Maryam Sinaiee has been cooking and experimenting with Iranian dishes all her life, and now runs successful food blog The Persian Fusion. We sat down for five minutes to find out exactly why this is a style of cooking we need to get involved with…
- Tell us about your background, and where your expertise in Persian cuisine comes from.
I learned cooking Persian food when I was quite young from my mother, grandmothers and aunties. Cooking has always been a very serious hobby for me, something I hugely enjoy. When I come home it takes my mind off my day job as a political analyst specialising in the Middle East. I always have a stack of cookbooks on my bedside table.
- What made you start blogging, and what do you want people to get from your blog?
I was encouraged by my friends to share my Persian recipes. Blogging sounded quite fun so one day I found myself creating a blog called The Persian Fusion. I’m very happy I did because I get lots of wonderful feedback from my readers. Nothing makes me happier than when they write me to say my recipes have added variety to their meals or send me pictures of food they’ve made with my recipes.
- What would a traditional Persian meal consist of?
Depending on the season a meal can start with a hot or cold soup. We eat a lot of rice. Plain rice comes with chicken, lamb, beef or fish cooked in a sauce with loads of fragrant herbs, legumes, vegetables, nuts or dried fruit. Or it’s layered with the same ingredients before steaming.
There is always plain yoghurt or yoghurt mixed raw or cooked veg and/or herbs, a basketful of “naked salad” consisting of fragrant soft herbs such as mint, basil and tarragon as well as radishes and spring onions. Very often there is a chopped tomato and cucumber or lettuce salad too. A Persian meal is never complete without pickles. There’s usually a few small bowls of sharp and tangy pickles too.
We have sweet tooth but are not big on dessert. Most of the time we end our meals with fruit and melons or hot Persian tea with tiny sweetmeats or dates. It’s a quite healthy diet. We never have to worry about our “five a day”.
- If someone was beginning to follow your recipes, are there any staple ingredients they should add to their kitchen cupboards?
It would be nice to have some barberries, a few dried limes and maybe some dried rose petals. Some UK supermarkets are now stocking these ingredients.
Apart from the usual spices found in most kitchens all you need to cook Persian food is saffron. We seem to be quite extravagant with saffron. It’s an expensive spice but Persian cooks know how to use it to get a lot of fragrance, colour and flavour from a tiny pinch. It is an aspect that I always get asked about, so I wrote a recent blog piece on the topic.
To make sweet stuff it would be nice to have rosewater, cardamom and cinnamon. And saffron of course! One of our favourite puddings is a lavish saffron rice pudding garnished with cinnamon, almonds and pistachios.
- Why do you think Persian food is becoming more popular with the British public?
It’s exotic, looks healthy and is quite easy on the palate. People enjoy our fluffy rice and pilafs and delicately spiced stews. There’s a lot for vegetarians, vegans and those following a gluten free diet too. Have a look at the blog, give it a go, and I guarantee you will find something new and exciting to brighten up your next meal!
Find more of Maryam’s recipes and tips at www.thepersianfusion.com and follow her on twitter @sinaiee_maryam