Haftsin table setting
Delaram and Hossain, thank you for you invitation. How would you describe your country?
– Like Poland, Iran has got four distinct seasons. Spring is very pleasant and mild with occasional rain, summer is very hot and the temperature can reach 450C. Autumn is the wetest season and the weather is a little bit cold, the temperature in winter time can drop as far as -150C. Most of Iran is covered in deep snow in winter time.
We just welcomed New Year here.
– To welcome New Year in our country we have to wait a bit longer. The first day of spring is the Iranian New Year and it is a beautiful time because nature comes alive again. The first day of New Year is usually a big family celebration. All the family get together at the home of the eldest member, usually a grandparent’s house, and have dinner together. A traditional dish is fried fish with rice mixed with green herbs, and vegetarian burgers made from walnuts and green herbs.
On our New Year celebration, called Nowruz, we prepare the traditional Haftsin table setting.
How important is food in your tradition?
– Iranian people love food and enjoy eating and take pride in its preparation. They spend a lot of time in preparing ingredients and cooking.
Having so many influences from history, Iranian cuisine must be very rich and versatile.
– Our food is very versatile with many varieties to choose from. As an example there are at least 50 different kind of soups and more than 100 different kinds of stews, and lots of different kind of starters and grilled foods like shish, kofteh, fish, and chicken kebab, and many deserts and sweets. There are some ingredients you cannot find here in England.
What struck me most was that Iranian and Polish cuisines have some similar dishes like vegetable salad with mayonaise or borsch.
– Every country’s cuisine is deeply influenced by its own history and culture and the neighbouring countries with similar climates; this is of one factor that influences the type of food people consume. Through history merchants have tested cuisine from different countries, bringing recipes and making the same kind of food on their return. That vegetable salad or borsch was incorporated from Russia after the Second World War when Russia occupied part of Iran. But yes, Iranian food has influenced other countries, as well as being influenced by others.
Like that spaghetti I tried today. It was really rich. Delaram, what did you put into it?
Yes Iranian spaghetti is much richer than Italian. We make different kinds of sauce for spaghetti. The one that we had together today had onion, garlic, green paper, mushroom, fresh tomatoes, tomato puree, prawns, oregano, parsley, all seasoned with salt and black paper and turmeric.
Are there any special or privileged ingredients? What is the most common dish in Iran?
– Iran has got different herbs such as saffron or wild herbs grown in mountains. Saffron is widely used in Iranian cooking. We use Iranian shallots which are different to what people know as shallots in Europe. They have much stronger taste. The most common dish in Iran is stew served with rice and bread.
Is your cuisine healthy?
– Most of Iranian dishes contain a lot of vegetables, herbs and dried or fresh fruits which makes them very healthy and nutritious. But some dishes are fried and contain lots of salt, although being tasty, is not very healthy.
What is unique about Iranian cuisine?
– Yogurt and fresh, raw green herbs, radish and spring onion accompany Iranian meals.
Are the shops selling offals still popular?
– Yes, there still are restaurants which specialize in offals. The most popular meals made of offals are barbecued liver, kidney and lamb’s heart.
Is caviar popular in Iran? Your country produces a lot of it.
– Iran is the biggest caviar producer in the whole world. Caviar is very expensive to buy even in Iran and it is mainly exported.
What is your favourite traditional dish we could recommend it to the readers of Nowy Czas?
– My favourite dish is an Iranian stew called Gorma sabsi. Similar to most Iranian stews this dish is served with rice.
Interviewed by Mikołaj Hęciak
To serve for four, you will need: 400 g red kidney or black-eyed beans fresh; 30 g fresh fenugreek or 2 tablespoons dried; 150 g parsley; l00 g coriander; 180g (6 oz) spring onions or leeks; 30g dill (optional); 360 g boneless leg of lamb; 1 medium onion; 2 tbsp dried lime powder; 4 whole dried limes; salt to taste and juice of 2 lemons or 4 if dried limes are not available.
Clean and rinse the herbs, removing coarse stems, drain and shake dry. Chop finely. Fry the herbs (sprinkling in the crushed dried fenugreek leaf if using) in a little oil over a moderate heat, turning constantly, adding more oil when necessary until the herbs begin to darken (about 30-40 minutes). Remove from heat and put to one side. Trim and cut the meat into large pieces, 6-7 cm, wash and leave to soak while you slice and fry the onion until soft and golden. Put aside. Using a paper towel dry the meat. Brown it quickly and well on all sides. Stir in the herbs and onions. Add the beans, lime powder and enough water to cover. Cover the pan and simmer gently for an hour. Pierce the dried limes in several places with a sharp knife and add along with the dried lime powder and salt. Simmer gently for a further hour or until the meat and beans are tender and the whole sauce well blended. Add lemon juice to taste. Dish up into a warm serving dish and serve with white rice. You can sprinkle some saffron on top of the rice.