Originally written as part of the World Cup 2014 cooking project.
Iran caused one of the greatest heartaches in World Cup qualifying history; at the expense of Australia. I was still living in England and the reason it became so well known in those parts was due to the English coach that took Australia to the brink of the World Cup in 1998, Terry Venables. Iran held Australia to a 1-1 draw in Tehran, in front of over 100,000 fans, and was widely expected to be comprehensively beaten in the return leg in Melbourne. And that beating was on the cards as Australia dominantly led 2-0. Australia then lost momentum and Iran unbelievably scored two quick goals to take the aggregate to 3-3, which it stayed at. Iran went through on the away goals rule; a great comeback that inflicted heartbreak on Australia. Coincidentally, Iran’s only other presence in the World Cup was in 1978, at the expense of…Australia.
Realistically, Iran are real underdogs and are not expected to progress from the group stages in Brasil. However, in qualifying they topped their group ahead of favourites Korea Republic so go in to the tournament confident. I reckon their main strategy will be a defensive wall with quick breaks down the wings and pinpoint crossing in to the box. Watch out for Javad Nekounam, Ashkan Dejagah and Reze Ghoochannejhad.
I was relishing cooking some Persian delights as Middle-Eastern food is generally not something I cook that often; every time I eat it I am astounded as to why I don’t cook it more. Iran has given me the kick I needed and through it I have been able to explore the flavours I love; from ingredients such as cumin, mint, parsley, lemon, sumac, yoghurt and fatty beef and lamb.
I’m not half loving this food project you know.
So, for Iran’s World Cup food presence I have cooked chelo (Persian rice) kebab with tabouleh and a mint, lime and cucumber yoghurt dressing. Persian rice is something that I have wanted to make for a while, so I’m delighted to have now done it.
Chelo Kebab with Tabouleh - IranPrint
- For the Kebab:
- ■ 550g minced beef and lamb | I minced my own in the ratio of 290g beef topside : 185g lamb shoulder : 75g fat.
- ■ 1 brown onion | Roughly chopped.
- ■ ½ tsp. turmeric |
- ■ 1 tsp. ground cumin | Freshly ground if you can.
- ■ 1 tsp. dried mint |
- ■ ½ tsp. sumac |
- ■ ¼ tsp. bicarbonate of soda |
- ■ 1½ tsp. sea salt |
- ■ seasoning black pepper |
- For the Tabouleh:
- ■ 1 bunch flat leaf parsley | Finely shredded.
- ■ 10 mint leaves | Finely shredded.
- ■ 2 lemons - juice of |
- ■ 2 tbsp. burghul |
- ■ 3 ripe tomatoes | Finely diced. I used Roma tomatoes.
- ■ 4 spring onions | Finely sliced. Use both the white and green parts.
- ■ glug olive oil | That's about a tablespoon or two.
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and black pepper |
- For the Yoghurt Dressing:
- ■ 250g plain yoghurt |
- ■ ½ continental cucumber | Finely diced.
- ■ 5 mint leaves | Finely chopped.
- ■ ½ lime - juice of |
- ■ pinch ground cumin |
- ■ seasoning of sea salt and black pepper |
- For the Rice:
- ■ 500g rice | I used basmati.
- ■ pinch saffron strands |
- ■ 3 tbsp. water |
- ■ 60g butter | Cut in to small cubes.
For the kebab: process the onion to a puree and then either squeezed through muslin cloth or pressed in to a fine sieve extract the onion juice. For the kebab we will use the solid onion (pulp) that is left.
To a bowl add the mince, onion pulp, turmeric, cumin, dried mint, sumac, bicarbonate of soda, salt and black pepper and mix thoroughly using a stirring and squeezing motion with your hands. This squeezing aids in binding the meat proteins together so that the kebab does not fall apart. Cover the bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour.
For the tabouleh: Soak the burghul in the lemon juice for 10 minutes, or until it has softened. To a bowl add the finely shredded parsley and mint, burghul and lemon juice, tomatoes, spring onions, olive oil and seasoning. Mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.
For the dressing: To a bowl add the yoghurt, cucumber, mint, lime juice, cumin and seasoning. Mix and taste, adjusting the seasoning if necessary.
For the rice: add the rice to a large pan of salted boiling water. Cook until the rice has softened, but still has resistance, and drain. Put the rice in a wok or similar pan and mould it in to a dome shape. Add the saffron to the 3 tablespoons of water and stir for a minute or so. Pour the saffron and liquid over the rice. Now place cubes of butter spread evenly over the rice. Put the wok on a low-medium heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and leave covered until ready to serve.
Preheat a broiler (grill). Take the mince mixture from the fridge and form long thin sausage-like kebabs. Cook under the broiler for 5 minutes each side (top and bottom) or until done.
Serve the kebabs drizzled in the yoghurt dressing with a side of the Persian rice and tabouleh. Ensure that everyone gets a little of the crusty rice which has formed at the base of the wok.