These are easily my two favourite cookbooks of the moment. I’ve been meaning to make the Persepolitan Roast Chicken from Sally’s book for ages but what to eat with it? As I delved a little further into the combinations of Iranian cuisine I see feta pops up over and over. I have some feta in my fridge, left over from yesterday’s lunch. But how to use it? Hmmmmm, the wonderful blood oranges are in season right now. Feta and oranges, yum. A quick flick through Moro East turns up exactly what I vaguely remember seeing a couple of weeks back, a feta, chicory and orange salad. Ok, so there might be a lot going on flavour-wise with the chicken and now there’s a lot going on flavour-wise with the salad, but I’m in that kind of mood. And I’m not going to eat my bulgur plain either, oh no, I’m going to flip one page over from the chicory and orange salad to the delightful sounding bulgur, celery and pomegranate salad.
I usually put my flavourings for chicken under the skin but Sally says to cram the stuffing into the cavity of the bird. The stuffing is sweet but not overly so and I’m glad in the end that I made the sharp and tangy salads to contrast it. The saffron adds flavour as well as a striking colour, making the recipe seem quite indulgent.
The recipe says to steep ground saffron in water. I used a pinch of ‘normal’ saffron and steeped it in 100ml of water, just to ensure even distribution over the chicken. Sally also mentions that she never bothers to truss the chicken, she just folds over and ‘hopes for the best’. I was relieved to hear this as that is exactly what I do but it also represents one of the best things about the book; you can tell that she is a ‘real’ cook, a home cook. She may not perform every process to Michelin star standard, but she knows how to turn out great tasting grub.
I didn’t get to go to Persepolis again this weekend. It seems something is against this idea and other commitments intervene. I am absolutely determined to visit next week. Nothing will stand in my way. It’s better this way anyhow, as I’ll be able to talk to Sally about one of her recipes that I have actually made (if she is there, of course). I may even ask her to sign the book.
I made a couple of modifications to the recipe, substituting barberries for cranberries and omitting the almonds altogether in favour of more of my favourite pistachios. I’ll detail the recipe here as I made it. The original also includes some ‘chips’ which are cooked with the chicken for the last portion of it’s roasting time but as you can see, I had enough going on already! The recipe also requires you to soak the fruit but doesn’t specify how long you should do this for. After a bit of googling I found that ideally, the fruit should soak overnight. I soaked mine for a couple of hours and achieved a satisfactory plumpness.
Persepolitan Roast Stuffed Chicken
Adapted from Persia in Peckham by Sally Butcher
50g prunes, soaked and pitted
50g dried apricots, soaked
50g sour cherries
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon tomato puree
salt and pepper
1 plump chicken (mine was medium sized)
1 pinch saffron strands, steeped in 100ml boiling water
-Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4/350F
-Pat the soaked fruit dry and roughly chop it. Roughly chop the walnuts.
-Melt 50g of the butter and fry all the fruit and nuts together for 6-7 minutes. Add the tomato puree, cinnamon and cardamom, cook for a minute and remove from the heat.
-Season the inside of the chicken, then cram the stuffing inside. Fold the skin of the chicken over the cavity or truss if you dare.
-Melt the rest of the butter, add the saffron mix and then pour over the bird.
-Cover with foil and roast for around 40 minutes.
-Remove the foil and continue to cook at 190 degrees C/gas 5/375 F, until the skin is crispy (this is when you put your potatoes in if you are using them).
Now, onto Moro East. For the bulgur salad, you need to juice the seeds from half a pomegranate and keep the seeds from the other half for the salad. But pomegranates are so tricksy aren’t they?! Firstly, I suggest concentrating so you don’t do what I did and cut the pom the wrong way across. This just makes things harder. As you can see from the picture, I then proceeded to butcher the pom in a totally unprofessional fashion.
I used twice the amount of bulgur as the recipe called for as I wanted to make this more of a grain-based dish. I also used a large head of celery. I actually reduced the amount of oil in the dressing from 6 tablespoons to 4 and although I had more grain, it was delicious and well dressed. Keep any of the young yellow leaves of the celery for garnish. Here is the salad as I made it.
Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad
Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark
1 large head of celery, sliced
Seeds of half a large pomegranate
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
Juice of half a large pomegranate (push the seeds through a sieve)
2 garlic cloves, crushed with a teaspoon of salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together, season, set aside.
- Cover the bulgur with boiling water and stand for 10 minutes, then drain any excess liquid and set aside
- Mix everything together in a serving bowl and add the dressing. Serve immediately (Sam and Sam recommend leaving the walnuts out until ready to serve as they can make the salad taste bitter if left for a while)
For the orange salad, I just amended the quantities to my taste and omitted the black olives as I had so much going on already. Sam and Sam suggest using blood oranges if they are in season, which they are, so I did and they look so pretty.
Feta, Chicory and Orange Salad
Adapted from Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark
3 blood oranges
2 large heads of chicory, leaves separated
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves picked
1 teaspoon dried oregano (the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of fresh but I couldn’t get hold of any)
1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
100g feta cheese
100g walnut halves
4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon good-quality cider vinegar
-Whisk the dressing ingredients together, season and set aside
-Cut the rind and pith from the oranges and slice them into 1cm-ish rounds
-Arrange on a serving plate with the chicory, parsley, oregano and onion
-Pour over the dressing and gently mix. Then crumble over the feta and add the walnuts