Three flavourful Persian-inspired recipes from Sabrina Ghayour's new cookbook

Sabrina Ghayour's ultimate falafels are packed with herbs and bolstered with extra flavour.
Sabrina Ghayour's ultimate falafels are packed with herbs and bolstered with extra flavour. Photo: Kris Kirkham/Hachette Australia

Iranian-born home cook turned chef, cookery teacher and food writer Sabrina Ghayour made her name in London hosting supper clubs specialising in Persian and Middle Eastern flavours. Over the past six years, she has released four cookbooks, including her best-selling debut Persiana.

Ghayour's new collection, Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes, includes more than 100 fuss-free recipes full of flavour and colour that can be enjoyed any day of the week. 

The selection includes favourite Persian recipes from Ghayour's childhood, which she has reworked and simplified to create easy, delicious meals anyone can make.

Sabrina Ghayour's new collection.
Sabrina Ghayour's new collection. Photo: Supplied

"While I'll always be firmly rooted in the flavours of Iran and the Middle East, it's impossible to stick a specific label on my approach," she writes. 

"My travels have introduced me to ingredients not typical of the Middle East that I now use to bolster flavour, create depth and, more importantly, provide satisfaction in every mouthful."

As always, Ghayour encourages readers to substitute or omit ingredients to suit their personal tastes. "Baking aside, the best recipes usually allow the home cook a little freedom and individuality because, when you keep flavours and proceedings simple, you always produce the best results."

Ultimate falafels

These falafel are less traditional and more Sabrina style – packed with herbs and bolstered with extra flavour – but the results are every bit as satisfying.

INGREDIENTS

  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 50g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 50g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 1 large carrot, scrubbed and grated
  • 2 large garlic cloves, very finely chopped
  • 4 fat spring onions, very thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric vegetable oil, for deep-frying sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
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To serve

  • pita breads, sliced gherkins, sliced tomatoes, sliced red cabbage, Greek or natural yoghurt (or vegan alternative), chilli sauce

METHOD

  1. Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight, or for 8-10 hours, then drain.
  2. Put the chickpeas along with all the remaining main ingredients, except the vegetable oil, into a food processer and season generously with salt and pepper. Blitz until evenly combined but still slightly coarse in texture (don't worry too much about the consistency).
  3. Pour enough oil into a deep frying pan or saucepan to fill to a depth of about 4cm. Heat the oil over a medium heat and bring to frying temperature – it should be hot but not smoking (add a pinch of mixture: if it sizzles immediately, the oil is hot enough). Line a plate with kitchen paper.
  4. Take scoops of the mixture and roll into smooth balls about 4cm in diameter. Fry the falafels in batches, a few at a time without overcrowding the pan, for 2-3 minutes, or until just starting to brown all over. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper-lined plate to drain. Serve hot in pita breads with pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, Greek yogurt and chilli sauce.

Tip: You really need dried chickpeas for this recipe – don't be tempted to substitute the canned variety as they will result in mushy falafels.

Makes: 20-25

Ultimate falafels
Albaloo polow (pilaf)
Goats' cheese, vegetable and za'atar filo tart
This is an edited extract from Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes by Sabrina Ghayour, Hachette Australia, RRP $32.99. Photography by Kris Kirkham.

Substitute sweetened cranberries if you can't find sour cherries. Photo: Kris Kirkham/Hachette Australia

Albaloo polow (pilaf)

This classic Persian rice dish of lamb and sour cherry meatballs best showcases our long-standing historic culinary tradition of combining meat with fruits. Try it with beef mince instead of lamb, and substitute sweetened cranberries if you can't find sour cherries. You can also leave out the meatballs completely and serve the polow with a roast chicken or just on its own, but the meatballs were my favourite bit as a child.

METHOD

  • 500g minced lamb
  • 1 onion, minced in a food processor and drained of any liquid, or very finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic granules
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  • 500g basmati rice
  • 400ml boiling water
  • 400g sweetened dried sour cherries (or use sweetened dried cranberries)
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Put the minced lamb, onion, garlic granules and a generous amount of salt and pepper into a mixing bowl and, using your hands, work the ingredients together really well, pummelling the meat mixture for several minutes into a smooth, even paste. Roll the mixture into balls 2cm in diameter – about 40 in total.
  2. Heat a large frying pan over a high heat. Line a plate with a double layer of kitchen paper. Once the pan is hot, drizzle in a little vegetable oil and fry the meatballs in 2 batches until all are nicely browned all over. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to the paper-lined plate to drain.
  3. Bring a large, ideally nonstick, saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the rice and stir to avoid the grains from sticking together, then parboil for about 6-7 minutes until the grains turn from a dullish off-white colour to a more opaque, brilliant white and have slightly elongated. Drain and immediately rinse thoroughly under cold running water, running your fingers through the rice, until all the grains are well rinsed of starch and completely cooled. Drain the rice thoroughly by shaking the sieve well, then leave for 5-10 minutes for any remaining water to drain. Shake off any excess water before use.
  4. Meanwhile, pour the boiling water into a small saucepan and place over a medium heat. Add the sour cherries and boil, stirring frequently, for several minutes until the mixture reduces, turns syrupy and coats the back of a spoon (see Tip). 
  5. Rinse the rice saucepan and place over a gentle heat. (If the pan isn't nonstick, first line the base with a large square of baking paper.) Add the ghee, and once melted, pour in enough cold water to come 1cm up the side of the pan. Swirl the pan around to mix the ghee and water together, then add a generous amount of crushed salt flakes. Loosely scatter just enough rice into the pan to coat the base in an even layer (don't pack the mixture into the pan), then mix the rest of the rice with the cherries and meatballs until evenly combined. Scatter (do not press) the rice mixture into the pan, allowing for natural air pockets, and smooth out to the sides. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, poke a series of holes into the rice, piercing all the way to the base of the pan (this allows the steam to circulate).
  6. Wrap the pan lid in a clean tea towel so that it fits tightly on the pan. If using a gas hob, cook over the lowest flame for 1 hour. If using an electric/induction hob, cook over a medium heat for  20 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for a further 1½-2 hours.
  7. Once cooked, remove the lid and smooth the rice over to the edges to create a flat base. Place a large platter over the pan and carefully flip the polow on to the platter to reveal the crispy tahdig base. Don't be disheartened by the dark crust; this is due to the dark cherry juice, which is also sweet so has a tendency to caramelise and as a result sometimes appears blackened, even though it may not actually be burned.

Tip: If your cherries have too much liquid around them, boil until reduced, otherwise they will make the rice too wet and the juice will seep to the base and burn the crust.

Serves: 6-8

Ultimate falafels
Albaloo polow (pilaf)
Goats' cheese, vegetable and za'atar filo tart
This is an edited extract from Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes by Sabrina Ghayour, Hachette Australia, RRP $32.99. Photography by Kris Kirkham.

The filo pastry base perfectly matches the creamy goats' cheese. Photo: Kris Kirkham/Hachette Australia

Goats' cheese, vegetable and za'atar filo tart

Think of this as a sort of quiche but with a filo pastry base instead – the perfect match for the rich, creamy goats' cheese filling, spiked with the heady fragrance of za'atar.

INGREDIENTS

  • vegetable oil
  • 1 eggplant, finely diced
  • 1 red capsicum, cored, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 zucchini, finely diced
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 6 sheets of filo pastry (each about  48 x 25cm)
  • 7 eggs, 1 beaten, to glaze
  • 300ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons za'atar
  • 1 teaspoon garlic granules
  • 250g rindless soft goats' cheese, torn into rough chunks
  • sea salt flakes and black pepper

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). 
  2. Line a tray with a double layer of kitchen paper. Place a large saucepan over a high heat and pour in enough vegetable oil to coat the base of the pan. Add the eggplant, mix with the oil and cook for several minutes until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add the red capsicum and cook for a few minutes until softened. Finally, add the zucchini and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon, shaking off any excess oil, then transfer to the paper-lined tray to drain and leave to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, select an ovenproof dish, about 32 x 22cm. Brush melted butter over each pastry sheet and lay 2 layers lengthways in the dish with the ends overhanging the short edges of the dish. Take the remaining 4 sheets and lay 2 layers side by side widthways across the dish so that they meet in the centre, with the excess overhanging the long edges of the dish. Crumple the overhanging pastry inside the edges of the dish to create a border for your pie, leaving room for the filling. Brush the crumpled pastry with the beaten egg.
  4. Beat the remaining 6 eggs and fold in the cream, za'atar and garlic granules, followed by the cooked vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the filo base, scatter over the goats' cheese and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.

Serves: 6-8

This is an edited extract from Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes by Sabrina Ghayour, Hachette Australia, RRP $32.99. Photography by Kris Kirkham. Buy now