My journey begins in the chaotic, mysterious, and beautiful city of Tehran, capital of Iran, where culinary traditions date back 7000 years. Some of my earliest memories are of my grandmother, my mother and I, together in a palatial kitchen with a high ceiling and blue- tiled walls, where they taught me the fundamentals of Iranian cuisine.
They entrusted me with their secrets - they told me how to get the most flavour out of ingredients and I learnt that rigour and respect for their methods were inescapable. They taught me that Persian food is at once complex, demanding and incredibly delicate, not to be cooked in haste. Ask any Iranian mother and they’ll tell you ingredients must never be substituted.
For years I witnessed Iranian mothers going to great lengths to bestow joy upon their families and guests with their food. But the amount of strenuous work that went into it meant that by the time they sat down to eat, they were exhausted. For me, it isn’t just about making the people I cook for happy. It is also about enjoying the process.
As fond as I am of my mother and grandmother, when I moved to Europe, I had to stray from tradition: given how expensive energy is and how little time I could spend cooking on any given day. And so I began breaking the rules of Persian cuisine.
The methods I developed made cooking fast and simple, using few ingredients. I realised that there is nothing wrong with replacing the ingredients I couldn’t buy outside of Iran and that there is no need to waste time soaking beans and chickpeas overnight. Using tinned ingredients was highly frowned upon in our household, considered lazy and testifying a lack of taste. But doing two Master’s degrees and working full time as a teacher taught me that there is much more to life than spending hours in the kitchen preparing a single meal.
Since 2012 - when I came to Europe - I have been experimenting, tweaking and developing recipes reflecting a simple approach to food, applied to the traditional Persian meals I grew up eating. The recipes are a result of that journey: an easy-going, stripped down take on Persian food using few ingredients and knowing when it is okay to stray from the rulebook.
I now know that to enjoy Persian food it isn’t necessary for a matron to spend hours sweating over a stove. It is possible to cook, share and enjoy it with minimal effort.
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