Iranian food, like the country, is misunderstood, says cookbook author Yasmin Khan

Iranian food, like the country, is misunderstood, says cookbook author Yasmin Khan...
msn.com 01/05/2019 Cuisine

Keywords:#Britain, #British, #Caspian, #Caspian_Sea, #Iran, #Iranian, #Khan, #London, #Msn.com, #Persian, #Saffron, #Silk_Road, #Western, #Yasmin_Khan

By Susan Jung
When I told friends that I was going on holiday to Iran, those who had already been said I'd be tired of the food within a few days, and warned that I should pack plenty of instant noodles as an alternative to eating kebabs for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Reading The Saffron Tales (2016) made me wonder if they had visited the same country I was going to. In the introduction to the book, British-Iranian writer Yasmin Khan admits that the country her mother is from isn't always understood by outsiders - and she's not talking about just the cuisine.
"I was born in Croydon, south London, but my mother's side of the family comes from the subtropical shores of the Caspian Sea in northern Iran. Growing up in 1980s Britain, I was always acutely aware of the gulf that existed between the Iran I knew and loved and the Iran depicted on the news [...] With raised eyebrows, people would ask probing questions, fascinated to know how an independent Western woman such as myself could take so much pleasure in visiting a country fraught with controversy and turbulence.
"My answer was simple. I loved the exuberance, warm-heartedness, and affection of the Iranian people; I loved the dramatic mountains and dazzling scenery of Iran's landscapes; and I loved the garlic- and herb-infused food that harmonised sweet and sour flavours so perfectly."
The food she writes about is enticing.
"Persian cuisine weaves together a myriad of delicate spices and elegant flavours gathered from Iran's position at the heart of the old Silk Road. Those unfamiliar with the food often come to the sofreh (the patterned tablecloth on which dishes are served) expecting spicy, fiery flavours, perhaps more befitting the country's climate and politics, and are often surprised to find that the cuisine is gentle and soothing - a poetic balance of subtle flavours such as dried limes, saffron and orange blossom."
Yes, there are kebabs, sold on the street: "Succulent cuts of meat or fish, often marinated with yogurt and spices, threaded onto skewers and barbecued over hot coals." But there's also fruit - eaten fresh or dried, or made into pastes and molasses, to be used in savoury stews and soups. And while there are dishes that are eaten throughout the country, each region also has its own specialities.
Recipes in the book include saffron and cardamom vermicelli with fried egg; burnt eggplant and walnut dip; chicken livers with pomegranate molasses; watermelon, mint and feta salad; legume noodle soup; pistachio soup; Persian rice; rice with lentils, dates and walnuts; grilled mackerel with spicy pomegranate salsa; lime and saffron chicken kebabs; slow-cooked lamb shoulder with dried lime and split peas; Persian love cake; chocolate and pistachio torte; and orange blossom and date pudding.
---"I loved the exuberance, warm-heartedness, and affection of the Iranian people; I loved the dramatic mountains and dazzling scenery of Iran's landscapes; and I loved the garlic- and herb-infused food that harmonised sweet and sour flavours so perfectly" ---
...

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