What leaps from the pages of The Saffron Tales is far more than culinary insight. British-Iranian Yasmin Khan perfectly captures the essence of the aromatic, traditional foods of her mother country and so much more.
The narrative of her 3,000km food odyssey through Iran, from the snowy mountains of Tabriz to the pomegranate orchards of Isfahan, is reason alone to pick up this book, particularly as the daughter of a Persian migrant who has never had the chance to visit the land of her ancestors.
Khan paints an evocative picture of this vast, culturally rich country that is all too often absent in its representation in large swathes of the western media, and celebrates the food traditions that permeate its everyday life. And oh, what food it is.
Often there's a mistaken belief that fiery heat is part of the set of signature ingredients. Instead, as Khan says in her introduction, Iranian food is gentle and soothing, "a poetic balance of subtle flavours, such as dried limes, saffron and orange blossom."
It's a heady mix of slow-cooked stews, comforting breads, an abundance of fresh fruits, herbs that are both delicate and punchy, grilled meats and rice. Oh, the rice. More on that later.
But back to the rice. It's a major component of most meals and its preparation is crucial. For Iranians, the grains must remain separate, and perhaps the best bit is the crust that forms at the bottom of the pan: the tahdig. Khan takes you through how to create this and, followed to the letter, it should produce perfect Persian chelow (rice). If you make nothing else from this beautiful book - and really, you should - make this. It will rock your world.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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