how to make Persian Food

Dandilion Greens Salad & Lamb Koftfas

Looking through the list of what Ariana Bundy (writer of Pomegranates and Roses) will be demonstrating during her cookery demo at Lit Fest, her recipes look as good as the cookbook title sounds. Elegant, floral, fresh. An award winning author and chef to the stars of Hollywood, Ariana's success is well deserved. Her recipes are full of heart and authentic to her Iranian roots. Not only has she become an international go-to chef for the booming interest in Middle Eastern cuisine, but her food comes from the heart. Her book Sweet Alternative was written for her family's food intolerances and is a compilation of 100 dairy, gluten and soy-free recipes.

Joining Ariana for her cookery demonstration at Lit Fest is Ballymaloe's Rory O'Connell. Recent winner of the Andre Simon Award for his 2013 cookbook, Master It. I've included two of his recipes that will be demonstrated. The lamb koftas feature one of my favourite Middle Eastern herb blends: za'atar. Za'atar is typically sesame seeds, dried sumac, salt and thyme.


Salad of Purslane with Yoghurt dressing, Chilli Oil, Roast Hazelnuts and Cumin.
Serves 4-6 as a starter

150g purslane or rocket gently washed and dried *I used rocket as seen in the photo

Yoghurt dressing
150ml yoghurt
50 ml buttermilk
1 small clove of garlic crushed
Pinch of salt and black pepper

2-3 tablespoons chilli oil (see recipe)
2 large pinches of roasted and ground cumin
15-20g hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and coarsely chopped

Mix the yoghurt with the butter milk and garlic and season gently with salt and pepper.

Remove any long stalks from the purslane, chop finely and add back to the leaves. Toss the leaves gently in the yoghurt dressing. Taste and add a pinch of salt if necessary. Spread out on a large flat serving dish. Drizzle over the chilli oil and scatter on the roast hazelnuts. Finish the dish with the ground cumin dusted over the top. Serve as soon as possible.

Chilli Oil
2 large red chillies
¼ pint if olive oil
Pinch of salt

Chop the chillies (including the seeds) and add with a pinch of salt to the olive oil in a very small saucepan. Bring to a bare simmer and cook at the gentlest bubble for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and with the back of a spoon or a mortar, crush some of the chillies to break them up a little bit. Allow to cool completely and strain through a fine sieve again using the back of a spoon or mortar to press some tiny bits of chilli flesh through. I try to get about 1 teaspoon of the fine flesh through the sieve into the oil. Taste again and add a pinch of salt if necessary.

Store in a sealed glass container such as a jam jar.


Lamb Koftas

Makes circa 50 small koftas

450g minced lamb
100g raw onion grated on a grater
1 clove of garlic peeled and grated on a micro plane
2 tablespoons of chopped hyssop or 2 pinches of zatar
1 red chilli, medium hot, finely chopped
1 dessertspoon of date syrup
Salt and pepper

Olive oil for frying
Grated zest of 1-2 lemons

Mix all of the ingredients for the koftas together. Fry a tiny piece in a frying pan to check the flavour and adjust the seasoning accordingly.

Form into little balls, circa 10g each and store on a parchment paper lined tray in the fridge.

To cook, heat a little olive oil in a heavy frying or grill pan and cook the koftas turning regularly until they feel slightly firm to the touch.

Transfer to a hot serving dish and sprinkle with very finely grated lemon zest. Serve immediately