The Beautiful Saraban Cookbook

Mimi ON Feb 16, 2011 AT 9:30 am



By John Gregory Smith

Saraban is the new recipe book by Greg and Lucy Malouf, which was inspired by their recent trips to Iran. The ex-husband and wife team travelled across the country and discovered the secrets of Persian cuisine. Saraban follows on from their last recipe book Turquoise that focused on Turkish and Ottoman cuisine, which was heavily influenced by the older Persian food.

Greg, Australian born and of Lebanese descent, is the Executive chef of Momo Restaurant in Melbourne. Together with Lucy they have written 5 books and they have their 6th, an updated ‘best of’, is due out later this year. They are so passionate about the food of the Middle East and every detail of their beautiful books.

I was lucky enough to catch Greg and Lucy on a recent trip to London, where I highjacked their breakfasts to ask them more about Saraban and their wonderful journey. They visited Iran in the spring and again in the autumn, to discover the variety of foods eaten during the different seasons and to witness the saffron harvest first hand.

Saffron is the stamen of a beautiful purple crocus flower and Iran is famous for growing some of the best in the world. The flowers are planted in the autumn and picked by hand a few months later. Gregg and Lucy managed to catch the crocus’s being sown, but, like self-respecting foodies who had travelled so far, they wanted to see the glorious purple flowered fields in full bloom. They went on a saffron mission and travelled further up into the mountains, where the colder weather meant the harvest was mature.  They were able to see the magnificent spice in its raw flowered form and the resulting pictures are truly wondrous.

Both Gregg and Lucy were blown away by the food and wonderful hospitality of the people of Iran. They really got stuck in and sampled Kaleh Pacheh – sheep’s head soup for breakfast and brain baguettes with salad for lunch. They spoke passionately about the subtle spiced food, the aged rice that was cooked in a little oil and butter to form a crunchy coating or tadik, the nutty charred stone baked bread that was used in place of a knife and fork and the beautifully thick yogurt that was served with fresh honey comb for breakfast.

Their favourite dish from the book was mahi-e-mast-gerdu – yogurt baked fish with walnut-herb crumbs. The fish is baked with yogurt and a crunchy topping made from walnuts, parsley and tarragon.  It’s completely delicious. Their biggest challenge was to create a range of dishes that did justice to the food they ate and looked beautiful at the same time and they have achieved this 110%. The book and all the recipes blew me away, I can’t recommend it enough.

Saraban is available nationwide priced £30

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