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Category: Salads

Persian Beet & Yoghurt Salad with Pomegranate Seeds

Dressing cooked beets with yoghurt is very common in Iran. People usually chop up the beets and fold them into yoghurt. As simple as that! But I think a dish, whatever it is, must be pleasing to the eye, too. So I sometimes go out of my way to “dress up” simple dishes like beets in yoghurt even if takes a bit of extra time. A prettier salad always tastes better to me!

I used cooked beets for this salad. We get nicely cooked beets in supermarkets here in the UK. In Iran too we got cooked beets but not in supermarkets. Sweetened cooked beets are sold by street vendors. In winter you are never too far away from a street vendor selling very large steaming syrup-glazed beets. Absolutely yummy!

You may want to cook your own if you grow beets in your garden or get nice ones from your grocer’s. Beets need a bit of time to cook properly but there is no fuss, really.

To cook your beets just cover them with water, bring to boil, lower the heat and let them simmer away until they are tender. Once they are cooked they slip out of their skins very easily. Cooking time can vary from 30 minutes to an hour or even longer depending on the size of your beets.

Beets are really easy to grow and come in many colours and shapes. The leaves are great in soups and salads.
Beets are really easy to grow and come in many colours and shapes. The leaves are great in soups and salads.

I usually reduce the juice in which the beets have been cooked with a touch of sugar until it is thick and a bit syrupy. Then I slice the beets and return them to the saucepan to glaze them.

Another good method for cooking beets is wrapping them individually in aluminium foil and popping them in the oven when you are baking, roasting or slow-roasting. Again, the cooking time will depend on the oven temperature and the size of the beets but there is no way you can go wrong with that. Give them time and they will cook perfectly.

To make the salad all you will need is a few cooked beets, a little thick yoghurt (like Greek or Greek-style), some pomegranate seeds and a few sprigs of mint.

Pomegranate seeds add flavour, crunch and visual impact and so does mint. To seed a pomegranate cut it in quarters and pull away the seeds from the white membrane. The seeds will come off quite easily if gently pushed or tugged in the right direction.

pomegranate seeds
pomegranate seeds

To assemble the salad arrange sliced beets in a serving dish. Mix the yoghurt (as much as you wish) with a few drops of beet juice and put in a squeezy bottle (I save ketchup bottles to use for this). Squeeze the yoghurt over the beet slices in a nice pattern. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top of the dressed beets and garnish with a sprig of mint or two and maybe a little shredded mint as well. Your pretty pink salad is ready. Enjoy!

Spinach Salad with Pomegranate, Walnuts & Pomegranate Dressing

This is a nutrition-packed salad I make all the time. It’s simple to make but elegant enough for a dinner party. This spinach salad recipe uses tender leaves, crunchy and sweet soaked walnuts and tangy pomegranate seeds. What’s there not to love?

I went to my local Turkish shop a few days ago and bought three big bunches of spinach, on impulse. The spinach looked very fresh and lovely and its leaves were pointed. I soaked my spinach in plenty of cold water as soon as I got home to keep it fresh then carefully washed and rinsed it. There was a lot of sand in the roots so soaking helped get rid of that.

spinach-salad-with-soaked-walnuts-pomegranate-dressing
Lovely bunch of spinach soaked in cold water and washed. This is a variety with pointed leaves.

What to do next? I thought I’d use the smallest leaves to make my favourite spinach salad. I had bought a few lovely pomegranates, too. The other ingredient I needed was walnuts. I always have some at home. All set.

I poured boiling water over the walnut halves in a bowl and let them soak for a few minutes to remove the bitterness from the skin. Then I drained them and soaked again in cold water. Soaking gives walnuts a very lovely texture, almost like fresh walnuts. Us Persians are suckers for fresh walnuts. It’s a delicacy sold on the street in summer time. Here is how they looked after soaking:

how-to-soak-walnuts
Soaked walnuts are so much more delicious than dry.

I seeded all the pomegranates, picked the small leaves from the spinach and saved the big leaves and stems to use later for another favourite salad.

Pomegranate-seeds
Pomegranate goes incredibly well with spinach.

At dinner time the only thing that we needed to do was to make the dressing. I didn’t weigh the spinach, pomegranate seeds or walnuts. Too busy making the dinner. But I did measure the ingredients for the dressing.

I can’t live without salad. And by that I mean green, leafy, with other veg or fruit. Have you seen my Herby, Garlicky, Lemony Lettuce Salad recipe? That’s one I love too and make all the time.

By the way, using smoked sea salt flakes gives the dressing a bit of a smokey edge. I love that. But you can use any kind of salt that you wish.

 

Here is how to make the dressing:

Ingredients for pomegranate salad dressing to serve four to six people:

  • 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses/syrup (Persian is best)
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt flakes or pinch of regular salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Method:

Put everything in a small jar and shake well. Pour over the salad just before serving.

Herby, Garlicky, Lemony Romaine Lettuce Salad

Romaine lettuce is my favourite salad leaf. The pale green leaves are so buttery and full of flavour I love to eat them on their own. The heart including the crunchy stem is always a treat. It usually doesn’t get to make its way into the salad bowl!

Romaine is the most popular salad leaf in Iran. The huge heads of romaine from Mazandaran in the Caspian Sea region are really fab. Even in old days when veg and salad weren’t so readily available all year round the romaine was always there to grace and cheer up the dinner table.

There is quite a lot of herbs in my salad. That’s quite a Persian thing. We don’t only cook or garnish with fresh herbs. We eat them like salad. No proper Persian meal is ever complete without a bowl or basket of mixed fresh herbs, radishes and spring onions (sabzī khordan). I’ll write about sabzī khordan in another post. But here is a peak of what it looks like:

sabzi-khordan
sabzi khordan

The winter version of my mum’s green salad usually had romaine, cooked barlotti beans, chopped boiled eggs, cubed boiled fingerling potatoes and was dressed with plain lemon juice. There was always sabzī khordan and her crunchy herb and garlic flvaoured vegetable pickles too.

My garlicky, herby, lemony romaine salad celebrates all the gorgeousness of the crisp leaves of romaine, the flavours of my childhood and the dazzling colourful British summers. The tart, lemony dressing makes this salad a perfect accompaniment to any strongly flavoured meat, chicken or fish. It’s excellent as a palate cleanser. Perfect for BBQs too.

There are many types of cucumbers. I prefer the small ones with thinner skin. They are really sweet and smell so “cucumbery”. I Score the skin of the cucumbers with the tongs of a sharp fork before slicing them. This releases the aromatics in the skin and the slices look prettier too.

Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.
Small cucumbers scored with sharp tongs of fork and sliced.

Adding nasturtium petals to the salad gives it a bit of a kick and colour. Nasturtiums come in bright orange, yellow and reds and have a mild peppery flavour. The leaves taste sharper than the flowers. You can use tiny nasturtium leaves too, if you wish.

Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. They have a mild peppery flavour.
Edible flower- Naturtiums are good in salads. Have a mild peppery flavour.

Make sure to wash the lettuce, herbs and flowers in plenty of cold water well. Spread them on clean tea towels to dry or spin gently in a salad spinner (the flowers are delicate, just air dry on a towel so the petals don’t get bruised). Add the dressing just before serving so your salad doesn’t get soggy.

Check out my Spinach Salad recipe too. It has a lovely pomegranate dressing.

To make a large bowl of this gorgeous salad to serve six people you will need:

  • Leaves from a large head of romaine (or two small), torn or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 small Persian/Lebanese/Turkish cucumbers or half an English cucumber
  • A handful of mint leaves, torn into pieces
  • A handful of dill fronds, torn into smaller pieces
  • A handful of tarragon leaves
  • a handful of chives, cut into 2 cm pieces
  • 5-6 large radishes
  • A few nasturtium flowers (optional)

For the dressing:

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled (half a clove if the garlic smells too strong)
  • juice of one large lemon
  • pinch of salt (smoked if possible)
  • freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • pinch of sugar (if you are not a big fan of sharp, tart dressings)
  1. Finely grate the garlic and mix with the olive oil. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Pour through a sieve into a small jar and discard the garlic pulp. Add the lemon juice, salt, pepper, dried dill and dried mint. Shake well and set aside.
  2. Thinly slice the radishes.
  3. Use a fork to score the skin of the cucumbers. Place the fork at one end of the cucumber and pressing with a little pressure pull the fork all the way down to the other end. Repeat until the entire skin is scored. Slice thinly.
  4. Toss the romaine and herbs with the sliced radishes and cucumbers in a large bowl and scatter the nasturtium petals on the salad.
  5. Just before serving add the dressing and toss well to coat.