Vida: Persian Pofak Sweetness from Home

How can something so simple, walnuts coated in egg and sugar, be layered with so much meaning? From Christmas in Iran to the German chef who taught this Vida to become an expert in Persian pastries, Vida’s story demonstrates that when it comes to food, nothing is simple. And the more textured the history, the more delicious something becomes.

Check out Vida’s video with her daughter in law Vanessa, who together, make delicacies like these at their infamous Toronto bakery Shirini Sara Pastry Shop.

There are 2 traditional pofaks, Pofak Zard and Pofak Sefid

Pofak Zard are Walnut halves coated with egg yolk – Zard means yellow in Farsi and Pofak Sefid are Walnut halves coated with egg white – Sefid means white in Farsi.

Both are Gluten free. They are sold at Shirini Sara “ under the names Yellow Walnut flowers” or “White Walnut flowers”.

Pofak Zard

Ingredients

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 1/2 tea spoon liquid vanilla or 1/2 bag of vanilla sugar
  • 1 tea spoon of rice flour
  • 200g unshelled walnuts , cut in small pieces (about half an inch)

Directions

  1. In a blender, combine all the atop ingredients except the walnuts. mix for 5-10 minutes until you get a very light shiny yellow batter.
  2. Stir in the walnuts and mix grossly with a table spoon.
  3. With the help of a tea spoon, lay the mixture on an oven tray. Each pofak should be about 1/2 inch to 1 inch large.
  4. Heat oven to 350°C and cook the pofaks for 10 minutes.  the nice light yellow colour should barely change  (Just the time for the egg yolk to cook)
  5. The result should be crunchy, enjoy!


Darshanie: Chicken Curry Adds the Spice

Chef, writer and activist Joshna Maharaj says that growing up her mom Darshanie’s Chicken Curry was “like everyone else’s Kraft Dinner”–a meal that was simple to prepare and so became a family dinner staple.  While the two diverge on aspects of how this curry should be prepared, they exemplify how recipes evolve from generation to generation–family to family.

Check out the video and watch some family magic unfold

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
  • 4-5 fresh (or dried) curry leaves
  • 1 green chili, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
2 yellow cooking onions, finely chopped 
2 tbsp minced garlic 
1 tsp minced ginger  
1 ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 lb boneless skinless chicken, such as breasts and thighs
  • 1½ cups pureed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • Finely chopped fresh coriander to garnish

Method:

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat the oil or ghee to high.  Add cumin, chili and curry leaves and stand back!  Once the spluttering has subsided, reduce heat to medium high, add the onions and fry for about 4 minutes, until they turn a rich golden brown.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté to cook. Mix in the cayenne, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, salt and pepper. Sauté briefly to cook and combine.
  3. Increase the heat to high and add the chicken pieces.  Toss to coat with onions and spices, and fry for about 5 minutes or till the chicken is well coated in the masala and lightly browned.
  4. Add the tomatoes and mix well.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until chicken is well cooked.  Sprinkle in the garam masala, cover again, and continue to simmer for about 10-15 minutes to allow the aroma to blend well in the curry.  The longer this simmers on low, the better the flavour will be.   Taste and adjust salt and chilies as necessary.

Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves and lime wedges.



Nadia: Making Molokheyyah and Creating an Intentional Family

Nadia and Maryem (a member of Nadia’s intentional family) make Molokheyyah over the phone together. While ancient Egyptians found less high tech ways of sharing their family recipe there’s no doubt that the dish that is as rich in antioxidants as it is in superstition. Check out the video of Maryem and Nadia making Molokheyyah and making family together and watch the recipe unfold.

Ingredients:

  • 1package of frozen chopped Molokheyyah
  • 1 liter of water
  • 1 head of garlic peeled
  • 1 onion for broth
  • 1 red onion finely chopped
  • 3 cardamom seeds
  • 1 chicken
  • 1 large can tomato juice
  • ½ lbs. of butter
  • Salt
  • Dried crushed coriander seeds
  • Cumin powder
  • Rice
  • White vinegar
  • Pita bread

Directions

  1. Take half of the garlic and 2 teaspoons of salt in a mortar and pestle until it is a smooth paste and mix with a generous amount of cumin powder.
  2. Melt 1/3 of butter in a saucepan and add paste and fry on medium heat.
  3. Once it is thoroughly fried, add large can of tomato juice.
  4. Once it has come to a boil, let to simmer [the longer you can leave the sauce to simmer the better, at least until, fat rises to the top and covers sauce].
  5. In a large pot, place a little olive oil and the cardamom seeds and chicken, Fry for a few minutes then add 1 liter of water and onion on medium-low heat.  Once chicken is cooked, remove the chicken from the broth, and place the chicken in the oven to brown.
  6. Now you have your broth.  Remove cardamom seeds from broth.  Place 1’2 garlic with 2 teaspoons of salt again in mortar and pestle until it is a smooth paste.
  7. Add a generous amount of dried crushed coriander seeds.
  8. In a frying pan melt 1/3 of butter and add paste until it is thoroughly fried, then add this to broth.
  9. Add Molokheyyah to broth and leave on low heat until you finish preparing the rest of the meal.  Do not boil the Molokheyyah.
  10. Make rice to accompany the dish.
  11. Finely chop red onion add to the dish and cover with white vinegar and add warm Pita bread.

Mix these ingredients in any way you like:

Wonderful on a cold day.



Ivanka: Cabbage Rolls (Sarma) and Cheese Pie (Gibanica) for the Generations

The fact is, a family that cooks together, stays together.  Watching Ivanka make cabbage rolls that her  granddaughter Violet rolls is a living testament to how recipes pass through generations. From Serbia to Toronto, those cabbage rolls tell a story of new Immigrants settling into their new life and the melding of old and new world traditions.

The cheese pie was also delectable, but I think that had something to do with the butter.

Check out the video of Ivanka making Cabbage Rolls with her family.

Cabbage Rolls (Sarma)

Ingredients

  • 1 head of pickled whole cabbage (about 40 leaves)
  • 1 kilo ground pork
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4 onions, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked rice, washed
  • 1 tbsp ground paprika
  • 1 tbsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 bay leafs
  • smoked pork, cubed (back bacon is good)

Directions

  1. Heat oil, sauté onions .  Add garlic and carrots and continue to sauté over medium heat.  Add meat until browned.  Add salt, pepper, paprika and rice, continue cooking for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and mix in parsley.
  2. Prepare a large stock pot by putting a rack in the bottom of the pot.  Taking one cabbage leaf at a time, fill with meat mixture and roll tightly.  Layer into the bottom of the stock pot.  As you layer the rolls into the pot, scatter with bay leaves and the cubes of pork.  Continue until all the leaves and meat are used up.
  3. Fill pot ¾ full of water and put on the stovetop on medium high until it boils, and then reduce heat to medium for 4 hours.  Monitor pot during cooking to not boil over or dry out.  If more water is needed, add boiled water.

Cheese Pie (Gibanica)

Ingredients

  • 1 package Filo leaves pastry
  • ½ kilo feta cheese
  • ½ kilo pressed cottage cheese
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda or ¼ cup of club soda
  • ½ cup milk (optional, if needed)
  • 200g of butter, melted

Directions

  1. Crumble cheeses and combine.  Mix in eggs (reserving a bit of egg for the egg wash on top) and baking soda.  If mixture is too dry, add milk.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  3. Butter the bottom of a casserole dish.  Layer filo leaves, brushing butter between each layer.  Every third layer, sprinkle cheese mixture.  Continue until dish is full or you’ve run out of cheese mixture.   Brush your leftover egg on the top layer of filo.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until top is nicely browned and the sides are a little bubbly.


Zahra’s Zereshk Polo

This dish is not only delicious it’s beautiful. Zahra grids her Saffron in a coffee grinder before mixing it with water and pouring over the chicken. This makes the whole dish vibrant orange. When topped with the rice, decorated with pistachios and dried barberries, the Zereshk Polo looks like a work of art. While it feels like a shame to dig in, the taste is worth it. When Zahra served it to us, the delicately flavoured chicken was falling off the bone. Yum.

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams of Basmati or long-grain rice
  • 1/2 of a chicken
  • 75 grams of cooking oil
  • 50 grams of butter
  • 50 grams of dried barberries (zereshk) (Other dried red berries like cranberries would work as well)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • 1 medium onion
*
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Saffron
  • Salt
  • Black pepper

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