Monday, February 22, 2016

Ariana Bundy's Special Persian Dinner at Diwan

Author of 'Pomegranates and Roses', Toronto's Aga Khan Museum featured Chef Ariana Bundy this past weekend, with a delectable collection of her favourite Persian recipes. The evening, which launched the museum's new culinary series, began with Chef Bundy discussing Persian food culture, followed by a selection of Persian dishes carefully chosen from her cookbook. Ariana inherited her love of food and cooking from her grandparents, who grew fruit and grains and had vineyards producing prized grapes, and from her father, who owned and ran the first fine-dining French restaurant in Iran. Over the course of this special culinary evening, Ariana made a point of chatting with each guest a number times, thanking them for coming and then returning to see how everyone was enjoying her family-inspired Persian cuisine. Warm and gracious with a great love of life, Ariana made the evening a very special and absolutely delicious dining event.

Beginning with a glass or two of Prosecco, guests were served a mezze called Zeytoon Parvardeh, a tapenade made with marinated olives, herbs, pomegranate and walnuts spooned onto crisp naan crostini and garnished with pomegranate seeds, followed by "My Maman's" Pomegranate Soup created with fresh herbs, split peas, rice, petit meatballs and garnished with caramelized onions and fried mint. Following the soup, two entrées were presented - first a Rose and Citrus Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Jewelled Rice served with chilled Mast o Khiar, a thick yogurt dip with cucumbers, mint, raisins, rose petals and walnuts, and topped with a fresh herbed medley of Sabri Khordan; then Caspian-Style Torsh Kabab which were char-grilled lamb chops marinated in pomegranate and walnuts and served with saffron-mousseline potatoes and a pomegranate-citrus drizzle. The grand finalé was a light and creamy Wild Orchid Ice Cream made with rosewater, saffron and pistachios dotted with sweet frozen cream, a mini meringue, gold leaf and edible flowers. 'Sapas' Ariana for a wonderful evening!

Ariana's cookbook 'Pomegranate and Roses'

The 'Dining with a Celebrity' Arian Bundy Persian dinner menu at Diwan

Unless glasses of Val D'oca Prosecco Brut Superiore 2010 were served as guests arrived for the dinner, 
in addition to non-alcoholic mango and cranberry juices

Sumptuous ceiling detail at Diwan of a 9th-century wooden panels hand-carved and painted in Damascus

Zeytoon Parvardeh on naan crostini, a tapenade of marinated olives, herbs, pomegranates and walnuts

'My Maman's' Pomegranate Soup made with fresh herbs, split peas, rice, petit meatballs, 
caramelized onions and fried mint

Diwan's modest but succinct wine list

Malbec Humberto Canale 'Black River' Patagonia 2014

Rose and Citrus Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Jewelled Rice served with Mast o Khiar

Mast o Khiar, a yogurt dip with cucumbers, mint, raisins, rose petals and walnuts, 
and topped with Sabri Khordan — a fresh herb medley

Caspian-Style Torsh Kabab - Char-Grilled Lamb Chops marinated in pomegranate and walnuts with a Saffron-mousseline potatoes and finished with a pomegranate citrus drizzle

Wild Orchid Ice Cream made with rosewater, saffron and pistachios dotted with sweet frozen cream, 
mini meringue, gold leaf and edible flowers

(Persian Yoghurt & Garlic-Marinated Chicken in a Saffron Rice Cake)
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Ariana Bundy

Taachin means ‘to arrange everything at the bottom.’ This is a savoury cake that’s perfect for parties because of its stunning visual effect. It’s ideal for picnics too, as it’s easy to transport. 

800g basmati rice, soaked in water for at least 5 hours
500g to 600g skinless, boneless, chicken breasts cut into cubes
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
A few twists of pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 to 7 small garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1kg Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp saffron threads, pounded then dissolved in 2 to 3 tbsp hot water
75g dried barberries, for garnish
4 large egg yolks

Cook the rice until it’s al dente. Place the chicken, butter, oil, onion, some salt and pepper, turmeric and half of the garlic in a large frying pan. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes on a low heat. Tip the mixture into a bowl and cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the yoghurt, the rest of the garlic and saffron liquid and mix well. Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Take the chicken out of the marinade and set aside. Add the egg yolks to the marinade mixture with some extra salt and stir well. Then take the cooked rice and set aside 175g for later. Ladle the remainder of the rice into the yoghurt and egg mixture. Fold it in, but be gentle so that the rice grains don’t get crushed, otherwise you’ll be left with a mushy cake. Stop as soon as the whole mixture is combined smoothly.

Take a non-stick baking dish and spread the reserved cup of plain rice over the bottom. Then add 1/3 of the rice and egg mixture. Layering the dish in this way stops the rice and egg mixture coming into direct contact with the pan and burning. Add a layer of chicken pieces and barberries, then a layer of rice again. Repeat until the dish is filled. Cover with a lid or wrap with foil. Place in the oven and cook for 1 1/2 hours until the bottom is golden brown. When the dish is cooked, turn it out over a plate immediately, so that the crunchy taadig crust at the base doesn’t go soggy.

Zeytoon Parvardeh
Serves 4 to 6
Recipe courtesy of Ariana Bundy

1lb green olives
1 cup walnuts
4 garlic cloves
4 tbsp pomegranate paste or molases
1/2 cup fresh mint, packed
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 tsp ground angelica, optional
salt & pepper

Toast walnuts until their aroma rises. Allow to cool to room temperature then rough chop. Remove seeds from olives and with a sharp knife, roughly chop. Add together in a bowl the olives, walnuts, small chopped mint, minced garlic, and pomegranate paste. Add a pinch of pepper and a small pinch of salt. Mix well then place in an air tight container and place in the fridge over night. When ready to serve mix pomegranate seeds with ground Angelica, then add to the olive and walnut mixture. Mix well so that the flavours are well incorporated. Ariana puréed it into a smooth tapenade and served it on a crisp crostini, but it can also so be served chunky with Lavash bread, baguette slices or crackers.

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