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The Persian Fusion

The Persian Fusion

My Authentic and Fusion Persian Recipes. Happy Cooking!

Persian Rosewater & Cardamom Rosette Cookies (nan panjereh)

Persian Rosewater & Cardamom Rosette Cookies (nan panjereh)

There are hundreds of rosette cookie recipes out there so why another one, you may ask. Well, this is a Persian version “traditionally” made with a rosewater-flavoured batter and dusted with cardamom-scented icing sugar. Ask any Iranian and they will swear that nan panjereh (as they are […]

Yellow Lentil Stew With Mushrooms & Courgettes (Vegetarian/vegan Gheymeh)

Yellow Lentil Stew With Mushrooms & Courgettes (Vegetarian/vegan Gheymeh)

Colder days call for comfort food and this vegetarian version of the iconic Persian khoresht-e gheymeh is one of my go-to comfort foods. This vegetarian gheymeh recipe is quite quick to make and perfect for weeknights. My son, though not fully vegetarian, always prefers meatless dishes […]

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 garnished with dried rose petals. Rosewater was a regular pantry ingredient too and was added to sweets, desserts and even the thick coffee my grandma made. Rose petal jam made from fresh rose petals often made an appearance on the breakfast table to be eaten with bread and butter or clotted cream. I must confess, the sophisticated floral flavour of rose petal jam was quite grown up and I didn’t care for it much as a child. I do adore it now.

As a Persian cook I am never without a jar of dried rose petals, another of tiny dried rosebuds and a bottle of rosewater in my pantry. I use dried rose petals as a garnish for food and sweets, as a spice, and even make a very delicious fudge-like sweet (rose petal halwa, pictured below) with it. Fresh rose petals from my garden always make decorating cakes and desserts a breeze.

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These little Persian sweetmeats (rose petal halwa) are flavoured with dried rose petals and rosewater.

But can you use the fresh petals and buds of all roses in cooking and food decoration? As a simple decoration, by all means. But you need to make sure the roses haven’t been sprayed with chemicals.  Fresh rose petals as they are, crystalised or coated with sugar look great on desserts and cakes. Check out my rather different method of coating fresh rose petals with sugar in my Persian Rose & Vanilla Ice Cream recipe which involves dipping the petals in a rosewater syrup to make them very fragrant.

Dried rose petals and rosebuds look gorgeous when used sparingly as decoration on cakes and pastries, too. I often use a few to decorate my Puff Pastry Hearts with Chantilly Cream. It’s important not to overdo it, though. Dried flower buds and petals are papery and don’t have much taste or aroma so they better not be used heavy-handedly. Less is definitely more in this case.

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Dried rose petals, dried rose buds and toasted and crushed rose petals.

If you are using dried rose petals as a spice toast them lightly in a dry pan. Toasting intensifies the aroma and gives dried rose petals a delicious smokey edge. They burn very easily so keep an eye on them. My mum uses crushed toasted rose petals to flavour some of her biryani-type (layered) Persian rice dishes such as lubia polo (spiced rice with cubed lamb and green beans). I sometimes make her lubia polo with chicken instead of lamb. Check out Persian Spiced Rice with Chicken and Green Beans for the recipe.

My mother also sprinkles crushed untoasted rose petals on yoghurt or stirs it into a chilled yoghurt and cucumber soup with herbs, raisins and chopped walnuts (abdoogh/abdugh). This soup is a great dish to serve as a starter on hot summer days.  She always decorates the soup with crushed dried mint and rose petals in beautiful patterns. Sometimes it looks too good to eat!

how-to-use-rose-petals-in-food
Mast-o khiyar (yoghurt with cucumbers, herbs, walnuts and raisins) is often flavoured and decorated with dried rose petals. The diluted form of this yoghurt salad makes a refreshing cold summer soup called abdugh/abdoogh.

Apparently not all roses are created the same when it comes to culinary use. My mother only uses pale pink rose petals specially grown for use in food in Tabriz, her hometown in the northwestern Iranian province of Azarbaijan, especially when they are meant for making jam. She says petals from very aromatic roses grown for making rosewater in other regions of Iran taste bitter in jams and some varieties can even have an unwanted laxative effect.

Most rose varieties are only mildly laxative and a few fresh or dried rose petals scattered on a dish or a little used as a spice won’t cause any trouble. But if you are using big quantities, to make jam or jelly for instance, it’s best to make a small amount at first and test it before making a large batch. I remember my mother spending a lot of time and effort to make a huge pot of fresh rose petal jam from the lovely pink roses in our orchard only to bin the whole thing when it caused discomfort to everyone who had it. Lesson learned the hard way!

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Coarse sugar infused with the scent of dried rose buds or petals can be stirred into tea.

Dried rose petals are great in herbal tea mixes, too. My favourite herbal tea mix is the Persian Rose Petals and Borage Flowers Herbal Tea. It’s a well-balanced herbal mix that’s delicious, very pretty and apparently quite heart-friendly. You can also mix dried rose petals, tiny rose buds and a few cardamom pods with black or green tea leaves for an exotic brew.

Dried rose petals sold in UK supermarkets and online are mostly sourced from Pakistan and are usually of rosa canina variety. They are dark pink or crimson in colour. Persian dried roses are pale pink and come from damascene roses. Both are good for food decorating but I prefer Persian dried roses, available from Middle Eastern groceries and online, for use as a spice.


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.

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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!


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