Original Word: Ahmadinejad
New Word: Persia
Language: Persian (53%)
Religion: Muslim (98%)
Population: 78,868,711 (2011)
18th largest population in the world.
Capital: Tehran (The World Factbook.)
What do you think of when you hear the word: Iran? Now, what about: Persian? I would guess that they are two very different concepts. One brings up negative thoughts and the other positive. Well, I am here to say that they are one and the same.
When I think of Persia I think of bright colors, wonderful Mediterranean flavors, and spices.
A week ago, before I put myself up to this mission of Asian cooking I came across a cookbook at the library. One thing you must understand about my palate is that I love, love, love Mediterranean food. Olive oil, lemons, feta, couscous, pilaf, houmous, dolmas, walnuts, phyllo dough, and the list goes on and on. So, I saw this Persian cookbook and checked it out. I didn’t even flip through it, I just grabbed and left.
It is called Pomegranates and Roses by Ariana Bundy. Almost all of the recipes have either pomegranates or roses in it. She describes living in an immigrant family in the Western society as an Iranian/Persian. I would highly recommend this cookbook to anyone. It is worth checking out. It is beautiful and I had several tags sticking out of it for things that I would like to cook.
What I have learned about the cuisine in Iran?
Pomegranates, roses, saffron, dried fruit, and legumes are everywhere. Everything has a vibrant color. Whether it was coming from the pomegranates, saffron, or turmeric you wanted to eat everything with your eyes first.
I had some guests over and I treated them to a stew with rice and a saffron rice pudding. The rice pudding sure was sweet! A little went a long way! The texture came out like a jelly and all the ingredients were rice, water, sugar, rose water, and saffron. So, imagine how much sugar went into it.
My stew was called “Lubia Polo.” It was a stew that was made with beef, green beans, and tomatoes. It was flavored with cinnamon (Bundy 210). I served it with traditional “Polo Ba Taadig” which is basmati rice that has a crust (Bundy 106).
Slow Cooker Lubia Polo
(Inspired by Ariana Bundy’s recipe in Pomegranates and Roses.)
1 onion, chopped
500g/ 1lb stew meat (beef or lamb)
1 tsp turmeric
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp tomato puree
800g/32oz canned chopped tomatoes
1 tsp cinnamon
300g/ 1/2lb green beans, 1 inch pieces
pinch saffron*, dissolve in 2 tbsp hot water (this is optional)
1 tbsp butter
In a large sauté pan, over medium heat sauté onions in a little bit of olive oil until translucent. Add meat, salt, pepper, turmeric, and garlic. Meat should be browned but not fully cooked. Add tomato paste cook for a minute so the raw tomato flavor is gone. Add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, and cinnamon. Transfer to a crock pot. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
An hour before serving, sauté green beans in a little bit of water and a cover. You want your green beans partially cooked. Add green beans and saffron liquid to the crock pot and leave the cover off.
Serve with basmati rice. KEY FOR BASMATI! Rinse, Rinse, Rinse! Make sure you rinse your basmati rice before cooking it. If you do not it will be clumpy and gross.
*Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. If you wish not to buy some I completely understand and you will not be missing it in this dish. I expect to be cooking with it a lot throughout Asia so I purchased an ounce for 4.50GBP (7.00USD). If you find some that is relatively cheap then it is probably not real saffron. You might have found saffron flavored gelatin. A great way to check is real saffron does not dissolve completely.
As I said before I served this to some guests so I was preoccupied and did not take pictures. Oops! I will remember for Azerbaijan, Qatar, Maldives, and Armenia!
On this week’s menu it is:
Qatar: Qahwa Helw (spiced coffee)
Maldives: Huni Roshi (coconut flatbread)
Azerbaijan: Chicken Plov
Armenia: Honey Cookies
See you later this week!
The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, 2012. https://www.cia.gov/ library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html. 25 Jun. 2012.
Bundy, Ariana. Pomegranates and Roses. London: Simon and Schuster, 2012.