Khoreshte Fessenjoon – Persian Walnut and Pomegranate Stew

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Something great happened. I passed the test you have to take to study primary school education.

As an established fact, when it comes to decisions, I suck elusively. I am literally not able to take a decision (which will mould my life to some extent) without having a guilty conscience. Even if everything turns out great, I will still go through what it would have been like if I had done it the other way. Always always always.

For a long time, I was sure that language is my thing. And in fact, it still is. I wanted to study English until about a month ago. As I did under no circumstances want to go into interpreting or translating, I saw my only way out in teaching. And it was not a bad way out, I thought it was a good decision. I feel so deeply grateful for some teachers I had in school, because they shaped parts of me. They shaped who I am today. And I wanted to achieve this same thing. I wanted to give students hope, a reason to learn in life, and I wanted to be there, in case they did not have somebody who was there for them at home. This time they go through is not fun. You go through so many changes, start to investigate the world around you a bit more, start realising that what is going on in this world is not sound, and you want to change something. And you don’t know how. You need someone who understands you, who accepts you and gives you hope that at some point, things will change. And you want to feel that with some support of this someone, you will be a tiny part of this change.

I wanted to be this someone.

I wanted to be this someone because I thought that there were too little of those someones. Yes. There are too little someones. The little issue there was was that I felt like this someone could be more effective if it was surrounded by small children who are shapeable. Who still need to learn so much. Having a someone during those years might be more important and crucial than after. Might. I actually don’t know, because when I compare my primary and secondary school time, I suppose I learnt more during the latter. (See, the doubts come in again) But I still think that primary school teachers have such a great responsibility. And though I am not a huge fan of having big responsibilities, I am absolutely willing to shoulder responsibility for those cuties instead of some rowdy not-so-cuties (It’s not about the cuties, by the way, it’s about their age). I still think that secondary school teacher is one of the most important jobs on this planet, but I feel like there are people who are more appropriate for this job.

So friends, in three years I will hopefully stand in front of a mob of children who want to learn something about the world. I am so excited about that.

The test was partly on the ridiculous side, because you had to do things like this or hopping and dribbling to the beat of this, sing two songs in front of a commission consisting of two people, remember random faces with random names and their telephone numbers, hobbies, relationship statuses and birthdays, and after 45 minutes answer questions like “What hobbies does the person who was born on October 22nd have?” I failed so much at this one.

But well, I guess I am in no way entitled to complain about anything, because I passed the test.


As you might have heard or experienced, Persian food is not necessarily the best-looking food. I am talking about this dish. Let’s face it. It does not look nice. But to be honest, I couldn’t care less about it, because it just tastes so good. 

Fessenjoon (or fessenjan) is one of my absolute favourites. I just forget about it all the time as my mum is not a huge fan of it and as a consequence never cooks it and my (Austrian!!) grandma doesn’t cook it that often. But when she does, I’m in heaven.

The recipe is hers (apart from little amendments), so all tribute goes to my amazing grandmother.

Vegan and vegetarian Fessenjan

Serves 3-4

for the rice

  • 480 g basmati rice (*Reyhani)
  • salt
  • olive oil

for the khoresh

  • 150 g walnuts (2 cups), or more if you like
  • 2 onions
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • about 400 ml water (2 cups)
  • 150 g pomegranate molasses (7-8 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp brown (muscovado) sugar
  • salt
  • fresh pomegranate seeds to serve

Wash the rice in a sieve until the water is clear. Put the rice in a bowl with cold water and about 3 tbsp of salt and let it stand for about 30 minutes (some people let the rice soak overnight, but I personally found that the rice breaks more easily and the best results are achieved when soaked for no longer than two hours)

Iranian Stew made out of Pomegranate and Walnuts

Roast the walnuts for about 5 minutes in a pan on middle heat until their skin starts to colour. Finely grind them in a food processor and set aside.

Ground walnuts for Fesenjan

Chop the onions and add to the food processor to form a paste.

In a pot, heat some olive oil and add the onions. Add turmeric and cinnamon and fry for about 5 minutes on middle heat. Add hot water, molasses and walnuts and cook for about 30 minutes. You might have to adjust the quantity of molasses to your taste and according to the consistency of it (mine was more on the pureey side, and not very sour, so I added some lemon juice at the end.) If neccessary, add sugar and season with salt and some lemon juice, if you feel like it’s lacking sourness. You might also want to add some more water. Set aside.

For the rice, bring water to a boil in a large pot (this is important, as the rice needs space to “grow”). When the water boils, add the rice and about 4 tablespoons of salt (the water must be saltier than the rice should be) and let it simmer for 6 minutes. Once the rice is ready drain in a colander and give a quick rinse with cold water to stop additional cooking. Heat some olive oil in the pot you boiled the rice in and add the rice. Cook for 30-40 minutes on low heat. Flip on a tray.

Sprinkle the khoresh with fresh pomegranate seeds (and walnuts if you want) and serve with rice and mast-o-khiar.

Enjoy.  

Vegan Khoreshte Fessenjoon

A Guide to Homemade Curry Pastes

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Last Tuesday, I got a white sheet saying I am allowed to drive on the street with a car. Yes. I passed my driving test.

The day before the driving test, after my last two driving lessons, and my driving instructor telling me he can’t guarantee anything, I was feeling more flustered and jittery than on the day of my A-levels. It was crazy insane and ridiculous. You know that feeling. Your pulse increases, your heart beats faster and you feel like you cannot bear it anymore. Yes. I knew that feeling too. But I honestly do not think this feeling should be there 14 hours before your driving test, which by the way, is not that big of a deal. If you don’t pass, you just do it again.

On that morning I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., as we were asked to arrive at 7 a.m. on that oh-so-important day, and having read on some internet site giving tips for your driving test, that you should by no means be there too late (obvious), and it’s better to be there half an hour before than one minute too late (not so obvious) I arrived there 20 minutes early. Before arriving early, I spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom, listening to Aretha telling me that even she was saying a prayer for me. After eating a small breakfast, thinking that the whole thing couldn’t take longer than a maximum of two hours, if at all, I made my way to the driving school, and finding the door was closed (so sure!, it’s better to be there half an hour earlier), I found a spot on a bench next to another girl (who apparently was thinking the same way I did and was probably more disappointed than I was, cause she had been waiting even longer) and we sat there, not saying a single word, and staring into our small electronic devices, also known as smart phones.

Some 20 minutes later, two other girls made an appearance, and as the two of them knew each other from the last time they had tried to get their driving test, but didn’t succeed in their plans, they started talking about all kinds of mistakes one can make and how to avoid them. We soon joined in their discussion, realising they needed help, and soon we were engaging in a nice conversation, trying to let our nervousness vanish by talking.

After some time the driving teacher came, explained us tested us on our knowledge about tires, the engine bay and the lighting system, we made our way back to the bench and anxiously waited for the examiner. The two girls who hadn’t passed the last time expressed the wish to be first, so clearly we let them go first. We expected to wait for a maximum of an hour, but not to our amusement, it turned out to be three hours and a half, as the driving teacher spontanously decided to let the two motorcyclists (who had just arrived) go first, as the sky was cloudy and we don’t want them to be taking their test in the rain, do we? No. Of course we don’t.

We dawdled away talking about how one of them looked like a combination of a slightly aged Dr. House and Hugh Grant, reassuring each other how we would obviously pass the test, me watching the other girl standing on one leg in order to train her “clutchleg” and telling each other how we would pass the test for sure. Oh, did I mention we were also assuring each other that we would both pass the test?

One thing I learned during those three, almost four hours: Waiting is worse than anything else when you are nervous. 

After what felt like eternity we finally got to take our test, and with a bit of luck, we both passed the test. With a bit of luck and a lot of help from the driving instructor, who was sitting next to me and giving me signs indicating I should drive faster or slower and constantly trying to keep up a conversation with the examiner (who against all odds, was hilarious).

Short version: I have a driver’s license. 

Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

Curry pastes are really not that big of a deal to make. You will either need a blender (lazy version) or a mortar (proper version). The amount of chillies depends on how hot your chillies are and how hot you would like your paste to be. You will have to experiemnt a little with that. If you can get your hands on dried chillies in the according colour, your result will be a bit drier and more curry paste-like. If you use dried instead of fresh chillies, soak them for 10 minutes and strain them after. If using fresh chillies, wear gloves. You don’t want your fingers to burn for three days. In both cases, make sure to remove the cores. One advantage with using a mortar is that your paste won’t be watery (in a blender, you will have to add liquid so the whole thing really blends, but with a mortar, your hands are your tools and you can therefore achieve are dried paste).

Makes one cup each

yellow

  • 3 yellow chillies
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass
  • 1 nut-sized piece of galangal
  • 1 nut-sized piece of ginger
  • 2 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • olive oil

Ingredients for thai yellow curry paste Vegetarian Yellow Curry Paste

green

  • 2 green chillies
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 stalk of lemon grass
  • 1 nut-sized piece of ginger
  • a small bunch of coriander
  • 1 tbsp lime zest (if you can get your hands on kaffir limes, go for them)
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • olive oil

Green Curry Paste Ingredients How to make curry paste

red

  • 4 red chillies
  • 4 shallots
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass
  • 1 piece of galangal
  • a small bunch of coriander stalks (plus roots)
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp paprika powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • olive oil

Ingredients for red curry paste Homemade Thai Red Curry Paste

I suggest grating the ginger and galangal, unless it’s super-fresh, otherwise you will have really disturbing little stalks in your paste which prevents it from being smoothy. With the lemon grass, make sure you really only use the inner part (where it’s purple), otherwise you have the same problem. We all know how lemon grass inbetween our teeth feels like. 

Wash and chop the fresh ingredients. Grind to a paste in a blender or in a mortar. Add the spices. You can store your paste in the fridge in a glass jar. Pour olive oil on top so the paste is covered with oil. Enjoy.  How to make green, red and yellow curry paste

Easy-Peasy Mousse au Chocolat

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Born in Graz, growing up in the city centre and moving to the outskirts at the age of eight, I went through quite a lot of changes when we moved, as my friends will be able to recount in detail (which thankfully they will not be doing here). One of them is that I adapted to the language used on the country side. Not without reason the rest of the people residing in Austria say that Styrians “bark”, because, as a matter of fact, they do. If you do not understand how humans can transform to dogs, you might find this amusing if you speak a little german, even if you won’t understand a word (cause not even I do). Or this. I actually really like that song, so you’d better not say anything insulting about it. Really. Look at those lyrics. (which might not win an oscar for the best translation, but never mind.)

Living in a considerably smaller town than the one you grew up in makes you change. I’ve been living in a small city near Innsbruck, basically at the other end of Austria, for two months now, and moving here after living in London for six months, is kind of a shock. No trains running under the ground, no gaps to mind, no art exhibitions and museums, no big English supermarkets (my all-time favourite), no clothing shops you would shop in unless you find yourself in a state of utter non-possession, and obviously, no most beautiful version of the most-spoken language in the world. Instead of all those things, you have one thing in abundance: nature. Trees, flowers, animals. Everywhere.

But as every coin has two sides, I do not want to dwell on the things I miss about England (though the last point is obviously in no way negative), but also tell you about those little things I enjoy. One of those things is the fact that no matter if you know a person or not, if you cross someone’s path on the street, you greet them. No matter how young or old, you greet them. It took me some time to get used to that. And once I did, it would feel like a slap in the face when someone wouldn’t greet me back or deliberately stare at imaginary attractions on the other side of the road.

I wonder what the world would feel like if we all greeted each other. If we treated every random person we met as a good friend. Yeah. I guess I do not need to go deeper on that.

Mousse au chocolat withou gelatine

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Mohnnudeln

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You know how you have a favourite food for two weeks, tell everyone about you newly discovered best friend, eat it all the time, no matter what time of day and then completely forget about it? Yeah? Tell me more about it. In fact, don’t, I actually just learnt about it today.

As you might know, Schupfnudeln were one of those friends. I really fell in love with them the minute I figured out how easy they are to make at home. I loved to eat them with “Zuckerbrösel” (“sugary breadcrumbs”) but my new favourite is: poppyseeds!

VeganeMohnnudeln

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Banana Bread with Chopped Walnuts

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How I missed this blog. Hi everyone. Here I am again. Hopefully a bit more regularly from now on. Don’t think that I gave up cooking, because I really haven’t. But blogging and cooking are two different pair of shoes. You need to meticulously document everything you do, take pictures of all the steps, meanwhile hope that all the ingredients you are mixing together actually will produce something edible and make everything look nice for the pictures. I love it, but my time doesn’t.

There’s been so much going on in London and I really love this city. I love how multicultural it is. I love the public transport. I love being independent and being away from home for a while. I love getting to know new people all the time. And I love the accent, obviously. So so much. If you don’t, I’m sorry but we can’t be friends anymore.

bananas

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Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna with “we-ran-out-of-plain-flour”bechamel sauce

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It’s been a long time, I know. There have been quite a few things going on in the past few months. I have moved, for example. To England.

There’s a lot going on here, that’s why I haven’t had a lot of time for the blog. Sorry. BUT I am absolutely enjoying my time here – I am doing voluntary work in a neighbourhood in London where we are trying to set up junior youth groups and also looking for older youth who want to help us run the group. The groups we are trying to set up are not trying to entertain them and keep them away from what is actually happening around them – like most of the youth clubs you find nowadays. What we try to do is to actually face with them what is going on in society/in our neighbourhood or community. We want to help them to develop their spiritual and intellectual capacities – so to think about justice, generosity and helpfulness and see how we can apply these qualities to our lives. So what we did some weeks ago was bake chocolate cupcakes and lemon cake with them (as our first “service project”), sell them and with the money  buy sleeping bags for the homeless…I loved that idea (which by the way came from a junior youth, not from us), and I think it really shows how they understood that we are doing service for others in a selfless attitude and to change something around us.The cakes were of course all vegan and quite yummy :)

And finally, today I had time to cook and take pictures of it at the same time. A miracle.

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Thai Curry with Saffron Lemon Rice

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Travelling around so much doesn’t really let you a lot of time for posting recipes. This is why I’m sharing this recipe with you today – hoping to make up with all the recipes i missed out to post in the last weeks.

vegan thai curry with lemon rice

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Lentil Burgers made from Scratch (and my first cooking video!)

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There’s quite some good news over here!

  • A-Levels: Check!!!
  • Job in a vegan restaurant: Check!
  • First cooking video published: Check!!

I’m quite overwhelmed with all this, to be honest (Particularly with the first part), so I’d better let you and the cooking video alone. If you have a YouTube account, I’d truly appreciate if you liked the video or left a comment after you tried the recipe! I’m also happy about shares on facebook :)

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