Persian

Health Update

I am, after 48 hours, finally craving food. And guess what I am craving? That’s right, a Persian breakfast! With, wait for it…SUIKA! Or in English, watermelon. Though I am missing basil and mint… Anyways, if you aren’t already aware of my watermelon obsession then please take a look at this, or this, or this.  And to all those kind and wonderful souls who have wished me well, I love you, I love you, I love you.
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Some People Come To Japan And Turn Japanese

and others retreat to their roots.Because, there’s only so much salt, sugar and seaweed a girl can take. Ah, I feel so ready to move on to my next chapter… though I know how important it is to enjoy the now and how dangerous it is to wait wait wait. Especially when we don’t know what could happen the very next second. So, I have booked my ticket to Spain! For which, as you can imagine, I am crazy excited. I wish it was sooner. And this wish is dangerous. So, I must try to be positive and to continue making the most of my current situation. Because there are a lot of things I (hate is a strong word but still) hate about my job and my place of residence. But, it’s not forever. It’s a learning experience. It HAS been an incredible learning experience and and this too shall pass. So I will continue to actively foster creativity in my everyday at the same time as eagerly awaiting my future adventures.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
-Viktor E. Frankl

Pictures: my number 1 love, which used to be a pancake but is now a Persian breakfast and my Persian-inspired bento which is actually a big contradiction because Lunch for Iranians is the biggest meal of the day. So, this tiny thing would definitely not be sufficient but alas the flavors are there. Recipe below.
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1 cup brown jasmine rice
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 small pumpkin
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
bunch of fresh parsley (chopped or torn)
1/2 cup raw walnut pieces
1/4 cup raisins
bunch of young radish (sliced thin)

Dressing:
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper

Cook rice as per packet instructions but incorporate the turmeric in the cooking water.
Once done, let cool.

Chop pumpkin small then toss in a bowl with a tbsp of oil (I used olive) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper then bake in a toaster oven or oven oven on high (220C) turning every now and then and keeping a close eye on it for 20 or so minutes or until crispy and golden. Again, let cool.

Mix rice and pumpkin with remaining salad ingredients together.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small jar and do as T Swift and shake shake shake it IN TO the salad.

Refrigerate before nomnom for best results or  bon appétit if you just can’t wait!

An Entire Post Dedicated To Baklava

Before I begin, some context:
Naw-Rúz (literally, new day) is the first day of the Bahá’í calendar year and one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá’í Faith. It occurs on the vernal equinox, on or near March 21. Historically and in contemporary times, Naw-Ruz is also the celebration of the traditional Iranian New Year holiday and is celebrated throughout the countries of the Middle East and Central Asia such as in Iran, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Afghanistan, Syria, and Tajikistan. Thanks Wikipedia.

This morning, I was surprised by my dear dear Israeli friend, Lifa and his gorgeous wife and sweet son with an absolutely mouthwatering plate of baklava! Posted by Lifa’s mother all the way from Haifa, especially for moi! Amazing. Here in rural Japan, is an Israeli, the nationality I was taught to hate (from the mere age of 7!) by my Iranian school and teachers, surprising me on a Bahá’í and Iranian holiday. Wishing me a joyful New Year. Making sure I am okay, happy and well so far from my family and friends. Love is everything. “So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.”

I am so utterly grateful. I will forever remember this day.
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New Recipes

I have been experimenting…

1. Savory oats. Basically, make porridge as usual then crack a free-range egg into it, stir for a minute and season with salt and pepper. This time, I also added a tablespoon of home-made basil pesto. Finished with pumpkin seeds and avocado. The verdict? GOOD!
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2.Coconut baklava balls. It’s almost Persian New Year (March 21st) and so, the perfect time to attempt to healthify my favorite Iranian sweets. These turned out pretty amazing (if I can say so myself). Next, I’ll try healthifying (like how I made up a word?) the original baklava, as well.
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1 1/2 cups unsweetened desiccated coconut plus a little more for coating
1 cup almond powder
4 tbsp melted coconut oil
4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp rose water (optional)
1/2 tsp cardamom or more depending on taste
a pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients together in a food processor or blender for 1-2 min or until the mixture starts to come together like a dough.

Use your hands to form small balls (wet them to prevent sticking).

Roll the balls in the extra coconut until well coated then transfer to a plate.

Refrigerate for at least 30 min before nomnom.

Meet the Kazemis

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This was not staged. I walked into the lounge, saw this cuteness overload and snapped it.

I’m having a bit of a hard time. Going through a rough patch. Perhaps it’s the winter blues. It’s cold, it gets dark at 4.30pm and all the leaves have fallen off the trees. Or maybe I’m tired of routine…plus, the earthquakes back home aren’t helping. I really worry for my family. You know, hence the gloomy poetry. Sorry, I feel I’m still rhyming.

So the one thing (but this thing is so darn significant that it’s OK to be A thing) that has kept/is keeping, me going is the thought of reuniting with my parents after what seems a century. Also, I miss speaking Farsi. As in real-life Farsi instead of Soulja Boy through the phone styles. I dunno, something to do with my roots, maybe.

This post “Meet the Kazemis”, inspired by Meet the Patels (hehe) is the first of the many (not too many) blog posts that shall be documenting their soon-to-come time with me.
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My parents are the best people in the entire world and I honestly wouldn’t be who I am today and where I am today without them. And I don’t mean that in a cliched way, although that’s probably one of the most cliched statements eva. I mean that 100% wholeheartedly. Perhaps someday, you’ll read about it in my *fingers crossed* published memoir but for now, I’ll just say, they sacrificed a whole lot (friends, family, basic comforts) to migrate from Iran to NZ, a country where they didn’t know a word of the language or a thing about the place and they did all this, solely for the sake of me and my sister. So that we could be permitted higher-education and so, have a better and broader future.

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This is one of my most favorite photos ever. Can you guess why? I’m going to tell you anyway. In the foreground, mum is posing, like seriously posing while dad is being dad, oblivious of everything, having the time of his life enjoying the waterfall splashing on his back.

So, without further adiue, meet maman Afsoon (Kaviani). I don’t know why she keeps her original last name. She’s the one who instilled the passion of healthy eating in me. She’s the one I’ve been crying on the phone to when things here have been excruciating and not surprisingly my blog’s biggest fan. And by that, I mean she likes EVERYTHING on Facebook and Instagram without actually ever clicking the links.

Next, Baba Sirous (Kazemi). Or Sirius as NZers mispronounce. He’s a real joker. And by that, I mean he thinks he’s funny, but he’s often just rude instead. He is the kebab master of our family. Persian kebabs, much to my disappointment, with ample meat. One day, about 6 years back, he stupidly used petrol to light his kebab charcoal because whatever he usually used wasn’t there or wasn’t working and long story short, he passed out from the fumes.  Thankfully, he survived (after an ER visit!) and got back on the horse (cooked kebabs) the following day. This all took place because Baba loves EATING which places him behind my accidental eating of the whole thing(s).
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A HEALTHY Persian Salad Olivieh

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Come on Persians, let’s face it, there’s a reason our fathers and uncles have those pot bellies; Persian food. It’s one of a kind, always saliva inducing, forever flavourful and smothered in barberries, pistachios and mayo. Salad Olivieh, our version of potato salad calls for at least 2 CUPS of mayonnaise and that particular recipe claimed to be a “healthier” version of the original. And, as if that ain’t heart-attack inducing enough, we Iranians like to spread even MORE mayonnaise on top. My dilemma is, it happens to be one of my favourites. So, my mission? To healthify the shizz out of it.

First, abort chicken – the original recipe calls for shredded chicken.

Next, abort mayo and use a combination of 100% natural yoghurt and avocado instead.

3 free-range eggs, hard boiled
3 medium potatoes, boiled
2 cups of frozen peas, corn and carrots, thawed
1 cup of Persian gherkins, chopped small

Dressing:
1.5 cups natural yoghurt (I used Greek yoghurt)
1/2 large avocado
juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Grate the eggs and potatoes and transfer to a large bowl.

Next, add peas, corn, carrots and gherkins then mix well.

For the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Reserve 1/4 cup of dressing then add remainder to the salad.

Mix mix mix again.

To finish, transfer salad to a nice dish, smooth top using back of a spoon then decorate pretty.

 

Persian stuffed peppers (dolmeh felfel)

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As promised, more Middle Eastern style food.

Last night we ate Middle Eastern food. I made (anticlockwise), Persian stuffed peppers, curried couscous salad, hummus, babaganoush, and a garden salad with avocado and artichoke. Chips. Artichoke chips, sliced thin, rubbed between paper towels to drain excess liquid and baked, on high (no oil no seasoning just as is) in my toaster oven. So delicious! The small orange bowl is Indian-style pickled/chutnied yuzu (a Japanese citrus) made by Shogo-san.

Also, Lifa, my Israeli friend said my hummus was world-class which means I don’t need any more compliments for at least a year. Okay, go ahead, one more won’t hurt. For dessert, we had Persian Wife Cake. Which is basically a baklavaesque cake that I assigned a silly name.

The original Persian dolmeh is made by stuffing grape leaves but we also make them by filling eggplants, tomatoes, pumpkins and bell peppers. Dolmeh is delicious because it’s packed with so much flavor. As in literally. Packed to the rim with herbs and spices. Here is the recipe I used. If you’re vegetarian or vegan all you have to do is swap the mince for lentils and you’re all set. Enjoy!

Persian Wife Cake.

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Cake:
pinch of saffron strands
50ml of almond milk
2 cups ground almonds
3 free range eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil
zest of 2 oranges
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup of shelled raw pistachios

Syrup:
1/2 cup almond milk
1/4 cup honey
pinch of saffron strands

Combine saffron and milk in a small glass and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Let sit.

Preheat oven to 180C

Mix all remaining cake ingredients (except pistachios) together using a fork or a spoon or a food processor. Not your fingers.

At last, add heated saffron/milk mixture (should be yellow) to the batter. Mix well.

Pour batter into a round greased cake tin.

Top with pistachios.

Bake.

For 35-40 min or until the fork comes out clean.

To make the syrup, do as you did with the previous saffron/milk mixture. Combine milk, honey and saffron in a small glass and heat in the microwave for 1 minute. Let sit.

When cake is done, make a few pokes in it using a fork then pour the syrup in.

Let cool completely before inverting onto a plate.

Serve with yoghurt and love and yoghurt.

Persian-inspired spinach loaf

Housebound and food-obsessed. Can’t stop baking! Don’t worry I’m not eating everything (seriously) but instead sharing with my wonderful neighbours, friends and colleagues. Yes, I’m sooo lovely.

This savoury loaf is super easy to prepare and tastes/reminds me of a childhood and typical Persian dip: mast o seer (literally: yoghurt and garlic). It’s deliciously fragrant of yoghurt, garlic, turmeric and cumin. Mmmmm I feel I’m back at home with my mama when I’m having it.

3 free range eggs
1/2 cup of yoghurt (you can use dairy-free if you wish)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large grated carrot
1 clove of garlic (mashed)
200grams spinach (roughly chopped)
1 1/2 cups of wholemeal flour (or any GF variety will do)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt and black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp of cumin

topping:
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds

Start mixing ingredients together, one by one, in above order.

Pour into a greased or lined loaf tin

Top with pumpkin seeds and a sprinkle of black pepper then bake for 45-50 min at 180C.
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Enjoy warm 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven.

Some non-typical Kyoto snaps

Talk of “Kyoto” usually elicits images of temples, shrines, tofu, leguminous dessert and women in Kimono. Here, I share some of my not-so-typical Kyoto snaps all taken and edited on my humble/not-so-humble iPhone. From top to bottom, the images present; a soy chai latte (my favorite drink) purchased at a Starbucks – (yes, I was that person who visits a far-away exotic land and still dines at McDonalds), foodporn from a Persian Restaurant (Arash’s Kitchen) and my fave Asian baby on a train.
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