Iran’s not just about the yellow cake. It’s about a beautiful, almond and orange blossom cake that is heady, delicious and fragrant. Iranians love sharing food and are famed for their hospitality, Iranian-American chef Ariana Bundy told me at the Taste of India festival in London, where he was a special guest to talk about the influence of Iranian food.
I think it is about time that people learnt about Iranian culture and Iranian food and the misunderstood people of Iran through its cuisine, Bundy told me. But for her, this is not just a statement of hope.
Her new book, the visually stunning “Pomegranates and Roses” presents her family recipes in a modern way. It is vibrant and the step by step recipes are essential. “It’s not just boil your rice, it’s boil rice until al dente for 6 to 8 minutes. So I really wanted to capture the essence of Persian cuisine and exactly how to make it; unlike what my grandmother used to say, ‘add a little bit of this and a little bit of that’. This is much more concise,” she said.
In the good food festival in London she spoke about how Persian cuisine influenced Indian food.“When the Moguls came to Persia – modern day Iran – they conquered Iran and they took down south to India the arts; miniatures, Persian paintings, walled gardens, and especially food. They brought with them Iranian chefs who were cooking in the royal courts at the time and they made beautiful dishes like polo, which is pilaw, and samboose, which is samosa in Indian.”
Anirudh Arora, head chef of Moti Mahal agreed: “Indian food owes a lot to Persian cuisine because that’s the mother cuisine of Indian food.”
Iran’s sumptuous cuisine may have influenced many food traditions, but is not really recognised enough internationally. Bundy hopes to change this with her new book.“Not many people know anything about Iranian food or Iranian people and the best way to learn about a culture is really through its food and the reason why I think Iranian food has not been as popular as let’s say Indian food or even Italian food is because I think the country’s closed off and recipes are handed down from mothers to their daughters. So everything is quite closed in. Iranian restaurants only serve kebabs and the real lovely stews and the rice dishes and the desserts are served at home.”
Pomegranates and Roses , Ariana Bundy’s book of family recipes is out now.