My education in Persian cuisine is only just beginning. Armed with books by Claudia Roden, Lousia Shafia and my new favorite cookbook, Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour, I’ve been trying to teach myself the basics. I’m getting closer to achieving that perfect crunchy, buttery, golden brown crust (tahdig) on my Persian rice and my culinary vocabulary is slowly growing.
I’ve also enlisted the help of Tay Tea’s founder, Nini Ordoubadi who (quite rightly) berated me for not including a Persian menu in Recipes From Many Kitchens. Nini is a third generation tea blender from Iran. Her blends are as original as Nini herself; eclectic, exotic and whimsical. A recent feast at her home in Harlem showed me her talents extend beyond the tea room to the kitchen. She kindly shared her recipe for her saffron infused spinach borani. Although traditionally served as an appetizer, I’ve paired it here with a monkfish recipe from Persiana. The mild flavored fish is marinated in a heady mix of spices, herbs and yoghurt and was the perfect accompaniment to Nini’s borani.
Nini’s Spinach Borani
4 cups of fresh spinach, washed and chopped
2 small onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups drained yogurt
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon saffron, divided (1/4 teaspoon ground in a pestle and mortar and 1/4 teaspoon dissolved in 1 tablespoon of hot water).
1. In a pan with a tight fitting lid, cook the spinach until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain well and squeeze out any excess liquid.
2. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet and fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned. About 10 minutes.
3. Add the spinach to the onions and cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
4. In a bowl, mix the yoghurt and spinach mixture well. Season with the salt and pepper and stir in the powdered saffron. Refrigerate for several hours.
5. Garnish with the saffron water before serving.
Adapted from Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 fat garlic cloves, minced
2″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
Handful of cilantro leaves, finely chopped (plus extra for serving)
Handful of dill, finely chopped
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 monkfish tails or fillets, about 6-7 ounces each, skinned and cleaned
1. Mix all the dry spices together in a bowl and then add in the garlic, ginger, fresh herbs, lime zest, lime juice, yogurt and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir well with a spoon until thoroughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
2. Place the monkfish in a shallow dish and pour the marinade over the fillets. Using your hands, distribute the paste on all sides of the fish. Cover again with plastic wrap and refrigerate for another 30 minutes. Bring fish to room temperature before cooking.
3. Preheat a frying pan over medium high heat. When hot, drizzle in a little olive oil. Gently lay the fish in the pan and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side or until opaque all the way through.
4. Leave to rest for 1-2 minutes before serving. Top with extra cilantro leaves.