Growing up as the child of German immigrants, I never saw much of my extended family. Grandparents, an aunt and uncle and cousins in West Germany, A grandmother in the East who was not allowed out to visit (and it was rather uncomfortable going to visist: something I only did once), and an aunt in Los Angeles. When my parents arrived and rented a room in West London, they made friends with a young couple, an Englishman and his Persian wife. I had the honour of her becoming my Godmother and she became an aunt to me and my brother, a true part of the family.
It was her who taught me mother, who subsequently taught me, how to cook the perfect rice. Her nephews and nieces brought back exotic ingredients from Iran: Pistachio nuts, pomegranate syrup, dates. Things that are widely available in independent shops and in supermarkets.
This is my variation of Lee Watson’s Persian Fava Bean, Seitan and Green Herb Stew with a little influence from Sally Butcher and her Mung Bean Casserole. The smells and flavours remind me of having dinner at my godmother’s house. Happy days.
1 medium red onion – cut into wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
200g firm tofu – well drained and cut into 1cm cubes
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 red chili – finely chopped
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons za’atar
A pinch of ground cinnamon
1 preserved lemon – drained and finely chopped
1 carrot – peeled and diced
6-8 radishes – quartered
5 garlic cloves – peeled but left whole
150ml white wine
2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 mushrooms – quartered
1x400g tin of fava beans/ful medames – the ones in water not already prepared
vegetable stock – enough to fill the empty bean tin
a large handful each of parsley and dill – roughly chopped
150g spinach – finely sliced
Take a large(ish) casserole (one with a lid). Heat the oil then add the onion, tofu, carrot and radish. Fry until the tofu and onions start to brown then add the chili, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon and preserved lemon. Continue to fry, stirring gently for about 5 minutes. Now add the white wine and let it simmer down a little to reduce. Add the mushrooms, fava, whole garlic cloves and tomato puree followed by the stock. Stir then cover and pop in the oven at 180C. After 45 minutes, take the lid off, stir in the spinach and herbs and the za’atar, cover and return to the oven for a further 20-30 minutes).
Stir and season before serving then drizzle a little of the pomegranate molasses over the top. I served mine with Persian rice and potatoes, chili sauce and a little natural yogurt.