I’m really excited about this Persian-inspired bundt meatloaf recipe. I came up with the idea of making this dish last night and was lucky to have all the ingredients at home. I was a bit anxious about the way it was going to turn out. It would be a waste of time if it didn’t come out in one piece. It did come out in perfect shape and it was incredibly moist and scrumptious too.
There’s good reason for making food with a touch of glamour now. Many of us will be celebrating two occasions next week. There’s Christmas obviously, and Yalda, the ancient festival of Winter Solstice that Iranians celebrate on the evening of December 21st. Two celebrations in one week. Good to beat winter gloom, right? Food will be the centre of both occasions and what’s better than sharing food with loved ones in a festive environment?
We celebrate Yalda with company, food and drinks, candles, games and poetry. Pomegranates and watermelons are Yalda staples. I guess it’s because of the red colour of these fruits. Red is associated with fire and therefore with the sun and light. Yalda, the longest night of the year, is the night that the Sun goes to battle with the powers of darkness. It will win some ground on the first day of winter and gradually bring about more light and longer days and lead to the complete rebirth of nature on the day of the Spring Equinox (which we also celebrate, as our New Year).
Symbolism plays a huge role in the types of food eaten during Persian festivals. The food of New Year (Nowrouz) is usually green, like green rice, and there are plenty of growth and rebirth symbols around in the Nowrouz decorations too. According to some theories Christmas is related to ancient Winter Solstice festivals of the pagans and Mithras, the Sun God of the Romans. Whatever the origins of Christmas, it’s a great time to celebrate and be merry!
Back to my meatloaf: I make meatloaf only once in a while and try to make it a bit different every time but I had never made one with pomegranate sauce. This was my first time and I’m so glad I acted on what at first seemed like one of those crazy ideas that spring up to mind when one is too tired of doing the same things over and over again.
Inspiration for this dish came from a gorgeous huge pomegranate that had been sitting on the counter for a few days. The jewel-like seeds (arils) can be sweet, sour, sweet and sour and the colour may range from pinkish white to very dark red. Whatever the colour or flavour it’s always a great thing to cook with. It had to be pomegranates in one form or another this time.
My sauce has pomegranate molasses as well as seeds but I think the seeds were what made the dish one to remember. The scrumptious, slightly sweet and sour, pomegranate studded sauce was really wow! Drizzled on the meatloaf it made such huge change from the ordinary to the festive. Best meatloaf I’ve ever made, seen or had.
When I finally took the tin out of the oven and turned the meatloaf out I was surprised by how perfect it came out. No trouble at all. Cakes sometimes give me a hard time but this was as easy as pie! I had made the sauce while waiting for the meatloaf to bake so there was really no last minute work. I just drizzled the sauce on the meatloaf and TOOK PICTURES! I had to make the photography very quick so we could have our dinner before the meatloaf got cold. The rest is history.
This meatloaf will serve eight people. You can always divide the quantities in half and bake the meatloaf in a loaf tin which will also look stunning when sliced. Serve with some sort of bread and a crisp, green salad. Oh, by the way, this tastes great cold too so you may want to try it on a brunch menu.
PS: Do use lean beef mince (10 to 12%). There’s so much flavour going on in this meatloaf that you really don’t need the extra fat.
For layering and assembling the meatloaf:
For the mince mixture:
For the sauce and garnish:
Last night when I realised the only things I had in the fridge were a few aubergines, a handful of cherry tomatoes and some mince, the first thing that came to my mind was an aubergine stew, a cheat’s version, though. The proper one is made with cubed lamb.
What I made is a quick version of the scrumptious Persian gheymeh bademjoon, one of the variants of a fragrant stew of lamb/beef/chicken with slow-fried aubergine called khoresh bademjoon (aubergine/eggplant stew).
Meat plays the second fiddle to vegetables and herbs in many Persian dishes. Have you ever heard of a kilo of herbs going into a dish for six people? Well, that’s quite normal for a Persian dish. For the same reason the name of this stew remains “aubergine stew” whether it’s lamb, beef (chunks or mince or meatballs) or chicken that it’s cooked with. Aubergine is the king and reigns in this stew, quite rightfully!
Aubergines are often paired with chicken. One of the tastiest ever Persian stews is the one in the picture below. It’s made with aubergines and chicken and is flavoured with unripe sour grapes (ghooreh), saffron and cinnamon. Sour grapes sound a bit daunting but their lemony flavour brings out the best in aubergines and chicken.
Last year I posted a recipe for one of the other quick variants of khoresh bademjoon with chicken breasts and courgettes. That one (in the picture below) became very popular with my readers. For the recipe look here.
I’m very lucky the UK, at least the south, is so cosmopolitan. London has so many Persian and Middle eastern groceries I’m never lacking for ingredients. Every time I visit London to see friends I make sure I stock my pantry for a good while. There aren’t any Persian groceries in our town but luckily there are Asian shops where I can find a lot of the ingredients I need and a large array of vegetables, herbs and spices I can’t normally find in big supermarkets.
Supermarkets in the UK usually stock one type of aubergine, the big slightly rounded one, whereas in Asian shops I often find several different types including the lovely sweet and longish ones in the picture above.
I like to keep this dish a bit on low-fat side and usually make it with olive oil but if you don’t have my scruples about calories do add a big knob of butter to the sauce and use more oil to fry the aubergine slices. Makes it so much more delicious.
Aubergine stews are almost always served with plain Persian rice and obviously with such accompaniments as sabzi khordan (for a picture and non-recipe look here), torshi (vinegary pickles), yoghurt and perhaps a chopped tomato and cucumber salad (salad shirazi).
To serve four you will need the following ingredients:
It’s officially spring, right? Nothing says spring better than a herby green rice with emerald-green broad beans.
This rice is called baghali polo (broad bean rice) in Persian. It’s an absolute favourite of Persian families and is found in almost any restaurant. In spring when broad beans appear in the markets in their green pods people buy huge bags to shell and freeze for the rest of the year. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say freezing loads of broad beans is one of the main reasons Iranian homes have to have huge freezers!
What gives this lovely rice its characteristic aroma is dill, fresh or dried or even both like in my recipe. Dill is widely used in Persian cooking. According to ancient Persian medical wisdom dill is a “warm” herb and broad beans are “cold” so using the two together balances the dish, making it a healthy one.
“Warm” and “cold” don’t refer to actual heat at all. It’s the composition of natural elements and nutrition occurring in any given ingredient that gives it it’s “warm” or “cold” character. Too much “cold” will result in tummy discomfort among other things and too much heat in food can cause other problems such as a general feeling of too much heat, and skin problems like rashes.
The aim is always to balance these elements (I’m giving a very simplified account). The knowledge of these principles is handed down in families and good cooks are always well versed in these principles so they don’t just throw ingredients in a dish randomly, they try to balance nutritious elements in it. Don’t want to bore you with this stuff anymore so better get down to the real business now!
Iranians make this rice with long-grain Persian (the top choice), or since that is quite expensive even in Iran, with imported basmati rice which is more affordable. Good Persian rice from the Caspian Sea rice-growing region is very hard to come by here so I usually use basmati or Thai Jasmine. I have made this dish with Arborio rice too but with a different method. It turned out like a lovely risotto-like dish (picture below).
A very Persian thing about making steamed rice is covering the bottom of the pot with sliced potatoes, lavash (a kind of flatbread), or even romaine lettuce leaves. This layer, called tahdig (bottom of the pot) cooks to a golden perfection and is the most prized part of a meal. Real or faked fights (for the sake of a bit of dinner-time fun) often happen over the crispy tahdig.
Baghali polo is usually eaten with braised lamb, chicken, pan-fried fish or even with a green herby frittata (kookoo sabzi). I recommend that for vegetarians. My recipe for Kale and Potato Egg Muffins (see the recipe here) can be made like a crustless quiche to be served with baghali polo.
To make enough for 4 persons with very big appetite you will need the following ingredients:
For the rice and tahdig:
For the shanks:
Instructions for cooking the shanks:
Shanks take longer to cook, so start with those first.
Instructions for making the steamed rice: