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Category: Breakfast & Brunch

Iranian-Style Chicken & Potato Salad (Olivier Salad)

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.

olivier-salad-recipe
Ingredients for the Iranian version of Olivier salad.

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.  

olivier-salad-recipe
This recipe for the Iranian version of the Russian salad (aka Olivier salad) includes chicken.

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. 

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 rotisserie chicken breast, skinned and shredded
  • 2 medium baking potatoes
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 150g pickled cucumbers, preferably Iranian
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 100g cooked peas
  • 5 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice or ½ tbsp white wine vinegar
  • White pepper
  1. Boil the potatoes (in their jackets) and the carrot in salted water. Allow to cool completely.
  2. Peel and dice or grate the potatoes. Dice the carrot, pickles and eggs. Mix well with the shredded chicken and peas.
  3. Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice or vinegar and white pepper and pour over the chopped ingredients. Mix well. Add more mayonnaise or some olive oil if the salad looks too dry.
  4. Chill in the fridge for at least two hours. Serve piled in a bowl or on a lettuce-lined plate and decorate with more mayonnaise, peas or pickles if you wish. Enjoy!

Persian-Inspired Bundt Meatloaf with Pomegranate Sauce

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?

stuffed-meatloaf-recipe
Filling the bundt tin with a layer of the beef mixture, then eggs, carrots (I used both orange and purple) and spinach.

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!

Persian-meatloaf-recipe
Cover the eggs, spinach and carrots carefully with a layer of the beef mixture and make sure there are no gaps on the sides.

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.

pomegranate-sauce-recipe
Pomegranate seeds, caramelised onions, pomegranate molasses and tomato purée are the main ingredients of the delicious sauce for my meatloaf.

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.

luxury-meatloaf-recipe
Luxury meatloaf dressed with the pomegranate sauce and ready to slice.

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.

Persian-inspired-meatloaf
Slice of bundt meatloaf with pomegranate sauce.

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.

Ingredients:

For layering and assembling the meatloaf:

  • 3 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp oil (extra virgin rapeseed is best)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g baby spinach, washed and drained well
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2-3 small carrots, boiled and sliced lengthways
  • 4 medium eggs, boiled and peeled

For the mince mixture:

  • 1 kilo (two pounds) lean minced beef
  • 2 egg yolks and one whole egg, lightly whisked
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed well
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tbsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 large knob of butter to grease the tin

For the sauce and garnish:

  • 180g pomegranate seeds
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 20g butter
  • 400ml of boiling water or low-sodium stock
  • 4-5 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or as required)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped or slivered pistachios to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the chopped onions with a pinch of salt on medium-low heat until caramelised. Divide in half. Remove one half from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the spinach to the caramelised onions in the frying pan and cover. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Uncover and cook, stirring from time to time, until all the juices evaporate and the spinach looks almost dry. Leave to cool.
  3. Put all the ingredients for the mince mixture (except the butter) in a large bowl and add the pomegranate molasses and half of the reserved caramelised onions. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Preheat the oven to 260C/500F (or full whack) and grease the bundt tin with the butter.
  5. To assemble the meatloaf put less than half of the mince mixture in the tin and press down. Make four shallow holes in the mince to hold the boiled eggs. Lay the eggs in the holes and arrange slices of boiled carrots around the eggs avoiding the sides of the tin. Cover the eggs and carrots with the onion-spinach mixture, again avoiding the sides as much as possible. Fill the sides with some of the mince mixture and cover with the rest of the mince. Press the mince gently and smooth the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown. This is a very high temperature meant to seal the loaf so keep an eye on it.
  6. Reduce the oven to 220C/400F and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and there are no pink juices when you insert a skewer down the meatloaf. There will be a lot of juice from the mince mix that need to reduce. You don’t want it to dry completely or burn though so keep an eye on your lovely bundt loaf during the last ten minutes and cook longer if required. When done an instant read thermometer inserted in the loaf should register 160C.
  7. Remove the tin from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for five minutes. Drain the juices into a small bowl (shouldn’t be more than half a cup) and return the meatloaf to the oven (in the tin, covered with foil) to keep warm while you are making the sauce.
  8. Reserve some of the pomegranate seeds for garnishing and put the the rest with the remaining 1/4 of the caramelised onions in a frying pan and cook for five minutes on medium-low heat. Stir from time to time. Add the tomato purée and the butter and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring. Add the boiling water (or stock if using), the juices from the meatloaf and the pomegranate molasses. Stir and bring back to the boil. Cook until the sauce is a little reduced. Season with salt and pepper if required.
  9. To serve put a dish on top of the bundt tin and holding tight with both hands turn out the meatloaf. Use oven gloves and be very careful not to splatter juices (if not drained properly before) on yourself. Spoon the sauce over the meatloaf and garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Serve hot or cold with warmed bread and a leafy green salad.

Carrot Marmalade with Clementine Peel & Orange Blossom Water

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.

orange-peel-jam
Persian orange peel jam is syrupy, perfect for putting on rice pudding. It’s also used to garnish the famous jewelled rice served in weddings and on special occasions. This jam can be made with dried slivered peel.

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.

sour-cherry-jam
Sour cherry jam is undoubtedly the most popular jam in Iran.

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.

pistachio-peel-jam
The soft pink, cream and green peel that covers fresh pistachio shells is very aromatic. The jam made with the peel is exquisite.

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.

Ingredients:

  • 100 grams thinly sliced clementine peel (white pith sliced off with a sharp knife before slicing)
  • 1 1/2 litre water
  • 200 grams carrots, cut in thin strips like the peel (or coarsely grated)
  • 600 grams jam sugar
  • 600 ml clementine juice
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water (optional)

Method:

  1. Put a couple of small saucers in the freezer for testing the jam set later.
  2. Put the sliced peel in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for three minutes. Drain well to remove the bitterness from the peel. Taste the peel and repeat this step if it’s still too bitter for your taste.
  3. Put the cooked peel and carrot slivers (or grated carrots) in the saucepan and add all the sugar, clementine juice and orange blossom water. Stir to dissolve the sugar and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for three minutes, stirring from time to time to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Skim the foam to the top occasionally. Lower the heat and continue cooking (about 20 minutes) or until the syrup is thick.
  4. Remove from heat and test the set by dropping a little syrup on one of the chilled saucers. After a minute touch the syrup with your finger tip and pull gently. If the syrup creases the marmalade is set. If not, return to the heat, cook for a couple of minutes and test again. Repeat until the marmalade sets. (if adding Cointreau, rum or whisky let the marmalade cool for a minute or two at this stage. Then carefully add two tablespoons of the liqueur).
  5. Let the marmalade cool and thicken a little. Stir through to evenly distribute the peel and carrot in the syrup. Pour into two small sterilised jars and seal.