Cook the Book – The Saffron Tales

By
Casey Warrener
Added
04 May, 2016

This autumn, Cooked editor Sarah Gamboni and I whipped up a flavour-packed Persian feast in the team test kitchen. We found a few favourites that we’re sure to show off to friends, and honed in on an adjustment or two along the way.



Our herby four-course feast included hand-rolled falafel with fennel and watercress, a fragrant flatbread salad with basil, mint and bursts of pomegranate, a sweet and spicy roast chook, rosy poached quinces, and the prettiest petal-covered cake.

Was it as delicious as it sounds? You betcha. Here’s the breakdown:

Mixed herb and flatbread salad

This was an absolute winner. Most who know me know that I have an aversion to garden varieties of salad – those limp, mesclun numbers are just not something I’ll go in for. But a bowl full of feta, tortilla, herbs and seasonings, now that's my kind of salad. If you can’t find golpar – a spice otherwise known as angelica root – just omit it. We went without it, and it certainly didn’t diminish the dish (substituting would prove difficult due to its distinct flavour profile). We also used a standard pack of Mexican wraps and that did the trick for the tortilla, but if you want to go all out, Yasmin has a recipe for Persian flatbreads you could try. Increase the amount of herbs according to taste (I accidentally used whole bunches on my second attempt – yep, I’ve already been back for more), and definitely heed the instruction to let the salad sit and soak for 10 minutes or more.

Herby baked falafels with fennel & watercress salad

Confession: unless entertaining, or baking, I’m a bit of a lazy cook. Homemade falafel is not something I would have previously considered, but I was surprised by how easy this was, and would definitely do it again. These were delish, but like most falafel, a little dry to be eaten on their own – they’d be best served with flatbreads and pickles, as per Yasmin’s suggestion. I’d also sub in a creamier sauce, and there are a couple of ways you could go with this. The first and truest to the recipe would be to up the amount of water and make it warm. This will leave you with a smoother texture. Another way would be to combine the tahini dressing with Greek yoghurt, or to try something like a tzatziki instead – Yasmin’s yoghurt with cucumber and dill would work nicely.

Roast chicken with pomegranate and za’atar glaze

Everybody loves a roast chook, and this one is particularly scrumptious. Coated with sticky pomegranate molasses and sprinkled with zesty *za’atar, it’s the perfect balance of sweet and tangy. In addition to the garlic we added some chopped onions to the roasting tin, leaving us with a lovely mix of caramelised alliums at the end. Served with a pile of aromatic Persian rice, crunchy cabbage salad, and sumac-spiced sweet corn, this would be an impressive and well-rounded meal.

*Za’atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that can include thyme, oregano, marjoram and sumac, typically mixed with salt and sesame seeds. All za’atar isn’t made equal, so try a few to find your favourite.

Poached quince with mascarpone and pistachios

Who knew this tough, misshapen fruit could be so mouthwatering good! Well, we did. But I was still taken aback by how tasty this simple dish turned out to be. The warm scent of cloves and intense rose water wafting from the saucepan was enough to make my stomach rumble, and the end result was highly satisfying. This is a fantastic all-rounder – eliminate the mascarpone for a light dessert, and keep leftovers in the fridge to jazz up your morning muesli. It got a big tick from all lucky enough to try (because it didn’t last long).

Persian love cake

With its bright green pistachios and violet-red rose petals, this is one swoon-worthy cake (hence the name). I’m a big fan of citrussy cakes and floral-flavoured sweets, so naturally I was excited about this dessert. Unfortunately, while it looked incredible, there are a few things we’d suggest you tweak. Firstly, the recipe says to add all the eggs at once – don’t. Mix them in one-by-one, like you usually would when preparing a batter. Secondly, increase the amount of drizzle; make enough to get your cake good and soaked. Doubling the amount of juice and water should do it. And lastly, depending on your oven, undercook it a little – check on your cake 10 minutes before the baking time is up. Get this Persian beauty right, and you’ll be a popular tea guest indeed.

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