The Saffron Tales-an Interview with Yasmin Khan

  • Wed
    Jul 05
    7:00 pm -
    8:00 pm
  • Fri
    Jul 07
    7:00 am -
    8:00 am

The Saffron Tales

One specific element about my personality that I noticed last week was how uplifted I feel when talking abut food.  Now, those of you who know me are probably wondering if it's really possible I did not know that about myself.  I knew it.  Two recent instances seriously reinforced how talking and cooking continuously inspire me. 

Neither instance was an "aha" moment, but both left me feeling animated and rejuvenated.  First, I was privileged to speak with some students, who are studying and working in agriculture.  That event gave me the opportunity to relate a few stories about food producers, and let the students taste several amazing products.  The result of a session like this is always the same:  eyes light up, the energy in the room buzzes with excitement, and everyone wants another taste. I leave with a big smile etched on my face.

The second occasion was an interchange with a friend on Instagram.  I was intrigued by a post from a chef I admired that combined tomatoes and anchovy butter with ricotta salata.  I sent the pic and description to a friend in the industry, and a short interchange of thoughts occurred between us.  Afterwards, I was exhilarated.  

Talking with amazing people on the show replicates the above experiences, especially when the subject matter is exotic.  Yasmin Khan's quest in Iran is a journey I can only hope to explore one day.  Her stories and recipes bring to life the rich Persian culture, the bounty of the Iranian soil, and food traditions that have survived and thrived since their Zoroastrian origins.

Yasmin Khan

Hang out with us, close your eyes, and imagine the scent of rose, the gold color of saffron, the tang of tamarind, and the meaty texture of a pistachio.  A recipe from her amazing book is below.  

The Saffron Tales (Bloomsbury, September 2016), photo credit by Matt Russell.

Legume Noodle Soup

Legume noodle soup

 

Aash-e reshte

 

This nourishing soup is so important to Iranians that every city across the country has cafés and streets stalls dedicated to making it, and in the winter months, hungry customers form queues outside the most popular spots. In

Isfahan, I tucked into a bowlful in the courtyard of the Abbasi Hotel – reputedly the oldest hotel in the world. Dining there, amid blossoming trees and trickling fountains, it was easy to imagine myself transported back 300 years to when the hotel first opened and weary travellers would have replenished themselves with the same soup.

 

It is traditional to serve this with a small drizzle of kashk (see page 24) – an umami-flavored fermented whey, which tastes a bit like salted goat’s cheese. It is usually available in Middle Eastern stores, but if you can’t get hold of any, yoghurt is also commonly used as a topping.

 

 

3 tbsp sunflower oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 15-oz of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 x 15-oz of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

¾ cup green lentils, rinsed

½ tbsp turmeric

2 tbsp dried dill

1 tbsp dried mint

1 tbsp dried coriander

1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (see page 24)

2 cups water

4 cups good-quality chicken or vegetable stock

¼ lb spaghetti, broken in half

7 oz spinach, roughly chopped

1 small bunch chives, finely chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

1½ tbsp soy sauce

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

 

For the toppings:

1 medium onion, finely sliced into half-moons

2 tbsp flour

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 tbsp sunflower oil

About 6 tsp liquid kashk or 200g Greek yoghurt

1 tbsp dried mint

 

Heat the sunflower oil a large heavy-based pan with a lid. Add the onion and fry over a low heat for 10–15 minutes. When the onion has softened, add the garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes.

 

Add the chickpeas, beans, lentils, turmeric, dried herbs and water. Stir and then stick the lid on the pan and leave to simmer over a low heat for 40 minutes. Stir occasionally so the soup doesn’t get too dry and stick to the bottom of the pan. If it does, just add another cup of water.

 

Add the stock to the pan, along with the spaghetti. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, prepare your fried onion topping. Dust the sliced onion with the flour and salt. Heat the oil in a frying pan until it begins to sizzle and then add the onion. Fry over a medium heat for 6–8 minutes until the onion is golden brown and crispy. Set aside on some kitchen paper to drain and sprinkle over a little more salt.

 

Next, add the spinach, chives, lemon juice, soy sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper to your soup. Leave to simmer for a final 10 minutes for the flavors to combine, then taste and adjust the seasoning to your preference.

 

To serve, pour the soup into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of kashk or a dollop of yoghurt. Finish with a sprinkle of the crispy fried onions and a pinch of dried mint.

 Serves 4–6