A taste of Persia

13 February 2011, 1.40 pm

The wonderful Skye Gyngell, who recently acquired a Michelin star for her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London cooked dishes from Saraban on Saturday, a new tome by Australians Greg and Lucy Malouf chronicling their culinary odyssey around Iran.

The special lunch, which began with a delicately pink  rhubarb prosecco served with a crystallised rose petal, was sandwiched between morning and afternoon talks and cookery workshops by Greg and Lucy. These were held in one of the shabby-chic greenhouses, where tables were appropriately strewn with brightly coloured rose petals and the biggest lemons, still leaved, this side of Andalucia.

Lucy talked of the genuine warm hospitality that they encountered In Iran and roadside breakfasts of warm flatbreads with cream and honey lifted straight out of hives, while Greg cooked up Iranian rice – which is apparently only available at a deli in Kensington High Street and triggered a knowing, slightly nostalgic glow on the face of the one Iranian woman present in the room. The rice had the golden crunchy bottom that is prized by diners. This Baghali polow was served with broad beans, borlotti and dill, followed by yoghurt baked fish with walnut and herb crumbs and finished with crunchy spiced pistachio fritters (zoolbia) that had the latticed shape of dramatic cathedral windows served with a blood orange sorbet.

This was on top of a lunch of meze dishes, roast quail and super-sized chick peas and buttermilk with honeyed dates and marmaladey citrus rinds.

It was a splendid way to spend a Saturday, even if it was a bit nippy sat in the green house. Luckily there were hints of spring to come.  Skye, whom I’m sure is unbelievably busy, should host more masterclasses here. It’s a terrific venue for them. Watch this space.

Check out Greg’s tour of London here

Saraban: Published by Hardie Grant, price £30, Hardback

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