Saffron-Scented Aubergine Stew in the Persian Manner

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Mehregan Mubarik! Today, along with thirty other Persian food bloggers, we are celebrating Jashn-e-Mehregan – the ancient Persian festival to celebrate the Autumn Equinox. Historically, in ancient Persia, this festival was an occasion to honour the god of justice – Mehr – and to give thanks for the end of the harvest season.

The first thing I think about when the leaves turn ruby-red and my shawls come out of the hidden part of my closet, is a hearty tomato-spiced stew. Now that the days are shorter and we are beginning to spend more time indoors, the scent of saffron, mingling with tomatoes and cumin, bubbling away on the burner, seems to be the best way to spend a night in. Aubergine, with its glorious shades of violet is in season right now and one of my favourite ways of preparing it is to incorporate it into a khoresht; a stew. With its jammy tomato base, all you need to have with this Khoresht-e-Badejmaan is a tahdig – saffron-crusted basmati rice – and creamy strained yoghurt. It seems to be the best way to start a new season and to give thanks for all that we have.

Speaking of giving thanks – I recently became a Canadian citizen and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this country – a country which this Pakistani-Persian-Afghan nomad now calls home.

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Before you get to my recipe below, I hope you enjoy reading all the beautiful dishes my fellow Persian food bloggers have put together for Mehregan.

Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh | Sour Caramelized Almonds
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo (Frittata)
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh  | Marinated Olives with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi | Persian Lamb & Herb Stew
Fae’s Twist & Tango: Rice Meatballs | Kufteh Berenji
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies for Mehregan
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto | Persian Lentils Risotto
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice
Noghlemey: Parsi Dal Rice Pie
Parisa’s Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice
Sabzi: Ash-e Mast (Yogurt soup with meatballs)
The Saffron Tales: Khorosht-e Gheimeh | Yellow Lentils Stew
Simi’s Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy aubergine pickle
Spice Spoon: Khoresht-e-bademjaan | Saffron-Scented Aubergine Stew
Turmeric & Saffron: Ash-a Haft Daneh | Seven Bean Soup
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh | Rice with Fave Beans and Lamb
ZoZoBaking: Masghati | Persian Scented Starch Fudge

Recipe notes:
• I like this stew with a thick, reduced sauce, if you prefer your stew to be more fluid, with abundant sauce, simply add more water when you add the aubergine in the end.
• Always adjust for salt, because it really depends on your taste as well as the type of salt you are using.
• I prefer chicken with bone because it makes the sauce more flavourful. You can use boneless chicken thighs, too, just remember to decrease the weight to about 700g.
• Feel free to adjust for black and cayenne pepper, as per your preference.
• If you don’t want to broil the aubergine, feel free to gently sauté the flesh side of it in oil, till it is bronzed. I do often use this method, but you have to be quick, because aubergine sucks up a lot of oil when it is sautéed or fried.

*2-3 tbsp olive oil
*125g finely chopped onions (approximately ½ a large onion)
*1 kg chicken thighs (weight with bone)
*2 garlic cloves, minced
*½ tsp turmeric powder
*¼ tsp black pepper
*Pinch cayenne pepper
*¼ tsp cumin powder
*½ + ½ tsp salt
*1 tsp saffron threads, crushed into powder in a pestle and mortar, dissolved with two tablespoons of water
*300g chopped tomatoes, including juices (blanched and skin removed)
*2 tbsp water
*Neutral oil for frying
*350-400g baby aubergine quartered (the slices should be approximately 8-10cm long and 2cm thick)**
*juice of one lime
*1 tsp rose water (optional)***
*8-12 cherry tomatoes

*Place a wide  heavy-bottomed pan, which has a lid, (the one I use is 30cm in diameter)on the stove on medium heat and add oil. Add onions and sauté for ten minutes, till they become slightly golden, but not brown.

*Turn heat to medium-high and add garlic, chicken, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, ½ teaspoon salt, saffron water and sauté for five minutes, till the spices are fragrant and the chicken has lost its raw pink colour.

*Add tomatoes, sprinkle with two tablespoons of water, lower the heat to medium and cover the pan for twenty minutes. (If you feel the tomatoes are sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a few more tablespoons of water and lower the heat a bit more.)

*In the meantime, brush the flesh side only of your aubergine with a neutral oil (don’t use olive oil, as it has a low smoking point) and transfer to a baking sheet. Place directly under your broiler (skin side down) and allow the flesh to turn bronze. This will take between five-ten minutes. Keep a vigilant eye on them, they can burn easily.

*Transfer aubergine to the pan at the 20-minute mark, (once the chicken has tenderised), skin side down, and sprinkle with the remaining salt, rosewater and lime juice. If the tomato sauce looks like it has reduced significantly, add more of water. Cover with lid and allow to cook for 25-35 minutes, or till the aubergine is fork tender but still holds its shape.

*When the stew is still hot, before serving, dot the stew with cherry tomatoes, cover with lid and wait till the skin of the tomatoes wilts a bit (five minutes). It adds an extra pop to the dish.

*Serve with your favourite fresh herbs strewn on top, tahdig (saffron-crusted rice) and strained yoghurt.

**You can use any aubergine of your choice, just remember to keep the chopped dimensions in mind.

***Rosewater can be found in Middle Eastern or Pakistani/Indian grocery stores.

Spice Spoon in Hello! Magazine

Hello, lovelies – As you know, I was featured in Hello! Magazine this summer, and I finally have the feature online, to share with all of you. I hope you enjoy reading it. Click on this link here.





Kofta Curry in the Pakistani Manner

Pakistani Kofta Curry

I was commissioned to write a piece for Edible Toronto – I chose to write about a recipe I grew up eating, my Nani Ami’s spiced meatball curry, also known as Kofta Curry. This is a comforting Pakistani dish made in almost every home. My article is about how my parents entertained throughout my childhood: elegantly, with seemingly effortless perfection. And today, in my home, I wonder if I can do the same.

I hope you enjoy reading the piece I wrote here.

Kofta Curry

Makes 4 servings

For the meatballs:

1/2 cup unsalted roasted chickpeas (found in Pakistani or Indian grocery stores)* or 1/4 cup chickpea flour

1/2 medium onion

1 1-inch length ginger, peeled and cut into 4 pieces

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed

1/4 tsp ground cayenne, plus more if needed

20 black peppercorns

1 lb medium ground beef (not lean, as it will prevent the meatballs from binding)

For the tomato yoghurt sauce:

3 tbsp grapeseed oil or other neutral oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground cayenne

1/4 tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 small can (about 14 oz/398mL) crushed tomatoes

2 cups water

1/2 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt (non-fat yoghurt tends to curdle when cooked)

1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more if needed

Kettle of boiling water

1 bunch fresh tarragon, cilantro or other herb of your choice

Make the meatballs: In a mortar and pestle, grind the chickpeas, in batches, to a fine powder (or use chickpea flour); set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onion half and the ginger until a paste is formed. In a medium bowl, whisk together the onion and ginger paste, chickpea powder, egg, salt, cayenne, and the peppercorns. Do a taste test of the seasonings by frying a teaspoon of the mixture with a bit of oil in a frying pan. Add more salt and cayenne pepper, as needed.

Pinch off a piece of the ground beef mixture and gently roll it in the palm of your hand to form a ball measuring about 1½-inches in diameter. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining meat mixture. You will end up with approximately 21 meatballs. Cover the meatballs with a clean tea towel and refrigerate while you make the tomato yoghurt sauce.

Make the sauce: In a small stockpot or large heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the oil. Add the onion, stirring occasionally until it begins to turn golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the cumin, cayenne, smoked paprika and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium-high (be careful, as the mixture will sputter). Stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in the water, remove the pot from the stove, and allow to cool slightly.

Transfer the tomato sauce to a blender. Blend until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot. Add the yoghurt and salt, stirring until well combined. Gently place the meatballs into the pot, leaving some space between each meatball. Add enough boiling water from the kettle to just cover the meatballs. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 25 minutes. Gently turn over each meatball. Replace the lid and simmer for 20 more minutes. Taste and add salt, as needed. Sprinkle with lots of fresh tarragon or your favourite herb and serve alongside basmati rice or bread.

Film Shoot for Fiesta Farms – Spice Spoon

I did a film shoot for Fiesta Farms in Toronto – more soon! In the meantime, here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the film shoot and a sneak peek of the Peach Galette I made, using some Pakistani spices.

Fiesta Farms Film Brickworks Shayma Saadat 2

Fiesta Farms Film Shoot Home2 Shayma Saadat

Fiesta Farms Film Shoot Home 3 Shayma Saadat

Eid Mubarik – Risalamande with Strawberry Coulis

Shayma Saadat Hello Magazine RisalamandeRecipe and Food Styling: Shayma Saadat; all photos in this post: Erik Putz

An early Eid Mubarik to all of you!

As part of a larger Hello! Magazine (Pakistan) feature on Spice Spoon, I was asked to share a recipe which meant something to me. This is a Danish-style rice pudding, which Mor Mor Inge, Zain’s maternal grandmother used to make. Read More

Roasted Peaches with Wild Blueberries

Roasted Peaches

I don’t remember being told I did anything, “like a girl”, and if I did, I took it as a compliment, because I was the granddaughter of two very strong, intelligent matriarchs. In my home, doing something “like a girl”, meant I did something like my grandmothers or my mother – and that was always a good thing. We are three sisters and we were lucky, in a sense, that we didn’t have any brothers. We ran like girls, we ate like girls, we talked like girls, and that meant being and doing our best – there were no comparisons with the opposite sex. We were just simply, the Saadat Girls. And we did everything, “like a Saadat Girl”.Read More

Strawberry Rosewater Sour Cream Skillet Cake in the Persian Manner

Strawberry Skillet Cake (1 of 1)-6

I don’t have time in the mornings to make a proper breakfast for myself, so on most weekdays, I will have a slice of toast, usually pumpernickel or a spelt sourdough (this bakery in Roncesvalles makes the most amazing bread, plus, they slice it for you) with a generous layer of almond or peanut butter and different jams. Gail, a good friend of mine, brought back a jar of cloudberry preserves (have you ever had them?) for me, from her trip to Sweden, which I have almost every morning on my toast. I am scared of the day that jar finishes. (This is the jar, in case any of you want to try to source it.)Read More

Spice Spoon on CBC Radio!

Dear Lovelies – I was on CBC Radio on May 29th for two interview sessions – you can listen to the interview segments here:

Metro Morning with Matt Galloway at 7.10AM EST
Shayma, your husband is also from Pakistan. What has been the discussion in your household around this (stoning of Farzana)?
Listen to the full interview here, or  via this link under “Woman Stoned to Death”.

Ontario Morning with Wei Chen at 7.50AM EST
Shayma, do people ask you, “Were you forced to marry your husband? Was this an arranged marriage?”?
Listen to the full interview by clicking here.


Karachi and My Family – Life Amidst the Bombings


A few weeks ago, I woke up a little after 6am and with my eyes half shut, I checked my iPhone, which I usually do before making my way into the kitchen for my morning caffè latte ritual. As I scrolled through my Twitter newsfeed, I saw “bomb blast Karachi”, “injured”, “daytime tragedy” “in the upscale Defence neighbourhood” “targeted attack” – all those words you don’t want to read when your husband is in Karachi, visiting our family; his parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunts.  It was April 25th and there was a bomb blast somewhere, in some neighbourhood in Karachi. I called Zain immediately, and when he told me the bomb had exploded in Delhi Colony, I selfishly took a sigh of relief. My family is safe, I said to myself and jumped out of bed.Read More

Torn Between Worlds

Shayma Evren Paris

In a few hours, I am heading to my other home, Washington, DC, where my family lives. My parents spend the long, winter months in Lahore, where it is warmer and you can sit in the garden during the day, feasting on dried apricots and walnuts from the Hunza valley alongside cups of hot tea. My mother and father return to DC when the cherry blossoms start to bloom and cyclists with their toddlers in bike trailers in tow, start to flood the C&O Canal trail near our home.  While in DC, I like to laze at home with my father and eat slices of Copperthite Pie Company’s salty, flaky, buttery crust filled with cinnamon-spiced apples, his favourite. I love going shopping with my mother and sisters, because they are the only ones who will tell me that my bum looks too big in those inky-blue jeans, which I am determined to waste $200 on. In the evenings, my brother-in-law and I talk ad nauseum about the merits of Hendricks vs. Bombay Sapphire. I personally think he only likes Hendrick’s for their apothecary-inspired bottles, but he will never admit that.Read More