For my birthday last month I was bought a wonderful cookbook, Persiana, from my Uncle and Aunty. The book is by Sabrina Ghayour, a food blogger and supper club hostess from London, and I had never actually heard of her before. However, I trusted my Uncle’s judgement (he is a trained chef and worked in the industry for years, so he knows good food). Also, the wonderful Gizzi Erskine is quoted on the front of the book to have stated “Sabrina Ghayour is a phenomenal Persian chef” – so, naturally I was more than eager to give the book a go to find out for myself what all the fuss was about.
During the Introduction to the book, Sabrina talks about her supper clubs and the simplicity of Middle Eastern food. She talks about how Eastern food can be (as has been) misinterpreted over the years, to be something more complicated or difficult than it actually is. She talks of how her supper clubs put emphasis on bringing strangers together; using food as the focal point for shared, convivial experiences during which all else is forgotten and food and enjoyment alone become the focus.
It all got me thinking. No, not about starting my own supper clubs (but maybe one day!) Thinking about inviting some close friends round for a feast of good food, good conversation, fine wine and of course, a few obligatory card games at the end the evening! Ok, the last bit was just a spontaneous (but fun) add-on…
I wanted to keep the menu light, summery and varied – because the weather’s been nice recently, and I love the idea of mezze platters, sharing plates and tapas. I think food is so much better when you can just place it all in the middle of the table and let your guests dive in. To make the experience even better, my friend Rachel bought her new ‘Swiss Grill’ to the table – an electric grill which allows you to grill food and keep it warm at the table, as well as having 8 individual frying pans which you can fill up as you chose and set them down on the ‘hob’ to warm through. It was like having a BBQ only inside, and without men and fire! Bliss! 🙂
A Traditional Persian Mezze Sharing Experience:
Spice & Salted King Prawns
large, juicy king prawns lightly coated in a salty spiced dry-mix then fried in hot oil to make them crispy, light and very morish
Turkish Adana Köfte Kebabs (Lamb)
juicy, tender lamb mince pummelled like a dough to combine with finely diced onion, diced red pepper, garlic, chilli flakes and fresh parsley
with saffron yogurt, parsley & pickled chillies
a beautiful, vibrant and refreshing salad of diced cucumber, ripened vine tomatoes, red onion, pomegranate seeds and sumac
marinated in Harissa, lemon rind, lemon juice, honey and sea salt
pronounced ‘jajik,’ a wonderfully cooling mixture of cucumber, Greek yogurt, parsley and dill
Persian Herb Rice (Sabiz Polow)
basmati rice, parboiled with finely chopped parsley, coriander, dill and spring onions then steamed in a lidded pan with butter to created crispy, indulgent base
As you can tell from the variety above, we really did have a true feast! Most things I was able to cook and prep ahead, and then heat up on the Swiss grill (asparagus, aubergine, lamb kebabs). The halloumi cheese we just cooked there and then on the grill at the table.
The other dishes (herb rice, king prawns, cacik, and salad) were easy to make ahead and serve when it was time. I also popped a shop-bought flatbread in the oven too, which was great for dipping into the creamy cacik and eating with the kebabs. Next time though, I will try making one of Sabrina’s flatbreads from scratch as they look and sound delicious.
Well, there you have it. I just wanted to share our Persian feast with you to hopefully inspire you to get creative in your own kitchen. All the recipes I tried from this book were easy and delicious. The only dish I wasn’t keen on was the aubergine and saffron yogurt – I loved the grilled aubergine, but I found the dish was too bitter (teamed with the saffron yogurt) – perhaps just a Persian paring my palate isn’t quite yet used to!
As you can see, the girls didn’t hesitate to get their phones out and start taking pictures of the wonderful feast! Here are some of the snaps they took…