Day: April 8, 2017

94. Iran: Jeweled Rice

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Iran has been negatively in the news, which is so sad especially because the country is sooo beautiful, and the people are incredibly generous and friendly. And if you think Iran is a country made up entirely of dry desert plains, think again. Not only does it have plenty of mountains (and half a dozen volcanoes), head for the peaks of the Alborz Mountains – only a few hours from Tehran – and you’ll discover several ski resorts! Dizin is the largest and, at 8,700 ft, it’s higher than Europe’s highest resort. I would have never associated Iran with skiing! But apparently anything is possible

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Things you didn’t know about Iran:

  • If you get in a cab anywhere in Iran, chances are when you try to pay, your driver will refuse to take your money. Walk into a shop to buy something, the same happens. Baffled? The cultural practice of Taarof is Iran’s own personal brand of etiquette. You’re not really being given a freebie, it’s a form of civility and all you have to do is play along. It’s all about denying your will to please the other person – and it extends to pretty much every social situation.
  • You should accept all offers of food and drink (but be sure to decline once or twice first!) and it is polite to try a bit of everything that is served.
  • Believe it or not, Iran has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world per capita. The pursuit of the perfect nose certainly has a lot to do with the restrictions of the hijab dress code leading to a larger focus on the face but it’s about more than physical beauty.  For Persian women (and some men), it’s also an indicator of wealth and social status.
  • Iran is the largest exporter of the most expensive caviar in the world
  • According to an old Persian proverb, “A Persian rug is perfectly imperfect, and precisely imprecise”. Why? It’s simple, really. A fine Persian rug will almost always include intentional imperfections to symbolize how only God can create perfection.

Jeweled Rice is mostly served at weddings and other joyful occasions. The fruitiness of the cranberries and raisins makes it special! A yummy side dish!

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95. Iraq: Masgouf Iraqi Tamarind and Turmeric Marinated Fish

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Split between a glorious past and a very bloody recent affaires. Iraq has been a country of turmoil for years! But I really don’t want to focus on the bloody part we see on the news almost everyday today. I want to focus on the good things, the amazing old culture with customs that have been preserved for years!Schermafbeelding 2017-03-29 om 21.26.54Things you didn’t know about Iraq:

  • In Iraq it is typical belief that wrinkles in old age, are caused from wisdom. For this reason parents, and grandparents are highly respected. In fact it is not only rude, but a disgrace for children to be rude.
  • The famous children’s story Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves was written in Iraq about 1,000 years ago
  • If someone admires an Iraqi’s possession, such as a vase, the Iraqi will usually insist that the person takes it. Therefore, it is proper etiquette to avoid lavishly praising another person’s possessions.
  • For 5,000 years Iraqis have been keeping bees. Honey is an important source of food and income for many Iraq families.

This week I made a very special branzino, this Iraqi dish is spicy and special and great with a pilav side dish

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound white freshwater fish (carp, catfish, branzino, etc), descaled, gutted and butterflied

Marinade

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste, dissolved in water (or substitute with 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Tomato Curry Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 2 stalks fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  1. If not already butterflied, take your whole fish and cut it lengthwise down the belly. Keep the back intact, and spread both parts of the fish open to create one flat, connected piece. (Alternatively, you can ask your fishmonger to pre-butterfly the fish for you)
  2. Place the fish into an oven-safe baking dish (cast iron works best), and set aside for the time being
  3. Next, take a small bowl and mix together your olive oil, dissolved tamarind paste, turmeric powder, salt and pepper. Mix well until you have a marinade with a smooth, even consistency to it
  4. Spoon or brush your marinade over the outside of your fish, then open the fish to lay flat and generously marinade the inside
  5. Cover the fish and let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes while you tend to the tomato topping
  6. Take a medium-sized pot over medium-high heat with a healthy dollop of olive oil
  7. Start by adding in your minced garlic and onions, and cook for 1-2 minutes as it starts to sweat and become translucent
  8. Next, add in your tomato paste and cherry tomatoes, and cook together for another 1-2 minutes
  9. Follow this by adding in your turmeric, ginger, curry powder, dried parsley leaves and black pepper and mix well. Once well mixed, cook everything for another 6-7 minutes over a medium heat as the tomatoes begin to soften
  10. Turn off the heat at this point and add in your lemon juice. Stir the lemon juice in well into the sauce and then let your sauce sit until your fish is finished baking
  11. By now, your fish will have marinated well and will be ready for the “makeshift masgouf” cooking. Start by preheating your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit
  12. Sprinkle a little extra sea salt (for good luck) over your butterflied marinated fish, and place it in the oven for 35 minutes
  13. After 35 minutes, take your fish out ever so briefly. Hopefully it appears flaky, at which point you can drizzle some of the tomato curry sauce on top of fish
  14. Turn on the broiler and broil the fish for another 2 minutes, then you’re done. Alternatively, you could also bake it for another 5 minutes at the same heat
  15. Remove the masgouf from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, then serve with extra tomato sauce, bread, chutney, salad, a few lemon wedges and anything else you might like. Enjoy!