New Persian food inspiration from dinner with friends


No recipes this time, but lots of Persian food inspiration for me to try later.

We were invited to dinner at our friends' house last night. They're a really nice couple with two boys of 8 and 11. Even the kids are nice - I'm not the kind who loves kids just for the sake of it, just because they are kids, sometimes quite the opposite :) But these two are funny, clever and a bit cheeky, but well-behaved. They completely fell in love with husband, which probably endeared them to me even more.

This is actually the guy who drank my wine and ate my fish a couple of weeks ago, so I think he wanted to pay back. They have family roots in Iran, so I was hoping we'd get some original Persian home cooking. Boy was I not disappointed.

I love all kinds of Middle-Eastern cuisines, well, I love all kind of cuisines full stop. But yes, Middle-Eastern is very much up my street and Persian is one definite favourite. Before I started exploring I wouldn't have thought they have such love for my favourite herb, dill. I've always thought it's very Scandinavian and not really so appreciated elsewhere. All sorts of herbs feature heavily in Persian cuisine, which is one of the main reasons I love the food so much. Dill is used a lot, and not necessarily with fish or seafood, but with rice, vegetable dishes and soups as well as in meat dishes. I often put it in my version of the fantastic Khorest-e Ghormeh Sabzi from Iranian Azerbaijan. It's not in most recipes for this dish, but I have seen it in some, and I think it works.

Persian Ashe Mast soup

For starters they served us Ashe Mast, a soup of yoghurt, lentils, rice, chickpeas and DILL! I had never even heard of it, so it was really interesting to try. I really enjoyed it. It's thick and hearty, but somehow crisp and light at the same time, probably due to the combination of dill and yoghurt. She had used dried dill which reminded me how fantastic dill is in this form also. I often go for fresh, but the dried variety is beautiful too in it's intensity.

I thought I tasted lemon also. And apparently this can be made with little meatballs in it which I suppose would make it a nice meal in itself. As a starter I think it works nicely without them.

For main course there we two kinds of rice, both very typical authentic Persian dishes, Zereshk Polow, rice with saffron and barberries, and Baghali Polow, rice with dill and fava beans. Both are great rice versions for me to try, I have done many others, favourite so far Shivid Polow (garlic, dill and saffron), so it'll be good to try some new ones. No surprise, out of the two Baghali Polow was my favourite.

Husband was in heaven. I can nowadays cook rice to husband's exacting expectations, but these were still a notch or two ahead of mine.

Iranian raisin stuffed sea bass with lemon and herbs

They served us a fish dish of fantastic baked sea bass filled with a mixture of raisins and pomegranate molasses. The fish was full of flavour and beautifully served on a bed of herbs and topped with lime, gherkins, and radishes.

I am normally not crazy about raisins in any cooking or baking, I always dig them out of a scone, a bun or a salad. In Finland we have this disgusting dish, liver bake, a mixture of ground liver and rice, which is made even more disgusting with the addition of raisins. I had a boyfriend and a dog more than 20 years ago now whose favourite dish this was. Boyfriend would buy a pack of ready made liver bake and give half to the dog and eat the other half himself. Euch.

In this fish though the raisins worked. I think they helped to keep the fish moist, but also added and interesting twist to the whole dish.

The meat course was a traditional stew, Khoresht-e Bademjan, lamb with eggplant and tomato. I haven't had this before either, and it is an absolute must do. I loved the mushy eggplant. Eggplant is a bit of a staple in Persian food and is known as the potato of Iran. Husband ladled at least 4 helpings. I did pretty well for a girl, I'd say.

Khoresht-e Bademjan, Persian lamb and eggplant stew

For dessert we had fresh fruit, which often is the way in Middle-East. Fruit was followed by tea with cinnamon or ginger. Cinnamon apparently helps normalise postprandial blood sugar levels. And it tastes nice in tea.

The dinner ended with Ab-Haveej Bastani - Carrot juice and vanilla ice-cream float. Fresh and interesting and apparently very popular in Iran.

Ab-Haveej Bastani - Carrot juice and vanilla ice-cream float

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