A passion for Persia: Greg and Lucy Malouf's Iranian dishes have Skye Gyngell's tastebuds singing

Greg and Lucy Malouf have transformed perceptions of Iranian dishes in their native Australia – and their dinner party had Skye Gyngell's tastebuds singing too

These dishes are part of a meal that I was lucky enough to enjoy last Sunday night. Cooked by Greg Malouf, executive chef at Melbourne's Momo restaurant, and his wife Lucy, it was a feast that I will find very hard to forget – simple, elegant and traditional food from Persia. Greg and Lucy's cookery books are among my favourites – exquisitely photographed, with a rich and fascinating text written by Lucy and pure and authentic recipes cooked by Greg. The icing on the cake was the attendance of Claudia Roden – one of the most important and influential food writers in the past half-century. The evening was both an honour and a joy.

'Saraban: A Chef's Journey Through Persia', by Greg and Lucy Malouf, is published by Hardie Grant Books, priced £30. Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Sabzi khordan

This is almost not a recipe but rather a list of popular herbs that feature regularly on the Persian table. I've included two of the more unusual ones – costmary and savory – for those who are keen gardeners, as it's simple enough to grow them for yourself.

The idea is to choose four or five herbs that you fancy and toss them together on a serving platter or in a basket. You'll need about a cup of herbs per person to be really Iranian – and you will be surprised how quickly you want to eat more and more of them. At first it may seem strange, this sort of salad without a dressing, but it really allows the flavours of each herb to shine through.

The way to eat it is to place chunks of soft, creamy feta inside the bread and stuff the herbs in alongside. It is almost always served in Iran as a precursor to the meal that is to follow, but you can serve it on its own as a light meal.

Baby beetroot leaves
Basil (all varieties, including Asian)
Chives (unusual and garlic)
Coriander
Costmary
Dill
Flat-leaf parsley
French tarragon
Mint (all varieties)
Radishes
Spring onions
Summer savory
Turnip leaves
Watercress
Fresh feta, to serve
Warm flatbread to serve

Pick the sprigs or leaves from their stalks then gently wash and soak in cold water for 20 minutes to remove any dirt. Drain and air-dry in a colander before wrapping loosely in a clean tea towel and storing in the fridge. This way, the herbs should keep for about a week. Serve a platter of the herbs with a creamy feta and a pile of warm flatbread, which everyone can use to wrap or roll to their heart's content.

Duck Breast with fesenjan sauce

Sweet and sour, fesenjan is a classic Persian sauce. Traditionally, it is a dish served to mark a celebration, most often the arrival of important friends or family. It works particularly well with game birds such as quail, duck or pheasant, but the flavours work equally well with firm-fleshed white fish or chicken.

Serves 6

200g/7oz duck breast per person
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp honey
Generous splash of boiling water
tsp pomegranate molasses
tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
Seeds of 1 pomegranate, to garnish

For the sauce

200g/7oz shelled walnuts
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
tsp ground turmeric
tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
150ml/5fl oz pomegranate juice (freshly squeezed if available)
55g/2fl oz sugar
1 bay leaf
400ml/14fl oz good-quality chicken stock
1 tsp salt
Juice of lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. First, make the sauce. Roast the walnuts on a baking tray for 5-10 minutes until a deep golden-brown. Tip the nuts into a tea towel and rub well to remove as much skin as possible, then set aside to cool. Pulse the cooled nuts in a food processor until they are coarsely ground – you want to maintain some texture and a few chunky bits, so be careful not to overdo it.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and tomato paste and fry for another couple of minutes. Add the walnuts to the pan with the pomegranate molasses and juice, the sugar, bay leaf and stock. Bring to a boil, then add the salt, lower the heat and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring regularly, until rich, thick and a little oily.

Meanwhile, score the skin of the ducks in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife and season generously with salt and pepper. In a small saucepan, warm the honey over a gentle heat with the water and the pomegranate molasses, then stir in the pepper and cardamom seeds to make a glaze.

Heat the oil in a heavy-based roasting pan over a medium-high heat until hot. Add the duck breasts, skin-side down, then lower the heat and cook for about 5 minutes until the skin turns golden-brown and the fat starts to render. Turn the breasts over and cook for a further 4 minutes. Tip the rendered fat from the pan and brush the skin from the glaze. Turn the breasts skin-side down again, and cook over a low-medium heat for a final 4 minutes; at this stage it's really important not to have the heat too high or the glaze will burn. Remove from the heat and rest in a warm place for several minutes – when carved, the duck breasts should be medium-rare.

When ready to serve, add the lemon juice to the sauce, then taste and adjust the seasoning to achieve a good sweet-sour-earthy balance. Spoon a generous amount of sauce on to each plate. Slice each duck breast into chunks and stack on top. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and serve straight away.

Zoolbia

These crunchy fritters with spiced sugar are little whisps of air and tend to be served at the end of the meal. Sweet and crisp, they are best served alongside a sharp pomegranate or blood-orange granita. Or try them with the muddy rich coffee that is served throughout the Middle East.

Makes about 15

For the spiced sugar

120g/4oz icing sugar
50g/2oz ground pistachios
tsp ground cardamom
Vegetable oil for frying

For the batter

175g/6oz plain flour
1 tbsp dried yeast
250ml/8fl oz warm water
75g/3oz thick natural yoghurt
2 tbsp saffron liquid (20 strands of saffron, lightly toasted, ground with pestle and mortar then infused with 2 tbsp boiling water for at least 1 hour)
A pinch of sea salt

Combine the icing sugar, pistachios and cardamom well and store in an airtight jar until ready to use.

To make the batter, sift the flour into a bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast, then whisk in the warm water and yoghurt to form a batter. Stir in the saffron liquid and salt, then cover and leave to stand for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours.

Pour the vegetable oil into a small, deep, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 5cm. Heat the oil to 190C/375F. If you don't have a sugar thermometer, the oil will have reached temperature when it is shimmering, and when a blob of batter sizzles up to the surface in a few seconds.

Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a narrow nozzle, or into a plastic squeezy bottle. Pipe the batter into the oil, working from the centre outwards in a spiral. Use the size of the saucepan as the template for your fritter size. Don't worry if you do not make a perfect spiral, as a free-form, lacy effect is just as pretty. Cook for 1-2 minutes, moving the fritter in the hot oil so it colours evenly.

Once the fritter has set, turn it over in the oil to colour. Lift the fritter out of the oil with a slatted spoon and drain on paper towels for a moment. Repeat with the remaining batter. Dust the spiced sugar over the fritters and enjoy with a cup of strong coffee or tea.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering