I promise a post as coming soon and no sight of it for a fortnight, for things which give lesser joy than blogging must be tended to as the bread you dream of can’t be eaten. Such are the times we live in.
Iran, etymologically, The Land of Aryans, is definitely an intriguing place. A country whose impact on global history and polity has been more than most nations. Whose culture and cuisine has influenced lives from Britain to Bombay.While I rant on about this land formerly known as Persia, you play this list of songs from the land to create an Iranian Aura.
Bordered by Afghanistan and Pakistan on one side, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Russia on the other lying above the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Iran is the Eighteenth largest nation by size. There was civilization here nearly 3000 years before the pious carpenter walked this Earth. Under Cyrus the Great, the Achaemenid Empire became the largest the world had seen yet. Alexander the Great of course put an end to that empire which was followed by the Neo -Persian era which had Iran play an important role in the Byzantine Empire. By Around 600AD Zoroastrianism was replaced with Islam as a result of invasions. Iran was a major player in the Islamic Golden Age with contributions not dissimilar to Europe’s Renaissance. We see an adoption of Iranian culture by Turks in the 10th Century followed later by invasions by Genghis Khan who wiped out a huge chunk of the Iranian population. The middle ages see various local conflicts and notable Nadir Shah and his huge empire including the annexation of India and its looting. Russo-Persian wars , famines and Anglo-Persian wars formed much of the modern history of the country. The British remained till the 1920’s followed by a period of internal political turmoil.
Panorama of Tabriz
Perhaps the most well known period in Iran’s history is that which commenced in the 1940’s. When you pick up history books, comic books and newspapers from the period you find the mention of Iranian Oil and the West’s need for it. So when the then democratically elected PM, nationalized the much coveted petroleum supplies of Iran there was much perturbation. The USA, Arguably by acts in the best interest of its own people and not those of the Iranians, helped depose the PM and the democratic government and replaced it by an Autocracy/ Monarchy headed by the Shah. The first direct intervention in a sovereign nation by the US in the cold war, the country found it self changing. With westernization of the populous came also the tortures and arbitrary arrests generally associated with a dictatorship. Ayatollah Khomeini a a religious leader voiced his opposition to the Shah and his government and was imprisoned and then exiled. The Shah’s repressive regime was met by the Islamic Revolution in 1979 which saw the return of the Ayatollah and the exile of the Shah. Follow the story of Argo with US citizens being held captive in exchange for the Shah ( They were released later with the Shah never coming back to Iran). Saddam Hussein invaded parts of Iran during this period of turmoil. That conflict ended in a UN mediated peace. Iran today is an Islamic Republic with the questionable title Supreme Leader still in place. A democracy by all means but with freedoms which we take for granted not so free.
In terms of tourism, the majority of tourists today remain Asian Muslims who visit sites of religious significance. European tours with an archaeological interest are a minority. It seems a shame that despite its great art, history and culture this nation has its tourism determined by religion.
The cuisine of Iran has influenced and been influenced by that of Turkey, Mesopotamia, India and parts of Central Asia. Many a dishes in their name and conception seem very familiar with Indian dishes.
Chelo Kebab : Considered the national dish of Iran, this is steamed basmati rice served with different forms of meats cooked on a skewer. The meat can be lamb, chicken or ground beef mixed with parsley and spices. Here is a glimpse from an Iranian restaurant, the other images are worth checking as well.
Source – Jalda
Ash : Ash refers to ‘a thick winter soup’. This one is Ashresteh, a thick soup with noodles in it. Parsley, spinach, dil and onions, lentils, flour with other hearty ingredients form this recipe. The source blog has some wonderful pictures and text on Iranian culture. This picture what won me over was the fried garlic.
Source – Persian(Ate)
Borani Esfanaaj : Spinach is pretty popular in Iran( that’s what I concluded from the recipes I have been browsing). This dish is a spinach based yogurt dip. With all the thin breads like Nan – e -Lavash being popular this is a good accompaniment.
Source – TravelSenses
Fesenjān : This is a poultry dish made with ground walnuts and pomegranate syrup. The red jewel like fruit is very popular in Irani cuisine. This dish sounds a little bland, but then some cuisines believe in the subtlety of taste.
Source – FigFondue
Kashke Bademjan : A dish of eggplants and tomatoes, something similar to the Indian baingan ka bharta. The eggplant also features prominently in the cuisine of the region. The source site for this image is host to pages of multiple cuisines.
Source – InternationalFood4U
Khoresht Baamieh : Okra and Aubergine stew with beef. Khoresht means a meal. So you’ll find a lot of dishes with that in its name. The images on the source blog are pretty, especially of the process.
Source – DyalasKitchenJournals
Kookoo – ye -Marchoobeh : Persian style Asparagus Frittata . A very green dish this, the images on the source are stunning to a degree of inspiration.
Source – TurmericAndSaffron
Mirza Ghasemi : This is roast aubergine mush with eggs which get scrambled in the process. This becomes not a main dish but more of an appetizer or side dish to meat and bred. Again the resemblance to Indian dishes is uncanny.
Source – SabrinaPassions
Zereshk Polo O Morgh : Barberry Chicken Rice, a very interesting recipe. Look at the source post it gives a very detailed step by step recipe with photos to match.
Source – edibleMoments
Nan -e- Sangak : A plain, rectangular, or triangular Iranian whole wheat sourdough flatbread firstly.The bread is baked on a bed of small river stones in an oven. There are, normally, two varieties of this bread offered at Iranian bakeries: the generic one which has no toppings; and the more expensive variety which is topped with poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds.
Source – brotdoc
Nan – e – Barbari : The Barbars are an ethnic tribe from Eastern Iran. It is from their name that the term Barbarian originates. This bread is associated with Tabriz so is also called Tabrizi Bread.
Source – NotitieVanLien
Naan Nakhodi : Shortbread made from Chickpea flour with butter, icing sugar, cardamom and vegetable shortening. Sounds like a great accompaniment to Iranian Tea.
Source – MyPersianFeast
Tahchin : Iranian Rice cake that includes rice, yogurt, saffron, egg, and chicken fillets. It is also possible to use vegetables, fish, and meat instead of the chicken fillets.
Source – PersianRecipes
Sohan Asali : Persian Honey and Saffron Almond Candy. This comes from a unique blog which centers on Persian cuisine. A rather sugary treat but all recipes on this source site look brilliant.
Source – TurmericAndSaffron
Irani Chai : Tea is an important part of Persian culture, the way the brew it, how its savored. Here is a recipe.
Source – fyeaIran
So that was Iran, with all its mentions across news and political speeches I now know more about it just by being curious about its culture than reading papers and watching the Tele. All you learn from those sources is about the nation’s politicians, to know its people I’d suggest reading blogs.