Follow us as we bring you a series of posts on Persian Love Stories.
Over 30 years ago I was introduced to an aubergine! Wow… “big deal” you might be thinking. But 30 years ago it was a big deal. Outside of say London, you could barely find an aubergine to buy anywhere, let alone know what to do with it once you had tracked one down. Now, aubergines are everywhere; my weekly fix comes from Aldi and very good quality and very reasonable they are too. So, who introduced me to this weird but wonderful fruit (yes, it may be treated as a vegetable, but it is technically a fruit)? The answer is Shary Jahangiry, chef and 1/3 of Modern Persian Kitchen.
Shary is my brother-in-law, married to my sister Deb and the occasion of my first aubergine was a visit to Deb and Shary in London to meet their brand new daughter Natalie. Now baby Natty was cute and adorable, but frankly that first aubergine is what sticks in my memory; it was silky and gorgeous and it sat atop a steaming pile of Gheymeh Bademjan – forgive me Natty, you know I love you. Possibly slightly more than I love aubergines, but only slightly more!! And now, you too can experience the joy of Shary’s Gheymeh Bademjan along with his amazing rice – of which I’d recommend Baghali Polo. And absolutely don’t miss out of a portion of Tahdig to go with it. Tahdig is the crisp, crunchy golden rice from the bottom of the rice pot which Natty and I have spent the last 25 years fighting over!
People often ask me what Persian food is and I usually just explain it as a big plate of deliciousness. At its core there is usually a stew and rice, but this is not stew and rice as we traditionally know it in the UK. The stews are fragrant with new and warming flavours and the rice is fluffy with barberries or saffron or various beans or dill or… I could go on and on! Persian food IS NOT hot and spicy. It is spiced, but with subtle spices such as cardamom or turmeric or saffron, rather than chilli and paprika.
In the 30 years since that first aubergine, Shary has introduced me, all of the extended family, and all of their extended friendship groups to Persian food. And we all LOVE it. Indeed I often cook it myself at home (usually when Shary is too busy to keep up my supply). It is the perfect party food where huge piles of steaming rice are surrounded by a range of fragrant stew and delicious accompaniments such as Salad Olivieh. However, it is also wonderful just for one, when you don’t have to contemplate sharing any of that Persian deliciousness.
I’m so excited for everyone to be able to experience Persian food and to see what has been missing from their lives. I hope you enjoy it as much as we all do.
Nooshe Jan, Shirl x
Favourite dish: Gheymeh Bademjan