The Saffron Tales - Yasmin Khan

The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan is a brillant book packed with the rich culture of Persian cooking. Photographs reflect the opulent colors of the ingredients and flavors that make these dishes so vibrant and appealing. 
 

Yasmin is a food and travel writer who launched The Saffron Tales on Kickstarter with the dream of writing this cookbook to celebrate Iran's rich culinary tradition and sharing a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Iranians today through their food. With Tehran-based photographer, Shahrzad Darafsheh, she travelled through Iran collecting recipes and tales from the people she met on her journey.

The 84 recipes shared here have been revamped for our kitchens and include such dishes as Legume Noodle Soup, Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Dried Lime and Split Peas, and a Shrimp, Cilantro, and Tamarind Stew. It is true that there are so many beautiful cookbooks in today's market place but there is something stunning about Middle Eastern books. Perhaps it is the jewelled tones from their beloved pomegranates, the golden hue of saffron or the vibrant colors from the spice markets that draw me in and keep me coming back for more. 

Yasmin's narrative is poetic, her love of Persia is palpable and at least we can live vicariously through her words and the recipes she shares. She masterfully weaves the stories of the people she encountered in her journey into the recipes and I have no doubt you will enjoy them as much as I have.  

Special thanks to Bloomsbury and the author for sharing this recipe for Chicken Stew with Spinach and Prunes.  Be sure to head over to our contest page to enter our giveaway for three copies of this title (2 winners in the US, 1 winner in the UK). 

 

Chicken stew with spinach and prunes
Aloo esfinaj
 
This stew was inspired by a glorious afternoon's cooking in Rasht with pharmacist Sima Mohamadzahdeh, who likes to pot-roast a whole chicken when entertaining guests, presenting it on a bed of spinach and prune sauce. My version of her masterpiece involves poaching flavourful chicken thigh pieces with some warming spices before cooking them in the luscious green sauce. This khoresht is traditionally made with the juice of Seville oranges (narenj), which give a subtle, sweet and sour hint to the chicken and bring out the earthy notes of the spinach. Since these are not widely available here, ordinary oranges combined with lime juice provide an intense, tangy flavor of their own. Serve with rice and a green salad.

Sunflower oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
8 chicken thighs, bone-in, skinless
¾ cup good-quality chicken stock
1 tsp turmeric
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
Sea salt and black pepper
½ tsp saffron strands
A pinch of sugar
2 tbsp freshly boiled water
28 oz spinach, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Juice of 1 orange
Pared zest of ½ orange, sliced into thin strips
¾ cup (5 oz) prunes
1½ tbsp flaked almonds, to garnish
 
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large casserole pot and fry the onions over a low heat for 25 minutes, until they are soft and beginning to caramelize. Add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. 
 
Turn up the heat and add the chicken. Cook for a few minutes to brown the chicken on all sides. Lower the heat, then add the stock, turmeric, cinnamon, a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon of black pepper. Cover with a lid and cook for 35 minutes.
Meanwhile, make a saffron liquid by grinding the saffron strands with a pinch of sugar using a pestle and mortar and then adding the boiled water. Leave to steep.
In a large pot or wok, cook the spinach over a high heat until it has wilted and then place in a colander to drain. You'll probably have to do this in a few batches, unless you have an extremely large pot. Let the spinach cool and then squeeze it dry with your hands. Roughly chop and set aside.
 
After the chicken has been cooking for 35 minutes, add the chopped spinach and the lime and orange juice, along with the orange zest and saffron liquid. Place a lid on the pot and leave to simmer for 10 minutes.

Fry the prunes in 1 tablespoon of oil until they just start to plump up and caramelize. Add them to the stew and cook for a final 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper to your preference.

Toast some flaked almonds in a small pan over a low heat for 1 minute until they start to go a golden brown color. Sprinkle the toasted nuts onto the stew just before serving.

Serves 4

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27 Comments

  • FaithB  on  4/9/2017 at 1:36 PM

    The recipe for Slow-cooked lamb shoulder with dried lime and split peas (Gheimeh) sounds intriguing, I bought dried lime powder years ago out of curiosity, but didn't really know what it's typical use was. Think I tried it on chicken, but lamb is appealing, too.

  • RNJessicaK  on  4/9/2017 at 1:50 PM

    I so into Persian cuisine these days. Can't wait to try this!!

  • PennyG  on  4/9/2017 at 5:33 PM

    My favorite Middle-Eastern dish is good ole Tabbouleh!

  • thecharlah  on  4/9/2017 at 10:30 PM

    I love shawarma!

  • Titch  on  4/10/2017 at 4:20 AM

    I don't have a favourite Middle Eastern dish so I'm looking for ideas :) x

  • monique.potel  on  4/10/2017 at 9:41 AM

    i would love to discover new foods from that part of the world

  • Deneenm  on  4/10/2017 at 11:19 AM

    Mujaddara is an absolute favorite

  • lebarron2001  on  4/10/2017 at 12:00 PM

    Baklava

  • bstewart  on  4/10/2017 at 6:53 PM

    I love and (and all) dips — especially a really good quality hummus.

  • sgump  on  4/10/2017 at 10:21 PM

    I love a dish of scrambled eggs with rhubarb, garlic, and mint: delicious!

  • Uhmandanicole  on  4/15/2017 at 12:28 AM

    One of my favorite Middle Eastern dishes is this chicken dish with walnuts and pomegranate molasses. But for the life of me I can't remember what it's called! My favorite.

  • t.t  on  4/15/2017 at 1:51 AM

    I love Middle Eastern food, so I don't know if I can pick a favorite, but I once had a lamb durum at a Kurdish sandwich shop in Paris that I still think about.

  • lgroom  on  4/16/2017 at 12:10 AM

    I had the privilege of living in Yemen for several years. I still fantasize about fouel ma baythe -- just a simple bean dish with eggs stirred in at the last minute and served with freshly made pita type bread.

  • apattin  on  4/16/2017 at 9:57 AM

    I have no favorite Middle Eastern dish. I love them all.

  • RSW  on  4/17/2017 at 6:32 AM

    Well made Hummus is my favorite.

  • fiarose  on  4/18/2017 at 8:47 AM

    well, that's absolutely impossible. I love anything with eggplant or okra, though--a gorgeous okra curry with hot naan, or silky baingan bhaartha, always my favorite.

  • JenJoLa  on  4/18/2017 at 12:12 PM

    It's hard to pick one favorite Middle Eastern recipe, but it's hard to go wrong with a good falafel.

  • sipa  on  4/18/2017 at 4:21 PM

    I grew up in metro Detroit, all Middle Eastern food is delicious but if I must it would be Mujaddara.

  • hippiechick1955  on  4/21/2017 at 7:22 PM

    It's a pastry - Kolompehs. They are so darned good!

  • earthnfire  on  4/22/2017 at 7:49 AM

    anything with lamb!

  • edyenicole  on  4/22/2017 at 2:42 PM

    I love hummus!

  • meggan  on  4/26/2017 at 1:09 PM

    I really like many of the traditional middle eastern flatbreads.

  • rennots  on  4/27/2017 at 8:01 PM

    I love saffron!! I just might have to buy this book

  • Siegal  on  4/29/2017 at 10:28 AM

    I love eggplant dishes

  • imaluckyducky  on  4/30/2017 at 9:35 PM

    Maqluba

  • AnnaZed  on  5/10/2017 at 6:43 PM

    I am in some ways the most conventional person; as far as middle eastern food goes I could eat Baba Ganoush every single day!

  • Purplepeepers  on  5/13/2017 at 1:29 AM

    I love lamb cooked in pomegranate molasses, this is a favourite of mine

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