Sabzi khordan

Sabzi khordan

By
From
New Middle Eastern Food
Photographer
Mark Roper

In the west we have an attitude towards fresh vegetables and herbs which is ambivalent, at best. In the middle east they embrace them, and most meals will begin with a platter of crudités — fresh chunks of carrot, cucumber, pepper, radish and wedges of cos lettuce.

In Iran a basket of fresh, unadorned herbs — sabzi khordan — are the first thing to appear on the table. Eaten with tangy, feta-like white cheese and flaps of soft flatbread, it’s a totally addictive way of starting a meal. As the fresh, vital flavours sharpen the appetite, you can’t help but feel somewhat virtuous, munching on all that greenery.

Obviously, this approach to eating depends entirely on the freshness and quality of the herbs — straight from the garden is best! Failing that, try to buy herbs in big, hearty bunches from the market or a good greengrocer.

This is hardly a recipe but, rather, a list of popular herbs that feature regularly on the Persian table, depending on the season. We’ve included two of the more unusual ones — costmary and summer savory — for those who are keen gardeners, as it’s simple enough to grow them yourself. The idea is to choose four or five herbs that you fancy, and toss them together on a serving platter or in a basket. You’ll need about a cup of herbs per person to be really Iranian — and you’ll be surprised how quickly you want to eat more and more of them. At first it may seem strange to eat this sort of salad without a dressing, but doing so really allows the flavour of each herb to shine through.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
baby beetroot leaves
basil
chives
coriander
costmary
dill
flat-leaf parsley
french tarragon
mint
radishes
spring onions
summer savory
turnip leaves
watercress
fresh white cheese and warm flatbread, to serve

Method

  1. To prepare the herbs, pick the leaves or sprigs from their stalks (discarding any wilted or discoloured leaves), then gently wash them and leave them to soak in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes or so to allow any sand or dirt to sink to the bottom. Then drain and air-dry them in a colander, wrap them loosely in a clean tea towel and store in the fridge. Prepared this way, herbs should keep for about a week.
  2. Serve a platter of herbs with your favourite fresh white cheese — a creamy feta is ideal — and a pile of warm flatbread, so that everyone can wrap or roll to their heart’s content.
Tags:
Malouf
Greg
Lucy
Middle
Eastern
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