I haven't been this excited about a cookery book since I first got my hands on Yotam Ottolenghi's. Are you sniggering at the back again, Portly Minor? Take 100 lines.
Persiana, published by Mitchell Beazley, is Sabrina Ghayour's first book and it's crammed full of wonderfully cookable recipes. I really struggled to decide which ones to share with you because I'd like to cook and eat everything in it.
Sabrina, who hosts supper clubs and pop-ups at various London venues, comes from an Iranian family and Persian food forms the backbone of her cooking, but she roams all over the Middle East with her recipes.
They're very much geared to a modern lifestyle, so you can whip up quite a lot of them when you get home from work, or spend a little more time and lay on a Middle Eastern feast. When cooking from the book it would help if you had a Middle Eastern grocer on your doorstep but all of the more specialised ingredients are available online (check out Melbury and Appleton or Persepolis).
Stock up now on pomegranate syrup, harissa and preserved lemons and buy this book. It's fabulous. For the record, mine isn't a review copy, I paid for it in the usual way. No axe to grind.
Quince and Pomegranate Glazed Pork (serves 4)
Sophisticated, subtle and super-easy, this uses pomegranates to give a piquant flavour lift to the quince sauce. I would happily serve this at a supper party.
150g (5 1/2 oz) quince paste (membrillo)
100 ml (3 1/2 oz) pomegranate juice
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp clear honey
2 tspn crushed sea salt
1 tspn ground cumin
1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
600g (1lb 5oz) pork loin fillet
1 tbsp olive oil
Combine the quince paste, pomegranate juice, pomegranate molasses, honey, sea salt and spices in a small bowl and mix them well. Depending on the stiffness of your quince paste you may have to melt it on a low heat with a little water. Mix everything together until thoroughly dissolved.
Roll the pork fillet in the marinade, cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinate for anything between one and 24 hours (overnight is best).
Preheat the oven to 180c/fan 160c/350F/Gas Mark 4.
Preheat a large ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the oil.
Shake off any excess marinade (reserve the remaining marinade) and sear the pork fillet for a couple of minutes on each side until it colours and forms a nicely caramelised crust. It may blacken somewhat because of the sugars in the marinade, but don't worry, this doesn't mean the meat is burned.
Brush some of the leftover marinade evenly onto the pork fillet and transfer the fan to the oven for a further 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow it to rest for five minutes.
While the pork rests, pour the remaining marinade into a small pan and heat gently until it bubbles.
Once rested, cut the fillet into 5cm (2") medallions or slice thinly. Serve with a drizzle of the marinade.
Harissa and Preserved Lemon Roasted Chicken
Sabrina uses poussins, one per person, which would look lovely on the table. I used chicken legs. Sabrina also recommends using rose harissa but I used my home-made version.
This is a really punchy recipe, full of flavour and quick to make. You can marinate the birds for up to 24 hours (cover the dish in cling film and place in the fridge) or smother them in the marinade and use them straight away. I was cooking for two so used half quantities but give Sabrina's original measures here.
8 preserved lemons
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tspn crushed sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
90g (3 1/4 oz) harissa
4 whole poussins (or large chicken joints)
Put all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a food processor or blender and whizz until you have a smooth paste. Pour this over the chicken and rub the mix into the flesh using your hands.
Preheat the oven to 220C/fan 200C/425F/Gas Mark 7.
Put the chicken in a big roasting tin or an ovenproof dish lined with nonstick baking paper. Roast for 45-50 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned on top. The juices should run clear when pierced in the thickest part of the meat.
Eat straight away. I dithered about serving it with one of Sabrina's lovely-looking Persian rice dishes but eventually plumped for her kisir, a Turkish bulgur wheat salad. Together they're a wonderful combination of sour, sweet and spicy. Some Baby Gem lettuce leaves for scooping up the salad would be a welcome addition.
Bulgur Wheat Salad
250g (9 oz) bulgur wheat
160 ml (5 1/2 fl oz) boiling water
1 tbsp chilli paste (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tspn crushed sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
20g mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
20g flat-leafed parsley, leaves picked and finely chopped
100g (3 1/2 oz) pomegranate seeds
Tip the bulgur wheat into a shallow dish and pour the hot water over it. Once absorbed (this takes about 15 minutes) transfer to a large bowl.
Add the chilli paste, if using, the lemon juice, tomato puree, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, salt and pepper and work them into the grains using your hands.
Now stir in the tomatoes, spring onions, fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds until everything is combined.
Taste and adjust the seasoning and add more lemon juice if necessary. Allow the dish to rest for about 10 minutes before using.
Find more Middle Eastern recipes at Mrs Portly's Kitchen.