Reviewed by William Dobson
For the uninitiated, Persian cuisine is something of an unknown. We hear a lot about nuclear armament, or about Ahmadinejad casting asperions on the veracity of the Holocaust, but we rarely hear about a khoresht-e fesenjan, sabzi polo or paloodeh shirazi.
However, this is slowly beginning to change. A Persian restaurant now graces London’s Covent Garden; Persepolis in Peckham, a Persian delicatessen, is getting more publicity than you could shake a very large stick at; while even the burgeoning supper club scene is now home to a Persian offering.
To that list, we can add this wonderful book by the exotically named Jila Dana-Haeri, translated by Shahrzad Ghorashian. Full of beautifully seductive images, the recipes are all based on Iranian classics but have been slightly adapted to make them more accessible to the Western shopper. It makes a fascinating, not to mention useful, addition to the number of Middle Eastern, Turkish and Indian cookbooks which already flood the market. Furthermore, it reflects the fact that not only is Persian cuisine a riot of different flavours and sensations, but it is completely distinct from its more celebrated neighbours.
There is also a detailed and informative chapter about the essentials behind Persian cuisine, while provided with each recipe is an interesting preamble, detailing the dish’s history and significance. Furthermore, the book comes replete with a lovely introduction by Jila, filled with nostalgia, about her childhood growing up in Shiraz, holidays spent in Bushehr on the Persian Gulf, celebrating the different seasons and importance of food to her heritage. For those looking to spice up their cooking and try something different, this book will make a great addition.