Friday, March 15, 2013
Advieh, Kuku and Barberries
Now this was a fun title to type! Advieh, kuku and barberries are not usually words in conversation for me, but now happily they are becoming more so. For our cooking adventure with Tasting Jerusalem this month, we’ve been feasting on barberries.
When shopping at our local Middle Eastern market recently, Goodies, I noticed dried barberries in the fridge section and thought of picking some up. Later that same day I learned they would be our cooking ingredient for March! It was meant to be, and the next day I had a stash of barberries in my fridge. Barberries are tiny, ruby-colored berries that are common in Middle Eastern cooking, particularly in Persian cuisine. Often, dried cranberries or cherries are substituted in recipes if barberries are not available. I appreciate their burst of tart flavor and the pretty pop of crimson color they add to dishes.
A dish I’d been eager to make from Jerusalem: A Cookbook that includes barberries is the Fava Bean Kuku. A kuku is a Persian egg dish, similar to a frittata. Fresh herbs, veggies or sometimes meat are combined with eggs and spices, cooked and served in wedges. Our family loves egg dishes (scrambled eggs are our fast food) and I’ve made fresh herb kukus in the past, so I knew we’d like one with beans in it. We do not have any fresh fava beans yet, so instead I substituted kidney beans. I also added parsley, chives and cilantro in addition to the dill and mint that were already in the recipe.
Another change I made to the kuku was the spices used. I have a long love for Persian food which began when I was a student at UCLA. Shamshiri Grill was my favorite restaurant, and we still make a point of eating there whenever we visit LA. A few years after moving to Seattle, I bought A Taste of Persia by Najmieh Batmanglij and my copy is now spattered and worn. A spice mix that is common in the kukus and many other recipes in this book is a Persian blend called advieh.
The basic recipe includes dried rose petals (of which I have a large bag after last month’s cooking!), cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. As you may know by now, I can’t resist an opportunity to make a spice blend! After a little further reading, I learned of other spices that can be included, too, and set out to make my own mix by adding coriander and nutmeg to the basic recipe. I love the research and learning that cooking from Jerusalem inspires!
The advieh adds a marvelous touch of dusky, warm spice to the kuku, the fresh herbs sing of spring, and the barberries are little bursts of welcome bright flavor. I served wedges with dollops of thick yogurt and it made a lovely, light supper.
Another stunning dish that comes from Jerusalem is the Lamb Meatballs with Barberries. Ground lamb is mixed with parsley, spices and barberries to create meatballs which are fried and then simmered with figs in chicken broth and white wine. All I can say is wow ... this is a heavenly dish. The barberries provide a tartness that complements the rich lamb nicely. The figs blend in beautifully and the finished dish is showered in chopped, fresh herbs. I served it with barley and we were all very happy.
Advieh (Persian Spice Blend)
Inspired by A Taste of Persia
By Najmieh K. Batmanglij
Makes 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons dried rose petals, ground with a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground with a mortar and pestle
1 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon cardamom
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Stir all the spices together until blended. Store in a covered jar and keep in a cool spot.
Kidney Bean Kuku
Adapted from Jerusalem: A Cookbook
By Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi
Serves 6-8 (10 inch quiche pan)
5 tablespoons barberries (can substitute chopped dried cranberries)
1 tablespoon rice flour (can substitute all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1-2 teaspoons advieh (to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh chives, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Thick, plain yogurt for serving (optional)
Place the barberries in a small bowl and cover with warm water. Set aside to soak.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10 inch quiche pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs together and add the rice flour, baking powder and advieh. Stir until the flour, baking powder and advieh are well mixed. Add the garlic, fresh herbs, kidney beans, salt and pepper and gently stir together. Drain the barberries and stir them into the egg mixture. Pour the egg mix into the prepared quiche pan and pop it in the oven. Bake for about 35 minutes, until the kuku is puffed and firmly set. Remove from the oven and serve warm with dollops of plain yogurt.