Happy Nowrouz and Spring Equinox! May this new cycle of life bring Peace to the world and happiness, health and prosperity to you all! I know I’ve been missing in action since February but here I am again with a delicious olovieh salad recipe which I hope you will make and enjoy this spring.
Salad olovieh is our version of the Russian salad also known as Olivier salad. Many countries have a version of this salad created in 1860s by Belgian Lucien Olivier, the chef of the Hermitage, one of Moscow’s grandest restaurants, and so does Iran. The Iranian version, like all of the other versions of Olivier’s grand creation, isn’t even remotely similar to the original. The salad served as the Hermitage included smoked duck, crayfish, veal tongue, grouse and even caviar.
The first time I had this delicious salad was at a birthday party when I was about ten years old. For some reason it has become a standard children’s birthday party dish but it’s very popular with grown-ups too. You are likely to find olovieh salad on almost every buffet table and very often on picnic spreads. One can almost say it has been naturalised on Iranian soil but the history of olovieh salad in Iran is probably just a little over sixty or seventy years long.
Sālād olovieh sounds like a very old-fashioned dish, and it is, but it’s really moreish and versatile. You can serve it at brunch or for a BBQ party or as sandwich filling. I think using herby, slightly tart fermented cucumber pickles is what makes the salad taste much fresher than a regular mayonnaise-based potato salad. Use shop-bought Iranian khiyar shoor or any Middle-Eastern, Turkish or Polish whole cucumber/gherkin pickles made without sugar. Polish cucumber pickles are the best. And do shred the chicken breast instead of chopping it because shredded chicken gives a very nice texture to the salad.
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 loaf tin use half the amounts given below.
For layering and assembling the meatloaf:
For the mince mixture:
For the sauce and garnish:
This carrot marmalade with clementine peel and orange blossom water recipe is one for sunshine and a garden of blossoms in a jar. It’s my two favourite marmalades, carrot and clementine, combined into one and my marmalade of choice to make in autumn when new clementines, some still a bit green and sour, appear in the market. Bright orange colour, citrusy flavour and flowery scent, sweet with just the right amount of tartness, how delicious does that sound?
Carrot marmalade with clementine peel is really great to serve on buttered toast for breakfast with strong breakfast tea (with a note of Earl Grey if you like). But not just that. Think scones and clotted cream, or a naked sponge cake layered with a gooey, shiny and flavourful marmalade and decorated with fresh or sugar paste orange blossoms for a special occasion…
Carrot marmalade is a staple of Persian breakfast spreads. It’s usually flavoured with rosewater or cardamoms as carrots have no scent of their own. Quite often very thinly slivered orange peel is mixed into carrot marmalade too.
Persian preserves are often quite chunky and look rather like crystalised fruit in a thick syrup. Fruits like apples and oranges are often kept whole so one needs to cut the buttery and sweet flesh with a knife to serve. To keep the shape of some fruit, veg or blossoms they may be soaked in a solution of alum for a day or two. This results in a very crunchy texture. This type of preserve is usually served as dessert.
Persian cooks are really obsessed with making jams, preserves and marmalades from every sort of fruit and vegetable imaginable. My childhood memories are filled with images of my mum and my female relatives in the kitchen busily preparing jar after jar of beautiful jams and preserves.
They usually offered little bowls of several different kinds of jam to guests after a meal with small glasses of tea and the breakfast table was never without sour cherry jam, children’s favourite, and whole fig jam, hollowed out Seville oranges or big chunks of citron peel preserve for the grown ups.
We make jams from all sorts of things: blossom jams (rose petals, orange blossoms, quince blossoms), fruit (stone fruits, citrus, berries, figs), vegetables (aubergine, cucumbers, squashes, black winter radishes) and even kitchen scraps (peel of oranges, aubergines, pink soft skin on pistachio shells, watermelon rind), you just name it.
Back to the recipe now. My carrot marmalade with clementine peel recipe is not complicated at all. The hardest part is probably waiting for the marmalade to cool and set to have a taste of its fresh, zingy flavours. If you are inclined so, for a festive occasion like Christmas you can add a splash of Cointreau, rum or whisky to the marmalade after the it reaches the setting point but skip the orange blossom water. Adding liqueurs to marmalades is not a Persian thing to do but it works beautifully so why not?
You will need about 8 -10 medium clementines to make enough peel and juice for this recipe.