Tell us about the two recipes from your mum that you’ve chosen to share.
Mast-o-khiar is a cooling cucumber soup that’s served in summer. My mother taught me how to make it when I was young as it’s easy for kids to do. I can remember eating it in my grandparents’ garden under the stars while listening to the sounds of crickets. Tass kabab is something she used to whip up really quickly when we were living in New York. It’s super simple (you just layer the ingredients in a pot and leave it all to cook for an hour), but it’s the combination of flavours that makes this dish so special.
Did you eat a lot of Iranian food as a child?
My mum actually made really funky food for us, from all over the world – be it Japanese, Mexican, Chinese… she was very adventurous. But it’s her distinctive Iranian dishes that I loved most – they always took me home, wherever we were living. We were all brought together when the air was filled with the aromas of saffron, cinnamon or chopped herbs with freshly cooked rice.
Do you ever cook together now?
We do. She’s a fast cook, so she makes a lot of mess – she is going to kill me for saying that! I actually have to keep saffron and turmeric hidden away from her, as she manages to get those ingredients everywhere.
Does your son Dara like to cook?
He does – I always give him an apron and we cook together. He loves Iranian food as there’s something comforting about its soft flavours.
Preparation: 10-15 minutes
1 large cucumber, semi peeled, seeded and diced or
6 spinneysFOOD Small Cucumbers, diced
1.5 cups low-fat Greek yoghurt or crème fraîche
¾ cup full-fat natural yoghurt
¾ cup soured cream
½ cup raisins
4 tbsp roasted walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp spinneysFOOD Fresh Mint, chopped
½ tsp dried mint
3 tarragon sprigs, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp spinneysFOOD Salt
spinneysFOOD Black Pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried rose petals, to decorate (optional)
1 Mix all the ingredients except the rose petals together in a large bowl. If preparing in advance, add the cucumbers at the last minute so that they stay crunchy and don’t give out too much juice. You can also slice the cucumber first, sprinkle with salt, leave for an hour in a colander, run under the tap to remove the excess salt, dry the slices and then dice them. They’ll be extra crunchy and will not go limp the next day in case you have any soup left over. 2 Sprinkle the soup with rose petals and serve in individual bowls.
Top Tip! On a hot day, add a few ice cubes.
Tass Kabab e Aremaneh
Preparation: 10-15 minutes
CookinG: 45-60 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, sliced in 1cm-wide whole rings
1kg spinneysFOOD De-boned Leg of Lamb or stewing beef, cut into 5cm–7.5cm cubes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 5cm discs
3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 7.5cm pieces
4 spinneysFOOD Tomatoes, sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp spinneysFOOD Salt
Pinch of spinneysFOOD Black Pepper
10–12 unpitted dried golden plums or pitted prunes
2 tbsp butter
Juice of 1 small lemon or 1 rounded tsp powdered Omani lime (or more, to taste)
½ tsp saffron threads, pounded and dissolved in
2–3 tbsp hot water
1 This recipe works best cooked in a heavy cast-iron pot, but a regular casserole dish will do. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan. Begin layering the ingredients. Start with the sliced onions: spread some out on the bottom of the pan. 2 Add a layer of meat, onions again, chopped garlic, carrots, potatoes and the tomatoes, sprinkling the layers with a little cinnamon powder, turmeric and salt and pepper and adding a few plums or prunes as you go. 3 Once all the ingredients are used up, add the rest of the oil, the butter and the lemon juice or powdered lime. Cover, place on medium-high heat for about five minutes, then lower the heat to its lowest setting and let the casserole cook gently for about 45–60 minutes, or until the meat is fork-tender. 4 Add the saffron liquid 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time. 5 Serve with some bread, and watch out for the plum stones.