmopolitan. In London I found many Persian and other Middle Eastern groceries where I could buy everything I needed to cook the meals we had back home. I don’t live in London anymore but I can still stock my Persian pantry with ingredients I find online and at Asian or Turkish groceries. Bless them, they are pretty amazing!

Unripe grapes are quite acidic in flavour when raw but the flavour mellows with cooking. They impart a flavour similar to limes and lemons to stews. So if unripe grapes can’t be found, you can still make the stew and flavour it with fresh lime or lemon juice. I’ve made this dish a few times with slightly unripe gooseberries (both fresh and frozen). Gooseberries almost look like unripe grapes and the flavour is similar too.

aubergine-recipe
These little aubergine parcels (boghcheh bademjan) are stuffed with a meatball and cooked in a tomato sauce flavoured with verjuice.

 

Enough choices? You may even have a vine with grapes that haven’t ripened yet, won’t ripen because the weather has just not been warm enough or you need to thin out a few bunches to allow the other bunches to grow better. Pick some and chuck in the freezer. They will be delicious in many stews where lemon or lime juice are called for. 

We often use verjuice to flavour this and other stews too. Verjuice is the juice pressed from unripe grapes. It’s a fantastic souring and flavouring agent. I was quite surprised when I found out that verjuice had been a staple in British kitchens before lemons from the Mediterranean became available. And I hear that it’s now being produced in Sussex, England, from grapes destined for sparkling white wines. I still have to try that but I suspect it will be a little less acidic than the Iranian variety which is quite strong and deep red in colour.

 

khoresht-ghooreh-mosama-recipe
Use a shallow casserole dish to make this stew and arrange the prepared ingredients in one layer.

For this recipe try smaller aubergines so they keep their shape better and look nicer after cooking. I made this one with very small aubergines (about 12 centimetre long and a bit chubby) that I found at our local Asian grocery. They always have a variety of aubergines of all sizes, shapes and colours. Long and slender aubergines are the best but they are not common in supermarkets.

This recipe will feed four. Serve with plain rice and a nice chopped tomato and cucumber salad dressed with olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar. Add about 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon or lime juice to the sauce before arranging the chicken and aubergines in the pan if you don’t have unripe grapes or verjuice.

 

Ingredients

  • 4 medium aubergines or 3 large
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed or other vegetable oil
  • 2 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 30g butter
  • 4 pieces of chicken (large thigh or medium breast), skin removed
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 small piece of cinnamon stick
  • A few threads of saffron, ground to powder (optional)
  • 400ml boiling water
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • A handful of brined unripe grapes (ghūreh ghūreh) or fresh unripe grapes

Method:

  1. Peel the aubergines, remove the stems and halve lengthwise (cut them in four if they are too big). With smaller aubergines like the ones I used (see the picture above) you can keep the stem on and cut almost to the top without separating the two halves at the stem end. They will be a bit faffier to fry but I like the presentation better. Once they are golden and soft on the outside you can spread the two flaps to fry the inner sides too. Your choice which way to go.
  2. Put the prepared aubergines in a large shallow casserole dish or frying pan (preferably non-stick). Drizzle the oil on the aubergines and rub the oil all over them. Cook the aubergines on medium-low heat, turning occasionally, until they are golden brown all over. Partially covering the pan with a lid during the first few minutes helps soften the aubergines faster and you get a better and more even colouring. Add more oil during cooking if the pan is too dry. Alternatively, brush the aubergine halves generously with oil and roast in a preheated 180C/375F oven on a non-stick coated baking sheet for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the aubergines from the pan and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in the same pan and cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add one more tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the chicken pieces until golden on both sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Return the fried onions to the pan. Add the turmeric and tomato puree and cook for two minutes, stirring from time to time. Pour in the boiling water and bring to the boil. Add the ground saffron, salt, pepper and cinnamon stick, lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  6. Add the fried aubergine to the pan and scatter the unripe grapes and cherry tomatoes on top. Brined unripe grapes can be quite salty. Taste and rinse with water before adding to the pan if needed. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. If using lemon/lime juice it’s time to add it now.
  7. Cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken pieces are well done, the aubergines are very soft and buttery and the sauce has reduced in half. The sauce must be of the consistency of gravy. Serve with rice. 

My Favourite

Persian-Style Vegetarian Lentil Fritters with Minty Yoghurt & Cucumbers

Persian-Style Vegetarian Lentil Fritters with Minty Yoghurt & Cucumbers

I couldn’t believe how scrumptious my green lentils fritters turned out when I made them for the first time. Critics No1 & 2 didn’t even realise they weren’t made with meat until I told them. Huge success at creating a vegetarian version of an old-time family favourite, kotlet. I was so pleased.

Vegetarian-kotlet-recipe
Vegetarian kotlet mix with finely chopped herbs, grated potatoes, eggs and spices.

 

The fritterss were supposed to be a vegetarian version of my mum’s kotlet (shallow-fried minced beef and potato fritters) because the week had been declared a vegetarian one by Critic No.1. I was craving kotlet so badly it was all I could think about making that night.  My adventurous side got the better of me and I decided to substitute green lentils for the meat to accommodate both of us.

My mum’s kotlet always came with shallow-fried, sometimes crinkle cut chips (fries). Heaven-on-earth! The best part was being given one right out of the pan, sizzling hot and so fragrant with all the spices that she put into the mix. You can skip the pita and serve them with fries only if you wish.

We call these fritters kotlet in Persian (Farsi), most probably from Polish or Russian kotlet/kotleta both of which are minced-meat croquettes. Like many other foods adopted from other cuisines kotlet/kotleta went through a transformation in Persian kitchens of late 19th/ early 20th centuries and became Persianised.

shallow-frying-vegetarian-kotlet
Shallow -frying green lentil fritters.

 

My vegetarian kotlet were different from my mum’s in another way too. I put lots of fresh herbs (chives, dill and garlic greens) in the mix like they do in the Caspian Sea regions of Iran. You can use any herb mix as you wish as long as the herbs are finely chopped. A mixture of parsley, mint and coriander is very nice.

ingredients for vegetarian kotlet

I always make a big batch. I promise you, you won’t get tired of having the leftovers because they are even better cold. I also love to serve kotlet (whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian) cold as finger food. Make them a bit smaller in size if serving as finger-food and if you wish to make a smaller batch just divide everything in half. Dividing a raw egg is a bit tricky. Beat the egg lightly to divide it more easily.

To serve 6-8 persons you will need the following ingredients.

  • 250g green lentils
  • 350g potatoes (maris piper or baking potato), grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 30g dill, finely chopped
  • 40g Persian chives/chives/ garlic greens or a mixture of these
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • Extra virgin rapeseed oil/ grape seed oil or other high smoking point oil for shallow frying
  • Small loaves of pita to serve
  • Persian pickles or gherkins to serve
  • Fresh herbs to serve (mint/tarragon/coriander/parsley or a mix)

For the Minty Yoghurt and cucumber sauce:

  • 250ml plain yoghurt (Greek is best)
  • 2 small or 1/2 large cucumber, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are very well cooked and all the water has been absorbed. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 40 minutes depending on the size of the burner and altitude.
  2. Meanwhile chop the herbs very finely and grate the onion. Squeeze the grated onion to extract all the juices and discard the juice.
  3. Drain the lentils and put in a bowl. Use a potato masher to mash the lentils. You don’t want to mash them to a pulp. A few whole ones give the fritters a nice crunchy texture.
  4. Add all the spices, grated potatoes, grated onion, herbs, flour and the eggs to the lentils and mix very well by hand.
  5. Put a non-stick coated frying pan on medium heat. Pour enough oil to cover the base by about 3-4 millimetres. Heat until very hot. Test by dropping a small amount of the mixture in the oil. It must sizzle right away.
  6. Dip two spoons in oil and use to drop scoop-sized balls of the mixture into the oil. Form into ovals or rounds with the spoons and neaten the shapes. Fry each patty until golden brown on one side. If the mixture doesn’t hold its shape add a wee bit of flour to help thicken the mix.
  7. Carefully turn each patty with a spatula or fish-slice and cook the other side. Transfer to a platter lined with absorbent paper. Add more oil during cooking if needed but very gradually in a thin stream so that the oil temperature doesn’t drop.

 

To make the yoghurt sauce:

Mix all the ingredients.

To assemble the pita pockets:

Cut the pitas in halves with kitchen scissors or a sharp knife. Wrap them in foil and heat in the oven for a few minutes or quickly toast on both sides on a hot grill. Open each pita half to tuck in a patty, a few sprigs of herbs (mint/tarragon/coriander/parsley or a mix) and as much pickles as you like. Serve with the yoghurt cucumber sauce. Enjoy!