An Exclusive Essay and a Recipe from Sabrina Ghayour
Across five beautifully produced cookbooks, Sabrina Ghayour has built upon the traditional flavours of her Persian and Middle Eastern heritage to craft some truly exquisite dishes. In this exclusive essay, Sabrina discusses how she combines different culinary cultures in her cuisine - and then provides the recipe for one of her very favourite dishes: Pistachio, Lemon and Rosemary Cake.
My fifth book Simply was something I put a lot of thought into whilst developing the recipes. After writing four previous books, I decided to include the kind of recipes that I loved but without labelling them as this or that style of food as, by now, most of you who read my books and use my recipes, know the style of food I cook is very much rooted, and always will be, in my Persian and Middle Eastern heritage… however, I have a love of deep flavour and if I’m perfectly honest, I draw inspiration from every corner of the world. So it is hard to describe my flavours sometimes, which is where I came up with the term ‘Simply’… my food is “Simply Sabrina style…” a versatile and adaptable mish-mash of ingredients that are accessible and recipes that are always, ‘Simple, Flavourful and Economical’. Over time, I have made it my goal to try, for the most part, to ensure I always deliver on those three factors as I always want people to remain undaunted and unafraid of trying my recipes and also have a confidence that no matter what happens, the recipe will always pay dividends in terms of flavour and wow-factor, no matter how simple and straight-forward it may be.
Something else I have always said is that I always whole-heartedly encourage ingredient swaps and leaving things out when you are missing an ingredient, as this is the nature of life, for whatever reason, and I want to instil the kind of trust and confidence in the cook at home to know that they are free to accommodate their own dietary requirements or use what they have at home and let my recipes be a flavour guide. This way, my books and recipes get used and splattered with oil and food matter and are within easy reach in the kitchen, rather than dusted off the top of a beautiful bookshelf and only used once every few years for a special dinner. The best recipes in the world always offer inspiration but never rigid guidelines (unless it's baking!) and you must feel free to experiment using the produce you have at home. If ever a recipe of mine absolutely cannot be changed, I will always write it into the recipe itself to ensure the cook remains confident and in-the-know, at all times.
In some senses, Simply has taken me back to childhood memories of eating lesser-known Persian dishes that I had not eaten in many years. Dishes that aren’t as common, such as Sour cherry rice with lamb meatballs (Albaloo Polow) as well as finally wanting to share a classic recipe of Persian culture, which some consider as our national dish… Kabab Koobideh, long skewers of minced lamb, fired over hot coals with whole tomatoes and naturally, I have a method for cooking it in the oven at home too. Adaptability is everything for me and I want to make sure that everyone is always able to cook most of my recipes, no matter what. And this book has some absolutely flavour-packed recipes perfect for every palate. I’ve never struggled to come up with meat and dairy-free recipes, as it simply realise on beautiful, natural fresh and dried produce and so even vegans have plenty of recipes and alternatives in this book.
I always find it hard to choose favourite recipes, joking that it can be like being asked to choose your favourite child… but there are always a set of recipes that I seem to cook more often at home and that makes them stand out, so here are some of my most-used (and perhaps favourite) recipes, so far:
Homemade, quick and delicious oven kebabs that are so easy, they will become a regular recipe at home in no time.
Yogurt, butternut squash and dill, hard to say if it’s a dip or a salad, but it is really delicious and addictive.
Naan, Paneer, Sabzi
The humble but absolutely classic Persian cheese plate, a staple in every Persian home from Palaces to Villages.
Tomato, Tamarind, Honey and Ginger Salad
An explosion of flavour and yet so simple.
Pistachio, Lemon and Rosemary Cake
This is one of the most popular dishes at my Supperclubs.
No matter what you like to eat, how you cook or what your skill-level is, my recipes will always deliver a simple but delicious meal to the table and in most cases, in very little time. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it for you and I hope these new recipes breathe a new lease of life into your repertoire at home and I encourage you to take your favourite recipes and make them your own. There are lots of new flavour combinations and recipes to explore and I very much hope you enjoy cooking and eating your way through Simply.
Much love, Sabrina
Pistachio, Lemon & Rosemary Cake
The pistachio is the king of Persian nuts, and using naturally bright green Persian pistachio slivers helps create the electric green colour of this cake. Fragrant with lemon zest and aromatic rosemary, it’s also gluten free.
150g unsalted butter
4 x 10cm sprigs of rosemary, leaves very finely chopped
100g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract (alcohol-free)
2 heaped tablespoons Greek yogurt finely grated zest of 3 large unwaxed lemons
100g ground almonds
300g pistachio slivers (or whole nuts), very finely blitzed in a food processor, plus extra to decorate
For the icing:
150g icing sugar
25ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan), Gas Mark 4. Take a large square of baking paper, scrunch it up, then smooth it out and use to line a 22–24cm round cake tin or ovenproof dish.
Warm the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat until just melted, then remove from the heat, stir in the rosemary and leave to infuse.
Put the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla and lemon extracts into a mixing bowl and beat together until well combined. Mix in the yogurt, followed by most of the lemon zest (reserving a little for decorating the cake), the ground almonds and pistachios. Pour in the infused melted butter and mix again until evenly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin or ovenproof dish and shake to level the surface, then bake for about 45 minutes until golden brown on top and springy to touch. Remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the tin or dish.
Mix the icing ingredients together in a small bowl until smooth.
Carefully remove the cake from the tin or dish and set it on a serving plate.
Pour the icing on top and leave to set, then scatter with the pistachios and reserved lemon zest before serving.
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