A Persian Feast.

I’ve been blessed with some incredible friends in Melbourne. What’s more, most of them join me in my passion for good food. They have been more than willing to initiate me into the cuisines of their home countries, by cooking me their favourite dishes, or in this case, teaching me to make what I can only refer to as a banquet.

I met my friend Pouya through Angela, and he is such a welcoming, friendly man. Him and his partner Shohre are marvellously interesting people and are always a delight to be around. They come from Iran, and have so many stories to tell, and so many friends around the world. I count myself lucky to be counted among them.

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Pouya came over with a bag full of spices and wine, and shared some amazing Persian dishes with me. Below you will find a number of recipes that work together to make a complete meal.

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The main component of the meal is Loobia Polo, a type of fried and steamed cooked lamb, rice and green beans – similar to a biryani.

2 onions, chopped
500 grams lamb mince
3/4 tsp turmeric
170g tin tomato paste
500g finely chopped green beans
3 cups basmati rice
3 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Dry fry the onions, then add the broken up lamb mince.

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Cook until dry, if meat isn’t terribly fatty add a dash of oil (but lamb is usually sufficiently fatty on its own). Add turmeric and cook over a low heat until cooked through. Make a well in the middle and add the tin of tomato paste, cook without stirring until the tomato paste has browned a little on the bottom.

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Then mix through the mince. Add green beans and about 1 cup of water, stir. Cover with a lid and cook meat for 1 hour until well cooked through and beans are very soft. Stir every 5-10 minutes and top up water if it dries out to prevent it burning.

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Cook 3 cups of rice until par cooked – the grains should be soft but still with a little crunch on the inside.

In a dutch oven, put in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. Heat and layer the potato slices on the bottom, and fry in the oil for 1 minute.

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On top, scoop on 1/3rd of the rice, then layer with 1/3rd of the meat and repeat until all used.

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Pull the rice away from the sides of the pot so that the meat and rice is sitting in a mound, not touching the sides at all.

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Wrap a tea towel tightly around the lid and place the lid on (this allows the rice to steam) and cook over a low heat for about half an hour, until the meat and rice have combined through and the rice is completely cooked.

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A fresh accompaniment to the meaty, rich loobia polo is Salad Shirazi, a basic fresh salad typically found in Shiraz.

3 diced tomatoes
1 diced cucumber
1/4 white onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp dried mint

Mix all of the above together and serve as a side.

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Spinach and Mint Yoghurt

500g tub of pot set greek yoghurt
1 large bunch of english spinach
2 teaspoons dried mint

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Chop the spinach, removing the stems, and steam until well wilted. Mix through the yoghurt with the dried mint.

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