Monday, 15 March 2021

Mahi Polo - Persian fish and rice.

 Mahi Polo

Persian new year is a much awaited time of the year. Advent of spring - better weather for most in the Northern Hemisphere and beautiful flowers to smell and admire.

Growing up Navroze in Karachi meant a set of new clothes, a holiday from school, a visit to the fire temple and then to visit the elders of the family. We got to eat sweets all day, got a parika from grandparents and loving aunts - a bit of cash - (always with shiny new crisp notes straight out from the bank) stuffed in a white envelope inscribed with a red pen. Good wishes for the year written to us with our names on it. It was never meant to be bundles of money but something to go out and treat ourselves with. 

While we ate traditional food for lunch as a family, we generally ate out at dinner. As years went by every year I learn more about Navroze - our ancient traditions, heritage and culture that we knew very little about. My recent interest in researching commonalities between Persian and Parsi food I find that one of the traditional foods Iranians eat over Navroze is a Mahi Polo - rice and fish. 

Here I have shared my version of something I prepared for my mother this afternoon. I enjoyed it very much. I think she did too.

Serves 4

6 pieces of fillet of fish - Tilapia
Marinated in 
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp saffron
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grapeseed oil to fry the fish

Boil a cup of rice with salt.
Drain and add a generous nob of salted butter and a tablespoon of fresh chopped Dill. 

In a deep skillet heat the oil and fry the fish- turning it once. 
Spread the rice all over. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the stove off. Let it rest for a few minutes and serve. 

Cooking your rice in broth, stock or homemade buttermilk - chaas adds to the flavour.

While this dish is served 'dry' it may be a good idea to serve it with raita or aab doogh Khiar.  

Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala

Chicken in Buttermilk Sauce


Chicken in Buttermilk Sauce

This recipe is a particular favourite for me as it holds the most wonderful food memories of holidays and family get togethers. This one was created on a whim, visiting a deli on my way home in Wimbledon. I still recall feeling excited about the variety this new shop in the village offered. It was whatever I picked, that I put in with my beautifully pan-fried golden crusted chicken. The end result was the family squeezed around the table loving it all. It was also the first time I had used a Le creuset - something I had only heard and read about. 

Serves 6
30gm butter + 1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 kg of boneless chicken - in pieces
Salt and pepper to season
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
250 gm kalamata or mixed olives
250 gm pickled mushroom
3 tbsp fortified tawny vintage port - sherry
In a deep skillet with a lid heat the butter and olive oil.
Brown the chicken on both sides, season with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle the fresh garlic over, give it a stir. Cover and let it cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the stove top and wait for a few minutes before adding the buttermilk and the choice of wine, shaking the pan to mix it well. Add the olives and mushrooms. Cook for another 10 minutes till done.
Serve it with warm crusty bread.
Thigh meat is preferred for this cooking time. Breast pieces may need half the time to cook, do not dry it out by overcooking.
Buttermilk is the leftover liquid when making paneer.
Optionally a red chilli and sliced sundried tomatoes can be added


AAb Doogh

Aab Dugh -Doogh Khiar 
Raita the Persian way is the best way to describe this easy to prepare dip. Its wonderfully fresh, served chilled with a warm fresh naan, lavaash or roti. It is a good accompaniment with any kind of meal. The deliciousness lies in the burst of flavour and texture so keep it all ready to mix literally just as you are about to serve it. 

Mix together

1 cup Greek yoghurt
1 ½ cups Mediterranean yoghurt
pinch of sugar
a touch of salt
2 small chopped cucumbers
1 small red onion finely chopped
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 spoon crushed dried mint
sprinkle of sumac on top

Serve cold.

Photo courtesy Sheriar Hirjikaka

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Nut and Spice Cake

 Nut and Spice Cake

This cake is in memory of my aunt Villie fui who left me with so many wonderful memories in the kitchen.

It is her constant interest in food we shared that encouraged me to start teaching. Experimenting and never being afraid to interchange ingredients, never waste and use up bits and pieces of good food. She taught me how to clean a fish, debone and cut a whole chicken and how to use all parts of a fruit vegetable or piece of protein. 

These were her favourite fruit, nut and spices she loved best. Caramel was also her very favourite sweet. And so this is her cake - just for her.

Prepare an 9 inch square or 9 inch round cake pan with a parchment and butter.

Preheat the oven to 350F 

Measure out all the ingredients before you start
For the caramel
Melt 2 tbsp sugar until its a lovely dark golden brown
Add 1/4 cup of water and bring it to a boil to make the syrup. Cool and add 
2 tbsp of orange juice OR rum OR brandy

Bowl of  dry ingredients
180 gm / 6 oz flour - sift it twice
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp each powdered clove and cinnamon
60 gm / 4 tbsp/ 1/4 cup /2 oz semolina
3 tbsp fresh orange zest

60 gm/ 2oz each of pistachio+ walnut+ almond - finely chopped by hand

Cream together
180 gm/ 6 oz salted butter
250gm/8 oz /1 cup sugar
4 eggs - room temperature  

Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs one at a time. 
Lower the speed to low and gently fold in the bowl of dry ingredients alternating with the caramel syrup mixture. 
Pour into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Test to see a clean skewer.
Serve warm 


This cake tests best when its fresh and warm from the oven. It does not need a frosting but will work well with a soft cream cheese frosting. Also you can offer it with slices sharp cheddar, gruyere or gouda. 

Photo courtesy Niloufer Mavalvala.


Chicken Makhanwala

 Chicken Makhanwala 

While this is quite the delicacy in Parsi homes across India, not many of us growing up in Karachi have ever prepared this. But we can all enjoy different ways to cook chicken and its lovely to revive old lost family recipes.  

I always wonder if this was where butter chicken was concocted from!!

Serves 6

1.5 kg chicken in 8  pieces - skinless bone in marinated in the marinade of

1 1/2 tsp ginger paste
1 1/2 tsp garlic paste
1 tsp chillie powder
1/ 2tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 tsp clove powder
1/2 tsp salt

In a pan heat a tbsp of oil.
Gently cook the chicken on a low heat till tender. Add water if needed.

Blend together 
1/2 cup whole milk or cream
100 gram paneer 
100 gm mava khoya. 
2 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp cashew nut
Spoon this into the chicken and allow it to simmer for another 10 minutes. 

Pour a tablespoon of hot melted butter all over and serve.


If you do not find khoya or mava you can use extra paneer.

Substitute cashew for almond or walnut.

Substitute raisins for dry apricot - seedless kobani, dates or even figs. 

Colour  and flavour may  vary with substitutions. 

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Jujeh Kebabs - Persian Grilled Chicken


Jujeh Kebab - Chicken Kebabs


Lemon bar-b-q chicken drumettes they are super moist and absolutely delicious. You may use wings or small chicken legs. Many serve it boneless. I prefer it skinless with bone for the full flavours to absorb. It is one of my favourite to both prepare and to eat. It is vibrantly colourful specially when served with a Zereshk -barberries Pilaf on the side.


Serves 6 - 8


2 kgs/4 lbs chicken pieces

1 cup lemon or lime juice, freshly squeezed

 3 tbsp grape-seed oil

 ½ tsp saffron threads

1 1⁄2 tsp salt

1 tsp sumac powder

1 large freshly sliced red onion

4 cloves garlic - freshly grated 


The Marinade


Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and keep refrigerated overnight. When ready to cook, bring to room temperature for 2 hours. Skewer the chicken.  Cook on a bar-b-q for 8 -10 minutes on each side until cooked through. You may alternately cook this under the broiler for about 10 minutes on each side. While it is cooking you need to baste the chicken to keep it moist;


For Basting


Mix together

¼ cup melted salted butter

Juice of 1 lime

Pinch of saffron threads

Serve this with grilled tomatoes, freshly sliced onions, lime, parsley and warm lavash flat bread or a Barberry Pilaf.




You may simply lay the chicken pieces on a flat tray and cook it in the oven on a high temperature of 400F/220C till it is cooked. It will take approximately 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven. Turn halfway and add the sliced onions and half cut tomatoes to cook at this point.  Baste once again with the butter mixture on both sides. There may be lots of juices running in the tray if you cook in the oven.  


 Photo courtesy Sheriar Hirjikaka

Pomegranate Lamb Stew


Khoresh Fesanjan ba Goosht My style - Pomegranate Walnut Lamb Stew


I say that, since traditionally Fesanjan are prepared with chicken. I love lamb shanks and decided to make my thick and delicious walnut pomegranate gravy to dress up the extremely soft “fall of the bone” meat. It is best slow cooked and worth the time and effort. Serve it with any rice of your choice but ideally with the Baghali; prepared with fresh dill and fava beans with a touch of saffron and butter.  




6 lamb shanks 

1 tbsp butter 

1 tbsp grape seed oil 

1 tsp salt 

3 cups water 

2 finely chopped onions, fried to a golden brown 

2 tbsp brown sugar 

3 cups pomegranate juice 

1 1/2 tsp salt 

1 cup toasted walnuts- crushed to a powder 

2 tbsp ground almond   

½ tsp cinnamon powder

1 tsp advieh 

6 juniper berries

1 tsp of allspice - freshly ground 



In a pan, heat the butter and oil. Pan fry the lamb shanks till golden brown all over. Salt it all over. Add the water, bringing to a boil - cover the pot, lower the heat continue cooking for 1 ½ hours. Add in the pomegranate juice, crushed onions, walnuts, almond, and all the spices. Bring to a boil again and cover. Simmer for 2 hours. Stir from time to time to make sure it is not sticking at the bottom of the pan. Taste for salt and toorsh o shirin - sweetness and sourness.


The Khoresh should be thick, the meat soft enough to fall of the bone. Turn the stove off and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.



Crush the juniper berries if you prefer.  

Photo courtesy Vahishta Canteenwalla

Kashk - e- Bademjan - Persian Eggplant Dip



Kashk e Bademjan and Borani Bademjan - Eggplant Dip



While Kashk is a dry remnant of yogurt cooked down in water, it has a definitive flavour.

The Kashk e bademjan is a Persian appetiser. Eggplant, kashk and walnuts, are the key ingredients. Saffron is the luxury to this dish. It is served with freshly baked Taftoon and Barbari.


Roasted eggplants taste creamy and rather smoky. You can do this one on the stovetop or the oven. Eaten warm or cold it is delicious. Other cuisines in the geographical region also have similar recipes like the bhurut or bhurtu from the Parsi and Gujarati Indian Cuisines. 

The Afghani cuisine has the Borani bademjan; anything mixed in yogurt is referred to as a Borani. Legend has it that a young Persian princess PoranDokht was crowned Queen at her father’s sudden death. PoranDokhts’ favourite food was yogurt a change from the platters of meat prepared for the Kings. This left her Palace Kitchens in a dilemma to please their young queens’ palate every day. Her rule was short lived but the birth of the “Porani” continues. Over the years the word got lost in translation amidst Farsi, Dari and Arabic and hence turned into Borani as the Arabic language has no pronunciation of the sound P.                   


Serves 6 - 8


1 tbsp oil

2 large eggplants slit in half lengthwise

6 peeled large garlic cloves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tsp dried mint

4 shallots or green onions, finely chopped

1 /2 tsp of cumin powder

 ½ cup of freshly chopped coriander leaves

 1 tsp of dry mint; powdered between your fore fingers

 ½ tsp sumac

 1 tbsp olive oil for drizzling

 ½ cup Kashk or thick yogurt, at room temperature


¾ cup walnuts – toasted and hand chopped

Pinch of saffron

A handful of fried onion


Heat in a deep pan the oil, add the eggplant, garlic cloves, salt and sugar. Cover and cook on a low fire till the eggplants are nice and soft. Approximately 1 hour. Cool.  Remove the pulp with a large spoon, discarding any big seed pockets and the skin. Lightly mash together with a fork and return to the pan. Add to the same pot, the finely chopped green onions, cumin powder, coriander leaves and dry mint - which has been crushed to a powder between your fore fingers. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes on a low heat. In a bowl beat together the plain yogurt and gently fold it into the eggplant dip when ready to serve. Serve warm with a sprinkle of sumac, dry mint and a drizzle of olive oil, with warm lavash or taftan flat bread.




Flat leaf parsley is more common in Persian food than coriander.

While dry mint has a definitive flavour and a must in many Persian recipes a handful of fragrant fresh mint that has been finely chopped can be added instead.

When in season fresh tender stems of green garlic from your local farmers market will make this dish burst with flavour. Finely chop 4 of them and add it for the last 10 minutes.

Adding a handful of finely chopped fried brown onions is an option to add to the sweetness of this traditional dish. 

Photo courtesy Sheriar Hirjikaka

Saffron Nut and Orange Cake

 Semolina and Saffron Cake with Nut and Orange

This cake is simple and delicious. It tastes wonderful when warm with a dollop of fresh cream, a scoop of fresh yogurt drizzled with orange and saffron or on its own.

It is a cake that needs no gadgets - Just a spoon and two bowls!

Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C

Prepare an 8 inch pan with parchment and butter

¾ cup walnuts

1/ 4th cup semolina

3/ 4th cup light brown sugar

1 ½ tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 eggs, at room temperature

3/ 4th cup safflo oil

Zest of 2 oranges – divided in two

Juice of two oranges

1/ 3rd cup icing sugar

A generous pinch of saffron threads

1/ 2 cup thick yogurt


Step 1

Toast the walnuts and grind finely.

In a bowl mix the dry ingredients nuts, semolina, brown sugar, baking powder and salt

Step 2

In a bowl using a wooden spoon, mix till smooth - do not over beat, the eggs, oil and half the orange zest. Mix in the dry ingredients until just combined.


Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 22 minutes till slightly wobbly in the center.



 In a pan boil for 12 minutes till sticky, the orange juice and remaining zest with the icing sugar. Add a generous pinch of saffron threads. Pour over the baked cake.

Save a few teaspoons of the sauce to swirl into the yogurt. Eat the cake warm serving the yogurt on the side.

 Photograph courtesy of Sheriar Hirjikaka

Tuesday, 2 March 2021

Persian Market Palau

Persian Market Palau

This is a recipe that I prepared with my aunt Villie many many years ago for a fundraiser in Toronto. Attended by over 50 ladies it was a wonderful experience and perhaps the stepping stones to the start of my career. 
While traditionally these kind of dishes are made in a deep pan and 'overturned' to show the beautiful tahdig or crust, one can prepare this for a large family gathering in platters and layers just as beautifully. 

The flavours are subtle yet delicious, the textures are many and it looks so pretty its a wonderful dish to share.

Serves 6

4 tbsp oil+ butter or brown butter

1 cup thinly sliced onion

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 fresh or dry red chillie

500gm/1lb lamb pieces in 2 inch squares

1 tsp salt

1 cup yogurt

mixed with 1 tsp advieh or

a mix of 1/4 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp nutmeg + 1/2 tsp cinnamon powders

1 cup water

1 cup rice - cooked until al dente` 

3 cups finely shredded or sliced potatoes cooked in 4 tbsp oil and butter and salted  1 tsp.

1/4 tsp crushed saffron in 1/4 cup warm milk

1/2 cup chopped pistachio

1/2 cup zereshk barberries - rinsed

In a pan heat the oil and butter and cook the onion until a pale golden brown. Add the ginger, lamb and salt and cook until the meat is browned all over. Do this on a medium heat for about 20 minutes. 

Add to this the yogurt mixture thinned down with a cup of warm water.  - This will help prevent the yogurt from curdling.

Cover and cook until the meat is tender. Allow a thick gravy to remain approximately  1 1/2 cups.

Prepare the rice

Boil 4 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Add the washed cup of rice. Bring it to a boil until just cooked. Do not over cook. Rinse it out and leave on a flat platter to cool.

Prepare the potatoes

In a flat pan heat the oil and butter and lay out the potatoes to cook with a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pan, do not stir the potatoes it needs to get a crust. Assemble Lightly oil the pot or a non stick spring form pan or a ring mould.

If you are inverting as per the recipe

Press down the potatoes crust side down.

Layer with half the rice. Press down.

sprinkle the Pistachio and Zereshk berries

Top with the meat and gravy

Press down the remainder of the rice.

Make holes in it with the back of the spoon. 

Pour the saffron in the holes.

Seal tightly with parchment paper and a lid. 

Simmer on the stove for 30 minutes. Turn the stove off. Leave for 15 minutes. Overturn on a plate and serve.

Noosh e jan!