But First, Kahve Turk

Turkish Coffee 4 arrCoffee lovers love coffee. Obviously, it’s a no-brainer. But all the same, true coffee lovers enjoy more than a ‘cup of joe.’ Equally keen on java, my morning ritual consists of freshly brewed Arabica beans. And as for the weekends, afternoon pick-me-ups are synonymous with none other than an intensely robust shot of ‘kahve turk.’

Talking about Turkish coffee, this coffee beverage is the common favourite both near – ‘chez-moi’ – and as far as Europe and the Middle East. Somewhat like Italian espresso, Turkish coffee is a staple in many coffee houses abroad and homes alike. Delighted for its strong and sweet flavours, Turkish coffee is bold and not for the faint of heart.

Turkish Coffee 2 arrFortunately, I’ve gained an early introduction on the how to’s of all things ‘cezve’ – a Turkish coffee pot – and my acquired Turkish coffee education is in great part thanks to my Persian heritage. Easy as 1-2-3, coffee aficionados everywhere can also make Turksh coffee with ease. Simple in technique as in contents, all you truly require is a ‘cezve’ and these following ingredients: ground Turkish coffee, sugar, and water. That’s – almost – all! As a rule of thumb, here are a few helpful hints: I use a heaping teaspoon of coffee per person as well as equal parts sugar – about a teaspoon – and an espresso cup worth of water per drink. Likewise, albeit a standard method in coffee making, I always try to use filtered water whenever possible.

Turkish Coffee 1 arrMeasurements aside, here’s how to make a fresh pot of Turkish coffee: fill the ‘cezve’ with exact portions of water per person, and place it on the stovetop over medium heat. Once the water has heated, add the spoonful(s) of coffee but be careful not to stir. Then, add the sugar and omit from stirring. Keeping a watchful eye, begin to stir the coffee and sugar as soon as they have seemingly dissolved or have sunk to the bottom of the pot. At this point, continue to stir until the liquid coffee mixture is well-combined and appears frothy and thicker in consistency. Upon ample stirring, leave the coffee on the stovetop but turn the tempertature to ‘low’, and allow the coffee to continue heating up until it’s ready. As for when it’s coffee time, it’s safe to remove the coffee upon noticing a ring of bubbles form around the edges of the pot. At this point in time, the coffee has sufficiently heated and you want to avoid boiling the coffee at all costs. If you didn’t know beforehand now you know: boiling Turkish coffee is a “no-no” – don’t let it happen to yours!

Tavazo Pastries 1 arrFinally ready to enjoy, I love Turkish coffee on its own for its rich and intoxicating flavour, and even more so when accompanied with pastry. Finding both ground Turkish coffee and Persian desserts at Tavazo, you don’t have to ask me twice to make a pot of ‘kahve turk.’ Afternoon well spent and recharged, you can do the same by visiting a local Persian grocer or by grinding your own preferred medium roast beans – just be sure to use the Turkish/’finest’ setting. Leaving you to it, then, “no ‘more’ talkie before coffee!”

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved. 

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Mom Knows Best!

Persian Ice Cream 5 arrMy mom has taught me everything I know – from Persian culture to family values, and the importance of ongoing learning. A gem in her own right, my mother has and persists to display multifaceted talents. Crafty yet studious, successful in business ventures as much as a leading parental figure, she’s – without a doubt – the person to whom I look up and admire, and fortunately, my personal ‘go-to’ when presented with life’s question however big or recipe-related.

 

On this Mother’s Day, my mind easily trails to an endless memory bank of times I shared with my mom. Moments for which I’m grateful, and instances that are now family stories in great thanks to my mother who selflessly took every spare moment she had to spend with her children. Always giving of herself, she put ‘quality’ in every minute, hour and all times that are now made eternal.

Persian Ice Cream 3 arrIn celebration of my mom and all mother figures, I like to dedicate this post to past memories and some made new. Regardless of the month or season, every year has been touched by my mom. From devouring a plateful of homemade Christmas cookies, to custom-made birthday cakes, my mom started traditions that were made to last. Effortlessly working to make every occasion special, she continues to approach holiday dinners with the same level of attentive care and happily creates festive menus and table spreads that are thematic and attune with hand-selected patterned dishes, flatware, drinking glasses and centrepiece arrangements. Again taking time, she not only ‘makes things happen’ but, too, adds an element of magic to transform otherwise ordinary events into something beautiful.

In recollection of one of my fondest childhood memories, every trip to the mall included a stop at the ice cream parlour – my favourite scoop in a cone, mint chip for my sister, and French vanilla for my mom. Clearly, this family loves ice cream. And for the creation of more sweet memories, my mother has passed on the tradition of making and appreciating Persian food, including traditional desserts.

Persian Ice Cream 8 arrGladly following in my mother’s footsteps, I hope to have honoured both her teachings and our heritage with the making of a delectable recipe fully-loaded with nostalgia. Hoping you, too, will share something sweet with your mother-figure, here’s what I learnt from the ‘wise’ one: a popular Persian Ice Cream commonly known as ‘bastani Akbar Mashti’ and ‘faloodeh’.

Having the fortune to savour my mother’s cooking, I need no formal introduction to the distinct floral tastes identified with these icy desserts. Inclusive of saffron, rosewater, pistachios and frozen pieces of whipping cream, this vanilla-based ice cream dessert was first invented by ‘the man,’ Akbar Mashti. Rightfully named, then, ‘bastani’ simply refers to ice cream in Farsi.

As easy to make as reading the ingredient list, anyone can share and delight in their very own homemade batch of Persian Ice Cream. Starting with pure vanilla bean ice cream – homemade or already-made, preferably premium grade – allow the ice cream contents to slightly soften, and then mix-in the following: 1 cup of pistachios, 1/4 cup of rosewater, 1/16 teaspoon ground saffron, and 500 mL of whipping cream for ultra richness – freeze cream separately, and break into pieces prior to incorporating – and when well-combined, place the container back into the freezer to solidify the jewelled ice cream prior to serving. In case it helps, here’s some pearls of wisdom passed from mum: a little goes a long way with saffron so – however tempted to intensify colour of your ice cream – be careful not to overpower the dairy contents or otherwise risk gaining an adversely medicinal tasting dessert. Also, I first bloomed the portioned saffron into the measured rosewater, and later incorporated the perfumed liquid gold to the ice cream.

Persian Ice Cream 10 arrHighly satisfying as-is, ‘bastani’ can even be sandwiched between two wafers or enjoyed alongside ‘faloodeh’. Perhaps unfamiliar to some, ‘faloodeh’ is essentially cooked rice noodles that have been frozen with rosewater infused simple syrup. Short on ingredients and steps, less is definitely more with this fragrant dessert. Once prepared and semi-frozen, be sure to comb it over with a fork – like a granita – as it does not share the same consistency as ice cream. Finally ready to serve, you can enjoy ‘faloodeh’ in all its rosy glory for an extra hint of tart and sweet tastes top it with a squeeze of fresh lime juice or sour black cherry syrup – and, that’s all she wrote!

From my mother’s kitchen to yours, these Persian desserts are family favourites and simply worth having any time of year. Using these recipes or alternate expressions of thanks, I hope you have the opportunity to treat the parental figure who has left a lasting imprint on your life with daily tokens of gratitude. And on that note, this one’s for you – Love you, Mum!!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2017. All Rights Reserved.

A Nutty Obsession

Tav7 arrNuts for nuts?  Absolutely!  Almonds, pistachios, cashews, walnuts, hazelnuts – especially with chocolate – and even macadamia nuts, I love tree nuts – all varieties.  When impatient to chomp on some of nature’s best shelled treasures, one place comes to mind – Tavazo.Tav4 arr

Serving the best in dried fruits, nuts, preserves and other Persian delights, Tavazo is my preferred gateway to glorious snacks and confections.  Richmond Hill or Thornhill, make your way to either location and behold:  countless rows of self-serve decorative stands abundantly filled with candy-coated, salt-crusted as well as ‘au natural’ snack options for our health-conscious peckish friends. Tav3 arr

Uptown or midtown, select the closest destination and you’ll not be disappointed.  In addition to mixed nuts, familiar appearances are spotted as seen with dehydrated blueberries, cranberries, currants, strawberries, plums, pineapples, and apricots.  All delicious – agreeably so!  Unbeknownst to some, however, remain staples to Persian cuisine – meet the mulberry and barberry.  Eaten alone or in combination with other fine specimens, mulberries are golden – literally.  Reminiscent of raisins, in texture, they carry an appearance close to an oval-shaped version of a yellow raspberry; distinctly sweet, chewy and with an overall multifaceted surface.  Providers of goji berries, too, Tavazo is no stranger to the Persian cook – in you – if you looking to make ‘zereshk polo’ (a barberry and saffron-infused rice dish).Tav2 arr

Mulberries, barberries, almond-pistachio-walnut-cashew-hazelnut-peanut-goji-strawberry-blueberry-and raisin blended, mixed and bagged – by yours truly – my checklist is just about complete.  Hands on a little bit of everything, I am not quite ready to make a great escape – to a happy trail-mix of eating – until I revisit the confectionary aisle.  Individually wrapped, I am intrigued by the rose petal-laced and pistachio embedded jelly treats similar to Turkish delight, but only it’s Persian; so, it goes without saying, handfuls must be added to my basket. Tav1 arr

‘Healing waters’ situated on the end-cap, I find tamarind paste on the opposite side that leads to other equally palatable treats.  To be seen and explored, a trip down to memory lane – few steps, really – is easily spotted around the corner.  Reliving youth – if only for a moment – I find traces of past memories, shelved via assorted piles of neatly arranged Persian fruit leathers.

Tav9 arrBefore I even heard of Fruit Roll-ups, fruit leather – as far as I knew – came in one colour and taste:  a deep plum purple sheet of concentrated sour flavour.  Intensely irresistible, this lip-numbing treat is too good to pass on.  If Gushers and the like are not for you, fruit leather is made available – here – in all shapes and ‘sweetened’ varieties:  cherry, pomegranate, grape and the notorious plum.   For nostalgia’s sake, I take a few of those too.  “That’s so dry!?”  Indicatively so!  Laughing on the way to finalize a total sum – of more than I can carry – I wouldn’t want my purchased loot any other way but dehydrated, of course.

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Land of Milk & Honey

PNY haftseen arr“3-2-1, Happy New Year!”  Yes, it’s that time of year again – countdown to a third-time charm.  While January champagne toasts and proceeding lunar festivities have long passed, did you know of another official start?  Let’s discuss March!  Giving birds something to ‘tweet’ about, the first day of spring denotes more than a pleasant defrosted re-awakening.  Reviving age-old customs, this seasonal arrival equally marks the launch of another highly anticipated event – Happy Persian New Year!

RedRoseP2 arrSpring is in the air, and so are many “must-haves.”  Cooking and cleaning complete, every Persian household moves on to set a visual attraction – ‘haft-seen.’  For your eyes only, this symbolic table spread translates to the collection of seven meaningful items, each beginning with the letter ‘s.’  Bringing the outdoors in, representation of the elements – earth, fire, water, sky, flora and fauna – is apparent with the placement of the following:  apples, candles, ‘golab’ (rose water), mirror, wheat-grass, goldfish; and coloured eggs to signify both humanity and fertility.  Anything but recent, this ancient celebration follows Zoroastrian customs – food included!  Resolutions out, a breaking of a new dawn equates to a ‘Nowruz’ (new day), and an opportune reason to celebrate life with a two-week Persian banquet.

RedRoseP4 arrFortunately for Persians, an authentic meal is steps away – kitchen-close.   Hungry or not, know this:  “mi casa – persa – es su casa.”  Even better, ‘finger-food’ – here – is completely lost in translation.  Serving mountainous portions of hospitality, steaming-hot dishes are ‘party-size’ in addition to being individualized, with your name on it.  So please eat, without hesitation, and to the last grain – ‘tarof’ optional.  In case you’re unaware, ‘tarof’ is a form of Persian etiquette that involves a guest’s polite repetitious refusal of their host’s offerings.  Food or refreshments, the guest humbly refuses by saying, “no, thank you,” until they finally succumb to receiving ‘star’ treatment.  Seemingly never-ending, this mannerly display always ends the same; the host offers plenty of all-things-comfort – undivided attention, conversation, edible treats, and napping pillow if desired – until the guest graciously accepts.  Familiar to most if not every Persian, ‘tarof’ is a natural and expected occurrence at social gatherings – really, I insist!RedRoseP3 arr

“What’s for dinner?” – thought you’d never ask.  Steadfast to ancestral roots, the dynamic menu is consistent with traditional cuisine allotted for the sum of 14 days.  While systemic, sticking to the plan is a must – no jinxing of fate!  Daring not to disrupt positive omens, the first meal is a plateful of ‘prosperity’ – ‘sabzi polo’ (herbed rice) and ‘mahi’ (fish).  Superiorly fragrant and fresh, aren’t we the lucky ones?  Other ‘specials’ include noodle-embedded rice to promote longevity, followed by a list of other aromatic recipes.  Superstitious or not, you can’t go wrong eating bites of ‘delicious’ – it’s destiny!

Leaving savoury ‘mains’ to my expert mother, a continuum of glorious food extends to my assumed duties – sweets.  GPS set to “Tehranto,” I take care of business the best way I know how – shopping spree of gorgeous hand-crafted delicacies.  Stepping into my preferred Persian pastry shop – Red Rose Pâtisserie – ‘beauties’ are to be found, and worth a second look:  fist-size cream-filled profiteroles; chewy walnut meringue and buttery jam-sandwiched cookies; chickpea-flour sable confections; and a trailblazer of sweet-fried dough, ‘bamieh’ and ‘zoolbia.’  RedRoseP5 arrBetween bite-size pillows or ribbon-patterned swirls, relish selecting either or both of these rosewater-infused simple syrup soaked mouthfuls – rejuvenated deep-fried cakey-batter bliss.

Superseding in rich taste, texture and technique, traces of ancient influence is rampant.  Generously sprinkled, coated or enrobed, Red Rose adds signature touches to an assortment of crisp, flaky, dense and sponge pastries using the finest imports:  pistachios, almonds, and walnuts; fragrant orange blossom and rose waters; canary yellow saffron; and flavourful enrichments via cardamom and cinnamon spices.  Visibly in the “land of milk and honey,” I patiently wait in queue to fulfill a vital request – some of everything – boxed and ready-to-go!   Time-elapsed and prized possessions in hand, I walk away satisfied – like most – with many happily ever-‘afters.’  Three times a ‘new’ year – perfected – this festivity is clearly tailored for good times, entertaining company, and appetizing eats.  Marking your Persian calendar, then, forget about eastern/western standard times, and get ready to party – like it’s 1393!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

‘Healing’ Waters

Poppins – who?  Before Mary came into the scene, traditionalists have long used sweet sugar to ease ‘troubles.’  Also requiring no sing-along, my Persian mom – like others before her – already knew the soluble response to minor stomach ailments.  Hunger pangs or over-indulgence, the known ‘treatment’ remains unchanged and in following ‘the method’ – the old-fashioned way.

MintWater arrThanks to the former housewives of Persianville, trusted homemade solutions are safely locked into memory and made using a touch of age-old necessity – ‘healing’ waters.  Diverse in application as in scent, find these ‘waters’ in tall translucent bottles – possibly – along the “international aisle,” and definitely available on the shelf of local Persian grocers.  To name a few, popular varieties of floral-infused waters – also stored in my fridge – include:  rosewater, orange blossom water and mint water.  While the number of distilled ‘waters’ are endless, aromatics via fruits, herbs and flowers are commonly used to create these wonderfully fragrant liquid elixirs.

Ancient in existence, but perhaps recent to some, perfumed waters have been around for centuries – talking about past generations!  With yesterday’s ‘news’ – now recycled – daily appearances of these ‘waters’ are more common than one may think.  Gently washed onto one’s face or incorporated into food, rosewater can be identified with beauty regimens or among Middle-eastern baking staples and fusion cuisine.  Still confused?  Just think about the last time you ate simple syrup-laden baklava – that mystery component was most likely rosewater.  Clearly a multi-purpose item, some even resort to these ‘waters’ for its medicinal purposes.   And, if you’re like my mom, mint water is the remedy to realign your ‘center.’  Equally appealing to my preference for all that’s effective, reliable and natural, this digestive aid works – all the proof I need.RoseOBlossomWaters arr

Previously tried, I can attest to mint water’s restorative ‘powers.’  But, people are people – we’re different!  As such, unique tastes will undeniably carry diverging reactions.  So if you don’t like mint, are allergic or – heaven forbid – are suffering from appendicitis, please don’t try this at home.  Seriously, in case of emergency – needless to say – you know what to do!  In the meantime, this agreeable recipe stands as my sure-fit non-prescription for refreshing alleviation.  Non-accidently made aware of this ‘medicinal’ drink, it comes highly recommended – even directly made – by my Persian matriarch line of ‘naturally’ instinctive doctors.  For your own glass of settling comfort, simply blend these ingredients:  a generous pouring – tablespoon or two – of mint water; then dilute with actual water – H2O; and to complete, mix the ‘remedy’ with a stick of crystalized sugar rocks or the famed alternative – “spoonful of sugar” – until ‘caster’ is dissolved.  Easily prepared and fitting of fast relief, this pleasant beverage need not be limited to a minty ‘curative.’  So go ahead, if you wish, and drink your ‘greens’ – anytime!

Appetite redeemed, satisfying cravings for more ‘aromatics’ is another flavourful bottle away.  As your bonus instruction, simply scoop and combine into a bowl:  premium quality real-cream vanilla ice cream, dash of rosewater or orange blossom water, and – though optional – top with a hint of ground saffron and crushed pistachios.  Sweet tooth or sore throat, whatever the ‘suffering,’ being under the weather is immediately corrected with ‘rosier’ alternatives – Persian food and drink!

© DISHFUL, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Kebab or Nothing!

Have no fear, kebab houses are near – at least in Richmond Hill!  When summer comes to a close so, too, does storing away your backyard barbeque.  Luckily, I found one Persian eatery that keeps hot coals aflame, literally fanning of charcoal – in old-school fashion – year round. TaftanContact arr

Chicken, lamb or beef?  When it comes to tasting a selection of skewered authenticity at its fastest, I make my way to one particular dine-in/take-out establishment for some fired meaty perfection.  Despite its small corridors, Taftan Kebab upkeeps tradition serving Persian cuisine in mountainous portion-sizes and flavour – both, BIG!

TaftanK arrOpting for my usual – “Shah Abbasi” – if you ask, you shall receive.  Request made and order fulfilled, I got my hands on a very hefty package.  Here, they just ‘meat-it!’  Container overflowing, my preferred dinner plate consists of a kebab trio – ‘joujeh’ (chicken breast), ‘koobideh’ (ground beef), and ‘barg’ (beef tenderloin) – made to order, with delectable juices dripping over a “king-size” bed of fluffy saffron-infused basmati rice.  Not only does it smell like b.b.q. heaven, the taste of the saffron and lemon juice marinated chicken kebab is above and beyond your local mall “shish” order; fresh and succulent, I got what I wanted insofar as char-flamed protein – superiorly moist, no dry ‘jerky’ strips here.

Sumac arrAs much as I am contently occupied with my Persian ‘beloved’ – kebab – the next best thing, in succession to sword-length meat-covered skewers, is sumac.  What in the world?  For those not in the know, ‘sumac’ is a dry seasoning; grainy to the touch, deep red in colour, and sour in taste.  Ripping two sumac packets – just as one would treat ketchup – I generously coat my kebabs with this tart topping.  Slow ingestion is beneficial, I’m aware; but, believe me, this meal did not require “One Thousand and One Nights” to devour – no postponement necessary for this ‘kingly’ meal!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

Persian-Eating-‘Persian’

Thunder Bay – T.Bay, as I know it – is located in the most western part of Ontario, which I have travelled to date. Among rural hotspots, one is led to the discovery of the ‘Persian.’ Not just any Persian, and not Persian in origin. The ‘Persian’ I’m talking about is of the edible variety. It’s soft, sweet, and unique to Thunder Bay. Above all, the ‘Persian’ is a local specialty that was on my list of must-see, must-try and must-experience items. Generously covered with strawberry icing, this sweet fried cinnamon-flavoured dough can be likened to a doughnut.

The Persian Man Store arr

Where does one get to sample a ‘Persian?’ I was amused to find near my apartment, approximately a fifteen minute walk, The Persian Man. Presumably, ‘the man’ after whom this eatery is named is the owner, though I’m not quite sure. In retrospect, I am certain that this shop has a clear following, and it’s not just for sandwiches and coffee. Within my academic year, I found numerous ‘Persians’ throughout a number of bakeries and shops. Needless to say, ‘Persians’ are in abundant supply; and, they’re offered here, in Thunder Bay!P.S. Personally, I find them fair but a little too sweet for my taste. Still, you can eat them! In fact, if anyone asks, I ate a ‘Persian.’ True story!

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.

Curb Your Crunch…Tahdig

Tahdig arr

Pita crust.

There’s something to be said about unforgettable experiences. For me, life-altering moments most definitely include food.  Snacks are no exception, and Persian tahdig is a must!

What exactly is this delicious phenomenon? Tahdig, pronounced tah-deeg, is the ultimate crunch and munch fix, if you ever had one; and, given daily stressors one encounters from having to balance a hectic student, family and/or work life, I can empathize. When translated, ‘ta’ means ‘bottom’ and ‘dig’ refers to pot; tahdig is essentially the crust of a principal food item.

Tahdig can be made using various ingredients, but is prepared following the same method. Always found on the bottom of the cooking pot, tahdig is traditionally a part of the cooking process of rice or spaghetti, both made the Persian way –cooked beyond the ‘al dente’ state. Given the desire to cook both grains for a long period of time, the crust serves as a barrier between the heat of the pot and rice or pasta to avoid burning.

Potato crust and raisin saffron rice.

Potato crust with raisin saffron rice.

Depending on the meal itself, you can have crusts of unique tastes and textures. To clarify, you may enjoy rice, bread, potato or lettuce crust with your main dish. The common denominator of all crusts resides in its preparation. With both rice and pasta dishes, the grains are par-boiled, strained in a colander, temporarily set aside. The following step, for all crusts, involves covering the bottom of the pot with oil (oil, vegetable, etc.), upon which you add varying ingredients.

Sabzi Polo Tahdig arr

Lettuce crust with ‘sabzi polo’ (herbed rice).

Let the magic begin! When making herbed rice, for instance, romaine lettuce leaves are torn into pieces, by hand, then used as the base prior to reintroducing par-boiled herbed rice, and topped off with a lid to complete the cooking process. The end result is a crispy and highly aromatic lettuce crust due to being embedded with fresh herbs (dill, coriander, parsley, fenugreek, chives), initially used to flavour the rice.In like manner, bread crust is formed by covering the bottom of the greased pot with pieces of pita whereas rice crust is formed by pouring the par-boiled grains directly into the pot. As seen in the photo, bread crust is fried to a state of golden perfection; crisped grains make rice crust just as crunchy. Finally, potato crust reveals the best of two textures; a creamy interior on one side and a biteful exterior. Following the same method, place sliced raw potato rounds onto the pot before adding the par-boiled spaghetti.

Sometimes, reality can bite! Good news is it doesn’t have to. So, why not make your next rice or pasta dish one worth eating? Treat yourself to tahdig, a satisfying crusty treat you’ll be happy to chew on.

Copyright © DISHFUL, 2013.