Let’s connect on social media!

Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On InstagramVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On GooglePlusVisit Us On Pinterest

Never miss a recipe! Enter your email address to receive new posts by email.

The Persian Fusion

The Persian Fusion

My Authentic and Fusion Persian Recipes. Happy Cooking!

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 […]

Persian Jewelled Rice with Lamb (Gheymeh Nesar)

Persian Jewelled Rice with Lamb (Gheymeh Nesar)

It’s amazing how the Persian cuisine has been catching on in the western world in the past few years. There are now tens or maybe even more lovely Persian jewelled rice recipes in English out there. I was surprised though when I checked for the recipe of gheymeh nesar, a gorgeous jewelled rice with tiny succulent pieces of lamb. There were less than a handful in English. So I decided to bring that to you this time, my tested and tried gheymeh nesar recipe.

Like many other Persian dishes making gheymeh nesar sounds quite faffy, I admit, but once you know the basic techniques (especially the technique of cooking of Persian rice) you can make not only this but several other amazing dishes. I think this pretty number is one of the easiest to make for a special occasion if you prepare your “jewels”, your rice and the lamb in advance (even a day or two before) and put everything together just before serving.

Butternut-squash-rice-recipe
My meatless jewelled rice with butternut squash, cranberries and flaked almonds. It’s delicious on its own but also a perfect side for the Christmas turkey or chicken.

Gheymeh nesar is basically plain rice garnished with meat (usually lamb but beef or chicken may also be used) barberries, slivered nuts and most important of all,  very lightly sweetened orange peel that gives the dish its unique flavour. My friends often tell me they can’t find some of these ingredients, like a twitter friend who asked where on earth she could find barberries in the depths of Yorkshire. Luckily there are substitutes so bear with me!

When I can’t find barberries I use chopped unsweetened or lightly sweetened dried cranberries or red currants. Pistachio and almond slivers are also hard to come by sometimes. I use chopped pistachios and almond flakes instead. I like using new ingredients in Persian dishes as long as I can keep the Persian essence of the dish. I’m guilty of speckling my white rice with wild rice (not a Persian ingredient) when I make jewelled rice as in my  Jewelled Butternut Squash Rice  and I must say wild rice works beautifully in Persian rice dishes.

Persian-jewelled-rice-recipe
No need for elaborate garnishing.

Now you don’t have to go to long lengths to garnish you rice too elaborately but beautiful presentation will definitely add to the pleasure of eating and there will be a lot of ahs and ohs. We usually create some sort of pattern with the “jewel” ingredients and some golden-coloured saffron rice but it will be perfectly fine to simply scatter the jewels on top of the rice. It will still look beautiful!

Persian-jewelled-rice-recipe
This jewelled rice with saffron-flavoured rolled chicken breast fillets is perfect to serve on special occasions such as Persian holidays and Christmas.

Qazvin, where this fabulous dish hails from, is one of the most beautiful cities in central Iran. The city served as a capital of the Safavid dynasty in the 16th century and is famous for its sophisticated cuisine and fabulous sweets including gorgeous baklava and a delicious cardamom-scented tea cake (noon-e chayi ghazvin).

If you have Iranian family or friends you’ve probably been wondering how they can manage to cook so many dishes for even a small family get-together. You’ve probably wondered about the wastefulness, too. So much food for only a handful of people? Rest assured, not even a grain of rice ever goes to waste! Leftovers will be reheated and served at other meals and are often even better than the freshly prepared. In true Iranian style the following recipe makes quite a lot, enough to feed six people, but can easily be adapted for a smaller number.

 

Ingredients:

For the lamb chunks (gheymeh):

  • 300g lamb lean lamb leg, shoulder or neck fillet, cut into 3cm cubes
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil or any other vegetable oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 3-4 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3/4 tsp salt

For the rice and tahdig:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 heaping tablespoons table salt
  • 1cm thick slices of baking potatoes (about two medium)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil or any other vegetable oil
  • 20g butter

For the garnish:

  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
  • 2 tbsp dried barberries
  • 2 tbsp almond slivers
  • 2 tbsp pistachio slivers
  • 1-2 tbsp rosewater
  • One large orange
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 30g butter

Cook the meat:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pot and lightly brown the lamb chunks and chopped onion on medium heat. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes, stirring often so it doesn’t catch. Spoon the tomato puree over the meat, add the salt and cook for a couple of minutes. Add enough boiling water to cover the meat. Turn down the heat, cover and braise the meat until it’s very soft and almost all of the water has evaporated. This will take about 1 hour depending on the size of the chunks and the cut of meat.

Cook the rice:

  1. Put the rice in a bowl. Fill the bowl with water and gently rub the rice between the palms. Drain. Repeat 2 or 3 times until the water runs clear. Cover the rice with water. There must be about 4 cm of water on top of the rice.  Add the salt and gently stir. Let soak. The longer the rice soaks, the better it will be. So give it at least two hours or even let it soak overnight.
  2. Fill a medium-sized lidded saucepan (preferably non-stick coated) with water and bring to the boil. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Gently stir and cook until the rice grains are al dente (soft with a bite in the centre). Drain in a sieve and rinse with lukewarm water.
  3. Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Sprinkle some salt on the oil and arrange one layer of sliced potatoes in the bottom of the saucepan. Use a large spoon or skimmer to gently transfer the rice from the sieve to the pot, slightly heaping it in the middle. Wrap the lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pot tightly.
  4. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave oven.
  5. Increase the heat and cook the rice for a couple of minutes on high heat or until the side of the pot is very hot to the touch. Lift the lid, pour the butter evenly over the rice and cover with the lid again. Lower the heat as much as you can (using a heat diffuser is helpful) and let the rice steam for approximately 45 minutes. The rice is ready when you see a lot of steam and there is some caramelisation around the bottom (you can see that if you have shaped the rice into a mound).

Prepare the garnishes:

  1. While the rice is steaming scrub the orange well. I scrub the orange with a very fine cheese grater to help remove the bitterness of the peel. Remove the peel in wide strips and remove almost all of the white pith, then shred finely. Cook the peel in plenty of water to remove the bitterness. Drain in a sieve and taste for bitterness. Repeat the boiling if it’s still too bitter and drain again. Rinse with cold water and return the peel to the saucepan. Add the sugar and stir. Only the water clinging to the peel will be enough to dissolve the sugar. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes. Set aside.
  2. Prepare the saffron according to the instructions in How to Use Saffron, the King of Spices. Set aside.
  3. Melt 1/3 of the butter in a small saucepan and cook the almond slivers for a couple of minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Prepare the pistachio slivers in the same way and set aside.
  5. Melt the remaining butter and briefly cook the barberries until they are shiny and puffed up. Be careful not to burn them. Set aside.

Put the dish together when you are ready to serve:

  1. Put a few tablespoons of the rice in a bowl and mix with the prepared saffron.
  2. Put half of the remaining rice on a large plate. Spoon half of the cooked meat on the rice. Cover with the rest of the rice and shape into a mound. Put the potato slices (tahdig) from the bottom of the pot in another plate to serve separately.
  3. Garnish the top of the rice mound with the rest of the meat, saffron rice, slivered almonds, slivered pistachios, sweetened orange peel and barberries. Alternatively, mix the nuts, barberries and orange peel with saffron rice and scatter over the rice. Spoon the rest of the meat on the dish. Serve immediately.

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!