Quick and easy Persian food is possible. By sparing yourself the trouble of using tens of ingredients, you can achieve great results while keeping things simple. By adapting the recipes I have cooked, eaten and enjoyed hundreds of times, I hope to pass them on to you so that you can cherish them too. These recipes have been perfected through many repeated attempts, cooked at home and in the test kitchen dozens of times. I can guarantee that they will bring you neither disappointment nor discomfort and that not a single ingredient will be wasted.
My journey begins in the chaotic, mysterious, and beautiful city of Tehran, where culinary traditions date back 7,000 years. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother, my mother and I, together in a palatial kitchen with a high ceiling and blue- tiled walls, where they taught me the fundamentals of Iranian cuisine.
They entrusted me with their secrets; they told me how to get the most flavour out of ingredients and I learnt that rigour and respect for their methods were inescapable. They taught me that Persian food is at once complex, demanding and incredibly delicate.
They told me that leaving a stew to simmer overnight would give it an incomparable flavour and that it is impossible to cook Persian food in haste. Ask any Iranian mother and they’ll tell you ingredients must never be substituted.
As fond as I am of my mother and grandmother, when I moved to Holland, I had to stray from tradition: given how expensive energy is and how little time I could spend cooking on any given day, it was that or kiss Persian cuisine goodbye.
The methods I developed made cooking fast and simple, using few ingredients. I realised that there is nothing wrong with replacing the ingredients I couldn’t buy outside of Iran and that there is no need to waste time soaking beans and chickpeas overnight.
Using tinned ingredients was highly frowned upon in our household, considered lazy and testifying a lack of taste. But doing two master’s degrees and working full time as a teacher taught me that there is much more to life than spending hours in the kitchen preparing a single meal. And so I began breaking the rules of Persian cuisine.
Since 2012 I have been experimenting, tweaking and developing recipes reflecting the simple Dutch approach to food, applied to the traditional Persian meals I grew up eating.
The recipes are a result of that journey: an easy-going, stripped down take on Persian food using few ingredients and knowing when it is okay to stray from the rulebook. I now know that to enjoy Persian food with family and friends, it isn’t necessary for a matron to spend hours sweating over a stove. It is possible to cook, share and enjoy it with minimal effort.
For years I witnessed Iranian mothers going to great lengths to bestow joy upon their families and guests with their food, but the amount of strenuous work that went into it meant that by the time they sat down to eat, they were exhausted. For me, it isn’t just about making the people I cook for happy, it’s also about enjoying the process.