Mirza Ghasemi, (Persian Smoked eggplants casserole)

Mirza Ghasemi is a vegetarian dish from Gilan in Northern Iran, yet quite popular through the country and beyond, especially as a tasty side dish.  Made traditional way, the recipe contains only four ingredients (eggplants, tomatoes, eggs, and garlic).  The real trick however in making a remarkably authentic Mirza ghasemi is to making this casserole-like dish taste and smell, partially or totally smoky! And that has to do with how you cook your vegetables.  So, let’s get started!

Ingredients (serves 4)

Eggplants, 4-5, small. Tomatoes, 4 large. Garlic cloves, 5 (use more if you like garlic or less if you don’t). Eggs, 4. Oil, 3 tbs. Salt and pepper to taste.


Method:
Grill pierced eggplants and whole tomatoes on a barbecue grill – ideally on charcoal, till skin is burned and inside is well cooked. Obviously eggplants require more cooking time. Cut off the two ends of garlic cloves and place them on the barbecue grill with the skin on and grill them for a few minutes as well. Remove your vegetables, as they are sufficiently cooked and set aside to cool.  Note that it is customary to grill and “smoke” the eggplants, but I have figured smoking tomatoes add to the delicious taste of Mirza ghasemi. My friend has discovered and kindly tipped me preparing garlic the way I just mentioned is magical! It truly is, you just have to be careful not to burn it. And while you are at it, make lots of smoked garlic and use them in your jar of olive oil along with fresh herbs and red chili pepper.

Using a cutting board, remove the eggplants’ skin and cut the eggplants in tiny pieces, sprinkling salt all over. Set aside. Do the same with the tomatoes. Skin the smoked garlic, and smash it. In a skillet sauté the smashed garlic in hot oil for a couple of minute over medium heat.

Add eggplants and sauté for ten minutes or until light brown. Add chopped tomatoes, and stir another 3-4 minutes. Taste for adjustment. Then cover the lid, reduce the heat and let it cook for 15-20 minutes.

At the last stage, remove the lid, break the eggs, immediately maximize the heat, stir thoroughly. You could add black powder pepper if you like.

Mirza ghasemi is traditionally eaten with plain rice, kateh style.


Yogurt soup

This is yet another Shiraz speciality, although in other Iranian cities we have “aash maast” (yogurt soup) which follow completely different ingredients and cooking methods.

Ingredients (serving 4) Read the rest of this entry »


Stuffed grape leaf (dolmeh2)

When I was growing up in Shiraz, we had a house on Hedayat Street with several fruit trees in its backyard. Most vividly, I remember our grapevine.

My mother planted it at a cozy corner as soon as we purchased the house and in a couple of years it grew into a tall, wide tent of green grapes, providing Mom the supplies to cook stuffed grape leaves (dolmeh barg-e mo) at least twice a year. She did it once in spring when the grape leaves were so small and tender she had to stack two leaves to cover the cracks and wrap one tiny dolmeh – the way she shaped them in squares, rather than rolling them up like cigar. Before the end of the season in late summer, she also picked another round of leaves for freshly made dolmeh. Read the rest of this entry »


Roman-beans dish, for the love of the good old days

 

This is a side dish and a favorite chaser or mazeh among many Iranians; it goes particularly well with the Iranian hard liquor, aragh. A mazeh should be spicy and delicious of course, and should ideally contain a lot of protein. Charcoal-grilled lamb’s liver (jegar) for instance is another renowned mazeh. In Iran, Kidney beans dish is by tradition prepared and sold by restaurant, bars (when we had them) and street venders. However, khoraak looia is very easy to prepare at home; it is nutritious, tasty and always good to have as a side dish, or even on its own.

Ingredients: Read the rest of this entry »


Kookoo Sabzi, herbed omelette

This is the first method I make this dish (second and third will followw in the following months)

Ingredients: Parsley and scallions, chopped (1 big bunch each); cilantro and dill, chopped (1/2 bunch, each); fenugreek, dry or chopped (1 tablespoon); lettuce, chopped (two leave), eggs (5-6); red onion, thinly sliced (1 medium); cooking oil, turmeric, salt and black pepper. Read the rest of this entry »


Kookoo with potato

This is a fast and easy Iranian dish great for supper – at the table, or “for the road”. All my non-Iranian friends love this “Persian pancake”, as they call it. Normally it is made mainly with potatoes, and eggs, but I do add one or two other ingredients.

For six relatively hungry people, you would need the following:

  • 1 kg regular potatoes;
  • 4 eggs;
  • 1 small onion;
  • 1/2 cup milk;
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley and chives;
  • pinch of turmeric; salt, powdered black pepper (desired amount),
  • and a lot of cooking oil.

NOTE: Some use baking powder to make koo koo tender. I think it adds an unpleasant taste and elastic feel to it though! Milk and onion (or even onion alone) does a wonderful job making it tender and crunchy. Herbs, however, could easily be skipped without damaging the result. It is just a matter of taste and innovation! Read the rest of this entry »


Samosa

Samosa is popular snack in many Iranian cities too, (just as it is in central and south Asia, many African and all Middle eastern countries) In Iran, sambooseh is reputed to be best prepared by Abadanis.  Samosa is also largely a savory “street food” – one you would buy in specialized restaurants or off a kiosk or even push card. I make it at home, and it turns wonderful.

Ingredients

  • I pack, Lavash or Markouk flat bread. Buy from Middle Eastern stores. One pack contains 4 large bread pieces and each piece would give about ten samosas
  • About ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 250 gr. ground beef
  • 4-5 medium potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon powdered black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp V8 or tomato juice
  • Pinch of powdered chilli
  • Pinch of Mustard
  • Hot pepper (such as Tabasco) to your taste

Method:

  1. Cutting the bread

This is the most important step I would say!  Take a bread and just as it is folded, cut in four horizontal parts. That will give you four long strips to start working on. Cut each strips in equal sized parallel-gram pieces. These will be your samosa shelves. Soon, you will need to fold each soft shell the way shown in the picture   and fill each three-quarter half with the filling.

2. Preparing the filling:

In a medium frying pan warm 1 tbsp. and sauté chopped onions. Add minced ground beef if you are using it. Stir frequently. Once it changes colour, add turmeric and black pepper and keep frying for a few more minutes. Put aside.

Boil potatoes. Skin and chop. Sprinkle enough salt and mix well.

Chop the washed and pat dried parsley.

Mix everything together. This is your filling.

*You can perfectly make a delicious vegan samosa by simply omitting the meat.  In this case, you add turmeric and black powder to your frying onion before mixing it with chopped potatoes. All other steps are the same.

Now, all you need to do is fill the shells one by one, close them with their top parts, and put three or four at the time in a pan already containing hot vegetable oil.

It will take about one minute for each side of the samosa to turn crispy golden. And it takes a lot of oil to get to that perfect golden color without burning it. Remove them from pan and put them in paper towel to extract the excess oil. Never put warm samosas on top of each other.

Serve hot! Absolutely!!

3. Sauce:

Samosa is usually dipped in a very spicy hot sauce. How hot, depends on your taste when you are making it at home. Just mix the ingredients noted above and remember, time makes the sauce hotter; so if like me, you like it hot, make the sauce in advance.

Enjoy!