As part of a new series, Bath-based Simi Rezai, of Simi’s Kitchen, shares her simple, seasonal recipes using produce that can be grown at home, sourced locally or foraged. The key to her cooking, which is often inspired by her Iranian heritage, is minimum washing up and waste and maximum flavour and nutrition. First up, she’s chive talkin’…
If you like onions you’ll love mellow chives. I eat chives including their flowers in salads, with cheese, potatoes and a variety of dishes. Chives are easy to grow, so either get some seeds and follow the packet instructions or buy a plant. The great thing about growing your own is that the more you cut chives, the more they will grow.
I don’t have a car, much storage space or a freezer so most of my meals at home are made in one pot, which we then eat over two days. If I put the oven on, I try to bake more than one thing at a time – I try not to waste anything. These recipes are a guide and aim to be uncomplicated, frugal food, simply treated. As such, I’d suggest you use the best ingredients you can find or afford. When you come to make something the first time, follow the recipes, and then tweak them to your own taste. That’s the beauty of home cooking, after all, making a recipe your own.
I use a lot of leafy greens such as herbs, lettuce, spinach and, of course, chives. A way to make them last until you use them all is to wash them, dry them with a salad spinner (or wrap them inside a damp tea towel and spin your arm out of a window) or simply air-dry. These can then be wrapped up in a damp tea towel or kitchen paper and put in a clean reusable plastic bag in the fridge drawer. Mine usually last for 5-7 days using this method.
Here are a few ideas to get you started. I ate this pesto as a dip with breadsticks, spread thickly on crostini, as a dressing for Jersey Royals and like a pesto with pasta (don’t forget to use some pasta water when mixing it with pasta). I’ve adapted it from Deborah Robertson’s fantastic book Gifts From The Garden.
Chive and lemon pesto
60g chives, chopped finely
30g pine nuts, toasted
50g Parmesan or Pecorino, finely grated
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
– Put the pine nuts either in a pestle and mortar or blender and grind or pulse. Add the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and taste.
– Add more cheese, lemon juice or garlic, to taste, if needed.
The next dish I have adapted from an Iranian classic Kookoo Sabzi, or ‘Green Kookoo’. It is vegetarian, can be gluten free and dairy free, and can be eaten hot, warm or cold. Perfect for an early summer picnic.
Kookoo is a general term for an Iranian frittata. It is mainly vegetables or fresh herbs bound with egg rather than being suspended in an eggy batter. Kookoo varies with the seasons so you could have it with potato, bean, aubergine, cauliflower or even wild garlic. The recipe below makes a small 20cm diameter frying pan size kookoo. The weights below are a rough guide. You don’t have to be precise but what is important is that the herbs are clean, dry and that you weigh each after you have chopped them. Always chop greens very carefully with a sharp knife so as not to bruise them.
100g green part of spring onions, finely chopped (you can use the white part in salads or fry them)
50g chives (or wild garlic)
100g spinach, finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp plain flour (for a gluten-free version use 1.5 tbsp gram flour)
Small handful of crushed walnuts and barberries (these are sour berries which can be bought in Middle
Eastern food stores – otherwise use chopped dried cranberries)
2 tbsp oil
3 large eggs
– Put the chopped herbs and greens into a large bowl and add salt and pepper, the turmeric and 1 tbsp of the flour and stir.
– Add the remaining flour to the nuts and berries mix then add to the greens and stir. Put 1 tbsp of the oil into a frying pan and heat it so that when you put in a pinch of the mix in, it sizzles. At this point crack the eggs into a separate bowl, stir to break the yolks and add 3/4 into the greens. Don’t stir too much, just until it is incorporated and the herbs glisten. Pour into the frying pan using a spatula, smooth the top and turn the heat down. Let it gently set and crisp a little on the bottom. I use a heat diffuser. After 20 minutes it should be crisp. Check regularly as you don’t want it to catch.
– At this point, put a plate over the pan and turn the kookoo and slide it back in so the other side cooks. It needs another 15 mins or so on a gentle heat to cook. Check to see if is done by poking a knife in it: if it comes out clean it is ready (like a cake). Serve with plain yoghurt flavoured with chive flowers.
Next time Simi will show us how to make cheese from scratch.