Thursday, 21 January 2010

Ottolenghi's meatballs baked in tahini

I've been in a bit of an Ottolenghi kick the last while. The man has a genius for putting the bold and brassy tastes I love together to make something even better. I just can't get enough of him. You might say I have the overwhelming devotion of a new convert (g).

This is recipe from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook is a variation of an Arab dish I made some time back based on a recipe from The Arab Table by May Bsisu that I found quoted on NPR.

Both recipes feature spiced mincemeat baked in a tart-but-creamy tahini sauce. In May Bsisu's version, the meat is pressed into the baking dish in meatloaf fashion, while it is formed into meatballs in this rendering. Where May Bsisu's sauce is sharpened with lemon juice, Ottolenghi's takes its tang from vinegar. Given the title of my blog, you probably won't be surprised to learn that I prefer the lemony version; but making the kafta into balls is a pretty good idea too.

I also adore the parsley and lemon zest topping in the Ottolenghi version. I've doubled the amount of lemon zest here, but that's totally up to you.

You can also vary the spices depending on your taste or whim. I'm not a big fan of allspice, so I reduced the amount of that spice and ramped up the others.

This was a big hit with the Young Man, who can't seem to get enough of meatballs in all their incarnations, and I make some pretty "out-there" versions (g). Despite the ordinary-sounding name given this dish, some might consider it a little out-there. Not to worry. It is the real deal and would make a lovely introduction to Arab cuisine, even for the less adventurous. Just make sure there are no sesame-averse people in your crowd.

Next time, I'm going to cross the two recipes and see what we come up with!

Meatballs baked in tahini

Serves 4-6

35 g stale white bread, crusts removed
600 g minced meat
3 garlic cloves, crushed
35 g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
light olive oil for frying
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
grated zest of 1 lemon, to garnish

For the tahini sauce
150 ml tahini paste
150 ml water
70 ml white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, crushed
a pinch of salt

1 First make the tahini sauce. In a bowl, mix together the tahini paste, water, vinegar, garlic and salt. Whisk well until it turns smooth and creamy, with a thick, sauce-like consistency. You might need to add some more water. Set the sauce aside while you make the meatballs.

2 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Soak the bread in cold water for 2-3 min until it goes soft. Squeeze out most of the water and crumble the bread into a mixing bowl. Add the minced meat, garlic, parsley, salt, spices and egg and mix well with your hands.

3 Shape the meat mixture into balls, roughly the size of golf balls, Pour a 5 mm depth of light olive oil into a large frying pan. Heat it up, being careful it doesn't get too hot or it will spit all over when frying. Shallow fry the meatballs in small batches, turning them round as you go, until they are uniformly brown on the outside.

4 Put the meatballs on kitchen paper to soak up the oil and then arrange them in a single layer in an ovenproof serving dish. Place in the oven for 5 min. Carefully remove from the oven, pour the tahini sauce over and around the meatballs and return to the oven for another 10 minutes. The tahini will take on just a little bit of colour and thicken up; the meatballs should be cooked through. Transfer to individual plates, garnish liberally with the parsley and lemon zest and serve at once.


Friday, 15 January 2010

Chargrilled asparagus, zucchini and semi-dried tomato salad with yogurt cheese

When I was in Ikea for a bookcase to corral my ever-expanding cookbook collection (I swear that they reproduce all by themselves; it's nothing to do with me!), I found a cast-iron ridged grill pan/griddle. Ooohhh. I've been wanting one of those for soooo long. The Young Man said he'd chip in to get it for me as a Christmas present (he can be a real sweetie like that and he certainly knows the way to his mother's heart (g)).

The find couldn't have come at a better time, as I'd spied this lip-smacking salad in my new Ottolenghi cookbook (see previous post). The photo of the salad in the book is pure food porn. It was the first thing my dear friend H pointed out when she flipped through it, too.

Admittedly, this is a little bit fiddly, but the results are sensational. The YM was totally blown away by this, and was showing it off at school the next day. That is without the manouri cheese, which, even if available here, would probably cost an arm and a leg anyway (butter is now up to 360 yen for 200 g. It's an outrage!).

Instead, I drained plain yogurt in a kitchen towel-lined sieve for a day. That is longer than I've ever drained yogurt, but in truth, it wasn't long enough to get a really cheese-like firmness. Not to worry, it was very tasty just the same. Next time I'll just start the night before. The cheese is chargrilled, too, in the original recipe, but drained yogurt would just melt at that temperature, so we didn't go there.

I was so pleased with the semi-dried cherry tomatoes in this recipe that I've since made up a whole batch (dried for an hour and a half) and put them in a jar with olive oil. Yum! These are going to go in some homemade bouillon I'm going to make based on this River Cottage recipe highlighted on 101 cookbooks.

Chargrilled asparagus, zucchini and semi-dried tomato salad

Serves 4-6

350 g cherry tomatoes, halved
95 ml olive oil
24 asparagus spears
2 zucchini
500 g plain yogurt, drained for 24 hours
25 g rocket
course sea salt and black pepper

For the basil oil
75 ml olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
25 g basil leaves
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1 The night before, drain yogurt by drain yogurt in a kitchen paper-lined sieve over a bowl in the fridge. You should end up with a large disc of yogurt cheese.

2 Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Mix the tomatoes with 3 tbsp of the olive oil and season with some salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper, skin side down. Roast in the oven for 50 min or until semi-dried. You can leave them in for a bit more or less, depending on how dry you like them. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

3 Meanwhile, trim the woody bases off the asparagus and blanch for 3-4 min in plenty of boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water, making sure the spears are completely cold. Drain well again, then transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tbsp of the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper.

4 Slice the zucchini thinly lengthwise. Mix in 1 tbsp of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.

5 Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave there for a few minutes. It should be very hot. Grill the zucchini and asparagus , turning them over after about 1 min. You want to get nice char marks on all sides. Remove and leave to cool.

6 To make basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a small food processor or blender.

7 To assemble, arrange the rocket, vegetables and drained yogurt in layers on a serving plate. Try to build the salad up while showing all the individual components. Drizzle with basil oil and serve.


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Ottolenghi's roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

I had a little manna from Amazon Japan at the end of last year. Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, which I had been lusting after for ages (but hanging out for the paperback edition), was somehow on sale for under 2,000 yen: nearly half-price. I jumped right in and bagged myself the last copy at that price--book storage space worries be damned!

I can't remember when I first heard the name Ottolenghi, but have been following the London restaurant chain's eponymous founder in his New Vegetarian column on the Guardian for ages, so I knew the guy had the goods for me: bold tastes, layers of flavour, and plenty of tartness (favourite ingredients like sumac, pomegranate molasses and lemons (!) all feature prominently).

Judging by the size of his Guardian archive, Yotam Ottolenghi (the chef) clearly has a big heart. This shows absolutely in Cookbook, which is lovingly written with partner/Ottolenghi head chef Sami Tamimi, and showcases recipes from other Ottolenghi (the restaurant) leading lights: a bonus I wasn't expecting. I also loved the touching story of the pair's meeting in London after living parallel lives for years on the two sides of the Israel/Palestine divide. May delicious food unite us all.

This was my Cookbook debut, made for my dearest friend H, who had kindly offered to come, jet lagged, 70 minutes to Yokohama to help me build a bookcase (just in time, really)!

The recipe is apparently a pared down version of the Palestinian classic, m'sakhan. Elsewhere on the Net, you'll find that dish described as spiced chicken with caramelized onions and bread. Ottolenghi's recipe doesn't caramelize the onions, but next time, I might fish out the onions from the marinade and fry them up for a few minutes before putting the whole thing in the oven.

A couple of notes to myself, here: do not use lemons which you've already zested for another recipe (the bitterness from the exposed pith was a bit annoying when I reheated this for lunch the next day. My fault. Live and learn.) And I reckon go with chicken legs next time: saves on chopping up and everyone gets a leg that wants one (everyone, really)!

This dish needs to marinate overnight, so you'll need to be prepared. And please don't be tempted to chop all those onions at midnight after a few glasses of wine, boys and girls. Auntie Saffron knows what she's talking about!

Oh, and if you don't have a bag of za'atar (a blend of thyme, sesame and sumac) lying about (g), you could try this recipe. In Japan, I have seen sumac/somaq at Tehran Shop near Yokohama (see here for directions in Japanese). It is also used in Turkish cooking, so you might be able to track it down at one of the many online Turkish shops.

Roast chicken with sumac, za'atar and lemon

Serves 4

1 large chicken, divided into quarters, breast and wing, leg and thigh, or 4 large leg & thigh pieces
2 red onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp sumac
1-2 lemons, thinly sliced
200 chicken stock or water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp za'atar
20 g unsalted butter
50 g pine nuts
4 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 In a large bowl, mix the chicken with the onions, garlic, olive oil, spices, lemon, stock or water, salt and pepper. Leave in the fridge to marinate for a few hours or overnight.

2 Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Transfer the chicken and its marinade to a baking tray large enough to accommodate all the chicken pieces lying flat and spaced apart. They should be skin-side up. Sprinkle the za'atar over the chicken and onions and put the tray in the oven. Roast for 30-40 min, until the chicken is coloured and just cooked through.

3 Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the pine nuts and a pinch of salt and cook until they are golden. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the fat.

4 Transfer the hot chicken to a serving plate and finish with the chopped parsley, pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. You can sprinkle on more za'atar and sumac, if you like.


Monday, 4 January 2010

Osechi tier 2

(1) Date-maki (sweet rolled omlette with fish paste)

Symbolizes fashion sense
Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***

This is super easy, delicious and quite dramatic in the jubako. Unlike regular sweet rolled omlettes, this one contains the fluffy, white fish cake hanpen. This makes for a lusciously spongy omlette. Date-maki mats are not readily available, even in Japanese department stores. I managed to acquire one at the Kappa-bashi cooking supplies town in Tokyo, but only after the fact. A regular sushi rolling mat will do fine, even if it does not produce the customary zig-zag pattern.

4 eggs
1 hanpen (a cake of pounded white-fleshed fish) (approx. 110 g)

32 g cane sugar or other brown sugar [Saffron: I used tensaito (beet sugar)]
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 tsp Japanese soy sauce [S: Do not substitute Chinese soy; it is much saltier]

1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Date-maki mat or sushi rolling mat
2 elastic bands

1 Break hanpen up and place in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add eggs, cane sugar, mirin and Japanese soy sauce and process or blend for 30 sec.

2 Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Pour in the hanpen-egg mixture and cover with a lid. Cook on a medium flame for 1 min, then reduce the heat to low and cook a further 15-20 min, or until the omlette is cooked through when pierced with a skewer and the top is dry. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to steam for a further 3 min.

3 Remove omlette from the pan onto a chopping board. Form into a "rectangle" by cutting off a 1.5 cm strip of omlette from the left and right sides and the edge furthest from you. Keep the uncut side closest to you. You will now have three long semi-ovals of cutout omlette. Cut the left and right semi-ovals in half across the middle.

4 Place the date-maki or sushi rolling mat on your work surface with the narrow side closest to you. Cover with cling film. Now place your omlette on top, with the uncut side closest to you. Keeping close to this edge, place the omlette cutouts on top of the omlette "rectangle" so that they form a neat rectangle at the "bottom" of your roll.

5 Firmly roll the omlette from bottom to top, keeping the wrap out of the way as you go. You should end up with a tight egg roll. Fold the ends of the wrap in at the sides. Secure the egg in the mat with a rubber band at each end, and leave to cool. If making ahead, refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, remove rubber bands, mat and wrap, and slice omlette roll into eighths.

(2) Chicken matsukaze-yaki (Wind-in-the-Pines chicken loaf)

Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***

This is another relatively easy Osechi fix. I upped the ginger a little from the original recipe. It is subtle, but certainly there. Use as little as 1/2 tsp, to suit your taste. You will need either a nagashi-bako, a two-part tin used in Japanese sweet-making, or a 15 cm x 15 cm square cake tin. I priced the correct-sized nagashi-bako at a local department store at 3,400 yen, and decided that was too much for something that will only get used once in two years. Kappa-bashi had the same item for under 2,000. I used the cake tin instead. I think I will scale the recipe up by 10% next time, to get thicker shapes at the end. If white poppy seeds and nori flakes are hard to come by, regular and black sesame seeds can be substituted. Sprinkle prior to baking. Matsuba-gushi (seen in the photos here) are used on happy occasions, such as weddings, as they symbolize two as an inseparable one. Unfortunately, they are a little hard to come by. I used regular dango skewers instead.

200 g chicken mince

4 tsp sugar (= 1 tbsp + 1 tsp or 1 Australian tbsp)
16 g white miso paste
2 tsp cooking sake
1 tsp Japanese soy sauce
1.5 tsp ginger juice squeezed from grated fresh ginger

40 g beaten egg (slightly less than 1 egg)
8 tsp panko breadcrumbs (= 2 tbsp + 2 tsp or 2 Australian tbsp)

1 tsp white poppy seeds
1 tsp nori flakes

15 cm x 12 cm nagashi-bako or similar sized square cake tin, with or without removable bottom
30 cm x 30 cm square of baking paper
8 matsuba-gushi bamboo skewers or other small skewers, about 5 cm in length

1 Create a liner for the nagashi-bako or cake tin by placing it at the center of the baking paper. Make 4 cuts in the paper from the edge of the baking paper to the left hand corner of each side of the tin. Make folds along the base line, line the tin neatly and set aside.

2 Preheat oven to 220 degrees C if using gas, 230 degrees C if using electric. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix the chicken mince, sugar, miso paste, sake, Japanese soy sauce and ginger juice in a bowl, using your hand like a whisk. Add the weighed egg and panko breadcrumbs and briefly mix again. Pour into the prepared nagashi-bako or cake tin and flatten the surface. Remove the air by gently tapping the nagashi-bako or cake tin against a flat surface a few times. Sprinkle one half of the chicken mixture all over with the poppy seeds.

3 Bake for 15 min, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with aluminium foil and return to the oven with the heat off to steam for a further 5 min. Remove the chicken loaf from the tin and cut in half along the poppy seed line. Sprinkle the plain half all over with the nori flakes. Cut each half into 4 long "fan" shapes by cutting across the width of the halves on the diagonal. Push a matsuba-gushi or other small skewer into the short side of each triangle to make fans. This is the shape of a hagoita, or battledore, used in Japanese New Year "badminton".

(3) Kikka kabu (chrysanthemum flower-shaped pickled turnips)

The chrysanthemum is the symbol of Japan's Imperial Family
Time/Effort: *** Cost: * Flavour: *

You really do want something crisp and tangy to go with all the soft and sweet in the Osechi lineup. These white turnips fit the bill nicely, but are a bit too fiddly for my liking. It took me over 20 min to slice just four of these! And then I went and forgot to soak them in the brine that would soften them up so the "petals" could be opened! I think I'll go for something more colourful and less breakdown-inducing next time. Something like this, maybe...

4 small kabu (white turnips)

500 ml water
1 tbsp salt

For the sweet vinegar:
1-2 tbsp yuzu (citron) juice

1 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp dashi stock
8 dried red pepper rings

1 Cut roots and tops off kabu and peel. Place kabu on work top with the top side up. Cut horizontal and vertical lines 1-2 mm apart into each kabu to a depth of about 2/3 the height of the kabu. Take care not to cut all the way through. A disposable chopstick placed on either side of the kabu will help prevent your knife from going too far. Repeat with other 3 kabu. Cut an x into the bottom of each kabu, taking care not to cut into the cuts on the top side.

2 Mix the salt into the water and soak kabu, cut side down, in this solution for about 30 min. Remove kabu from salt-water bath and pat dry.

3 Mix yuzu (citron) juice, sugar, dashi stock, vinegar, salt and red pepper rings in a zip-topped plastic bag. Add kabu, kneed lightly and leave to pickle for at least 2 hours, turning from time to time.

4 To serve, gently squeeze pickling juice from kabu. Open up the chrysanthemum "petals" and top with 2 red pepper rings.

These three recipes are adapted from those I learned at ABC Cooking Studio last December.

Osechi tier 1

I tried various recipes this year, only some of which I think I will repeat in New Years to come. I'm going to use a 3-star scale to remind me next time. The cost scale, naturally, reflects the cost of procuring ingredients/equipment in Japan.

(1) Kuromame (sweet black beans)

Symbolizes diligence (mame in Japanese)
Time/Effort: ** Cost: ** Flavour: ***

This is the same recipe as I used two years back (when last in Japan for New Year). I think I can improve it by using the pressure cooker to bring the beans to the soft point, so am making a note to myself now to that affect. I've still not managed to get any rusty nails, but all the Osechi cookbooks call for them, so they must have some affect. You could cook the beans in a cast iron pot, but I'm here to tell you that your beans will be lovely even if you don't.

(2) Tazukuri with pine nuts and cashews (Dried young anchovies with nuts in caramelized soy sauce)

Symbolizes an abundant harvest
Time/Effort: * Cost: *** Flavour: *

I was a little disappointed with this. The soy caramel totally overpowered the delicate flavour of the nuts. Given the cost of the nuts, I don't think I will repeat this one. Cheap sesame seeds are definitely the way to go. I think I may also not have let the caramel reduce enough; it was quite sticky. I'll keep looking for a tazukuri recipe, though. It's one of the easier Osechi dishes to make.

30 g gomame (dried young anchovies)
30 g pine nuts
40 g cashew nuts

2 1/3 tbsp soy sauce [Saffron: I would reduce this to 1-1 1/2 tbsp; it is very salty, otherwise]
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cooking sake
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp oil

1 Spread the gomame on a heatproof dish and heat in the microwave until crisp, about 1-2 min. Remove any powder or debris. Toast the pine nuts and cashews separately in a dry frying pan, swirling constantly to ensure they do not burn.

2 Add the soy sauce, sugar, cooking sake, mirin and oil to a frying pan and heat over a medium-strong flame. When the liquid starts to bubble turn the heat down to low and reduce to a thick caramel.

3 Add the toasted nuts and mix thoroughly.

4 Remove to a wide plate, separating any clumps as you go. Allow to cool.

(3) Matcha-iri kurikinton (Sweet potato with chestnuts and matcha green tea)

Symbolizes wealth
Time/Effort: *** Cost: *** Flavour: ***

The Young Man and I were very happy with the kurikinton we had 2 years ago. But I thought this recipe might better it yet. And it did. This is definitely my new go-to kurikinton (or kuriClinton, as the YM calls it, referring to Mrs and not Mr C; he's too young to know the latter!). The only catch is that matcha and jarred chestnuts are expensive, even in Japan. I reckon the ingredient cost of this one dish was about 1,600 yen (around US$16). There were no kuchinashi (gardenia pods, Japan's saffron!) in this recipe, but I think I will cook the sweet potatoes with a pod or two next time. The jarred chestnuts used in this recipe are skinned and coloured yellow with gardenia, also; little gold nuggets! To cut down on the sweetness, I used less sugar and didn't add the glucose syrup. I've given the original recipe below.

500 g sweet potato (peeled weight)
1/2 tsp yaki-myoban (burnt alum) or 1 tsp baking powder
100 g sugar

150 g sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup syrup reserved from jar of sweetened chestnuts

2 tbsp mizuame (glucose syrup)
15-20 sweetened chestnuts from a jar, halved or quartered

1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp boiling water

1 Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 2 cm-thick rounds. Soak in water for around 10 min. Change water and mix in yaki-myoban or baking powder. Leave to soak overnight to remove tackiness. Drain, rinse and place in a large pot. Pour in the sugar and just enough water to cover. Bring to the boil on a medium flame.

2 Boil until soft, about 12-15 min, then drain. Mash and allow to cool. Use a wooden spoon to push sweet potatoes through a sieve.

3 Return sweet potatoes to the pot and add the sugar, salt and chestnut syrup. Heat over a medium flame, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thickened. Once you can draw a line with the wooden spoon and see the bottom of the pot, add the mizuame (glucose syrup). Cook a further 1-2 min until glossy. Remove one third of mixture to a separate bowl.

4 Parboil the halved or quartered chestnuts in a small pot, then drain and stir into the sweet potatoes in the pot.

5 In a small bowl, mix the matcha, sugar and boiling water to a paste. Stir gently into the the remaining third of the sweet potatoes. Stir this mixture into the chestnut sweet potatoes, creating a marbled effect.

Adapted from recipes in Kihon no osechi to shogatsu no omotenashi (Basic Osechi and dishes for New Year's entertaining), Gakken Hit Mook, 2008 and 2010 editions

Saturday, 2 January 2010

New Year in Japan: Osechi ryori

Happy New Year!! This is the first post for 2010. Hopefully we will be a bit more "regular" than we were in 2009. Thank you for reading along. And, as always, please leave a comment if you have something to say. Happy cooking!

If you are used to a rowdy Scottish Hogmanay or a backyard New Year's Eve in sunny Australia, New Year in Japan can feel a bit sombre and forlorn. Japan's NY is a family event, spent quietly at home, snuggled up under the kotatsu, with a box of mandarin oranges to hand, and a round of, ahem, enigmatic New Year TV specials for company.

Unless, that is, you are the cook and you try to beat your Osechi-dishes-cooked personal best. Osechi is the traditional New Year fare of Japan, but its preparation is such a marathon at an already busy time, that very few women make it from scratch themselves anymore. The Osechi cookbooks I own recommend starting on December 26 so as not to be disappointed. Personally, I bought this and that throughout December, but only started cooking 2 days out. But I wasn't doing the full Osechi. Not all of the traditional dishes spell yummy to me.

Last time, I didn't have a special 3-tiered jubako box for Osechi. This time round, I got a nice little one with a bunny and plum blossom motif for next to nothing. The plastic ones are just as lovely as the real lacquered ones, much easier to care for and a fraction of the price! I only used 2 tiers this year, but if I ever get round to doing the full production, all three tiers will come into play. In which case, I will definitely start a day or two earlier (g).

My selections this year were the gochiso buri daikon and East-Japan ozoni broth from two years back. Plus jubako tier 1 goodies: kuromame (sweet black beans), tazukuri (dried fish in soy-sake caramel), matcha-iri kurikinton (sweet potatoes and chestnuts with matcha green tea); and tier 2 yummies: date-maki (rolled sweet omlette with fish cake), matsukaze-yaki (gingered chicken meatloaf on skewers) and kikka kabu (chrysanthemum-shaped pickled white turnip).

I got the lovely seasonal place mats from Takashimaya department store.

See the following posts for recipes.


Orange khoresh

When winter gets you down, it's good to know that there are always juicy citrus fruits to pep you up. On of my favourite things about the cooking of the Middle East and Iran and Morocco in particular is the combination of citrus and meat.

When I embarked on this voyage into the kitchens of far away places, one of the first things I cooked was a lamb and orange and lamb khoresh (Iranian stew) in Diana Henry's Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. It was a stew heady with the scents of "the Orient": orange flower water, cardamon and mint. Around that time, I started making some Iranian friends. But none of them had heard of an orange khoresh.

Exploring further, I made a lamb, spinach and orange khoresh from Najmieh Batmanglij's New Food of Life. Fabulous!

And now, a version with chicken from Margaret Shaida's The Legendary Cuisine of Persia. Of the three recipes I've tried, this is perhaps the simplest, but just as tasty.

I devoured Legendary Cuisine cover to cover when I got it, but this was my first attempt at any of the recipes. The prose is so lovely, a real paean to the culinary arts of Iran. In contrast with Najmieh-khanom's master work, Legendary Cuisine's recipes are pared back, home-style cooking that you probably could attempt on a weeknight. As such, Legendary Cuisine is a perfect partner to that work.

I reduced the meat in this recipe by half. Only because 2 kg of meat is rather too much for a family of two with too little freezer space as it is. Although you could easily cook this in a pressure cooker, the carrots need pan-frying for almost half an hour, so there is not too much point unless you start with the carrots.

Note that you will be peeling the zest of three oranges. The easiest way to do this is with a vegetable peeler. The prepared peel is then brought to the boil in three changes of water to remove its bitterness. Orange peel prepared in this way keeps very well in the freezer, so it is worth doing extra. I sometimes throw some in with some garlic stir-fried cabbage for an easy side veggie. You can also use it in citrus vinaigrette.

It is worth using the saffron in this recipe. It adds a magical note to this stew. Serve with steamed white rice.

Orange khoresh

Serves 4

1 kg chicken thighs, cut into quarters
2 large onions, finely sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
3 oranges (Seville for preference)
3 large carrots
small pinch saffron threads, ground with a little sugar or salt, and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
juice of 1 lemon, or 2 tbsp sugar if using Seville oranges
salt and pepper

2 tsp pistachio slivers
2 tsp almond slivers

1 Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry. In a large pot, heat a little oil and fry the chicken until nicely browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2 In the same pot, heat a little more oil and fry the onions until soft and golden brown. Stir in the cinnamon, add the chicken and enough water to cover. Cover and simmer gently for 30 min.

3 Scrub the oranges with detergent, rinse well and pat dry. Peel thinly (with a vegetable peeper) and cut skin into julienne strips. Put in a small pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and drain. Repeat twice more and leave to drain.

4 Peel the carrots and cut into julienne strips. In a large frying pan, heat a little oil and fry carrots for around 20 minutes then add to the stew with the orange zest. Simmer for a further 25 min.

5 With a sharp knife, remove the pith from the oranges and the skin from the segments.

6 A few minutes before serving, stir in the saffron water and the lemon juice (or sugar if using Seville oranges) and add the orange segments, reserving a few to garnish

7 Simmer for a minute or two and dish up in a warm bowl. Garnish with almond and pistachio slivers if desired and serve with plain white rice.