Thus our Persian (culinary) journey begins.
For a while now we’ve been going through this Persian cookbook (see left) where we found some of the most amazing recipes. We have now finally built up the courage to give some of them a go. We’ll try to recreate some of the staples and small dishes, some soups and stews and even desserts. And of course we will be sharing them here, with you.
We begin our Persian (Iranian) adventure with bread as it is one of the staples – it is the first thing to appear on any table. In Iran, bread is used instead of a spoon or fork to ‘scoop and mop up food, and wrapping all manner of ingredients to be eaten by hand‘. (We love eating by hand!) Sweet bread is a wonderful afternoon treat, especially when dunked into tea.
The little breads we chose to make first are based on a type of savory-sweet breads from south-east Iran, where cumin is found in abundance and used in many local dishes, often in combination with turmeric. For us, it’s the first time we used both cumin and turmeric in a bread recipe and we’re so glad we did! The wonderful flavors of the spices, topped by the sweet sticky dates filling, make these tiny, soft and moist breads absolutely perfect for a morning or afternoon treat served with a cup of tea or coffee.
Now, we should say from the beginning that we made few changes to the recipe found in the book to make these treats a bit healthier (and vegan too!). Not that they are not healthy in their original recipe, just that whenever we can replace butter or skip an egg or two, we will do so. The changes we made can be applied to many baked sweet treats and are as follows:
- we’ve substituted half of the white flour with wholemeal spelt flour
- we used raw sugar instead of white processed sugar
- we used less sea salt
- we skipped the eggs altogether
- we replaced butter with banana
- replaced the icing sugar used for dusting with almond meal
3/4 tsp dried yeast 1/3 cup lukewarm water - 100g wholemeal spelt flour 120g organic white flour 20g raw sugar pinch of sea salt 2/3 tsp turmeric - 3 TBSP olive oil 1/3 cup water - 9 dried dates, chopped 1 banana, sliced 1/2 cup hot water - cumin powder almond meal
We first dissolved the dried yeast in 1/3 cup lukewarm water and set it aside for 10-15 minutes to bubble up. We soaked the pitted dates in 1/2 cup hot water and set it aside for 10 minutes.
In a big bowl, we combined both flours, sugar, sea salt and turmeric. We added the olive oil and yeast mixture and gradually incorporated the remaining 1/3 cup water by kneading the dough with our hands. We continued to knead it for about 10 minutes, until it became soft, elastic, smooth and shiny. We then allowed it to rest for an hour, covered and in a warm place.
Meanwhile, we drained the dates and chopped them finely. We discarded the water.
After an hour, we knocked back the dough and left it for another hour to rise again.
After the total 2 hours passed, we preheated the oven at 200C, rolled out the dough on a slightly oiled surface and cut out the shapes for the breads (we chose a round cookie cutter) making sure to have an even number of shapes. On half of the cut out shapes we placed few pieces of dates in the middle and 2 banana slices on each. We covered the ‘filled’ shapes with the remaining empty shapes, making sure to cover the filling and seal the edges. We transferred them to a baking tray covered with baking paper and allowed them to rest for 15 minutes for a final rising time. We sprinkled a good pinch of cumin powder and almond meal on each and baked them for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. We do recommend you check on them half time though as ovens do have their funny ways of working differently from kitchen to kitchen.
Now, if you have the willpower, allow them to cool before digging in. For best tasting results, dunk in a hot cup of coffee or tea.