Saturday, October 28, 2023

XERXES - Our Food

Persian Food

The abundance of fruits and vegetables was unmatched in other kingdoms. It was the garden designs using canals and irrigation systems that contributed to this abundance. And while Persia is well known for her stews it was roasted lamb and goat that her people loved best.

The preparation of goat was much different than lamb. Both were treated the same for preparation for stews. But for roasting, lamb was simply rubbed with spices and crushed herbs and fastened to a spit or laid flat on a bed of coals covered by an iron grate. The goat took longer to prepare for a roast. It was soaked overnight in goat's milk. Rinsed and covered with a paste of spices and herbs. Then it was roasted much the same as lamb.

The accompanying dishes were simple. Rice with herbs or saffron. Stewed lentils. Flatbreads. Salads of artichoke. Spinach. Stewed potatoes and carrots. Sliced fruits. Dried fruits. Fresh cheeses and pickled vegetables.

In a traditional Persian household, the first meal of the day would include flat breads. Cheeses and jams. Boiled eggs. Sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Sliced melon and berries. Dried figs and apricots. Always served with tea.

The mid day meal was usually a stew of meat, beans and vegetables. Or grilled fish and rice. Topped with herbs. Served with a thick flatbread that had a soft, fluffy interior.

A typical family meal for the end of the day included the leftover stew and a variety of stewed or roasted vegetables and platters of sliced fruits. And always a heaping tray of freshly made flat bread.

Traditional Persian feasts often took two days to prepare. The sweet desserts were prepared the day before and allowed to soak overnight in thick layers of honey or rose syrup. Goats were prepared and soaked. The day of the feast the rest of the meats were prepared and marinated. The lamb took hours to absorb the flavors, while poultry and fish were prepared just before roasting. Rice dishes were prepared with herbs and cheeses or simply plain. Stewed vegetables were prepared just before serving. In between the preparation of other dishes, fruits and cold vegetables were sliced and placed on platters then covered with a damp cotton cloth to prevent drying out.

Tar Halva is a very traditional Persian 
dessert made with rice flour, ground
cardamom and butter. It is sweetened
with a light saffron syrup that is mildly
scented with rosewater.

And we save the best for last. The drinks. Wines. Ciders from apples and pears. Sweet liquors from peaches and crushed berries. Always served with the rich and decadent desserts of pastries, cakes, and tarts. Always topped with finely chopped pistachios or walnuts or almonds. Decadent and delicious.