Persian Pea + Herb Little Bakes with Beetroot Labneh
Last week I hosted the most incredible brunch at Harrods to celebrate my range in the food halls rolling through to spring. It was a dream morning – many of my favourite people, a real feast, and an absolutely beautiful setting.
We ate delicious plates of tahini crunch greens, cucumber satay salad, crispy cauliflower rice, lemony lentil dahl and dosa potato cakes, and finished with coconut rhubarb tart and a cloud-like chocolate cake. My range will be there for a good while longer if you are passing by, and we’ve added a few more seasonal favourites to the mix.
One of the most popular dishes around the table were these little Persian bakes, so I thought I’d share the recipe.
I love the Persian way of eating: the spices, the sharing and the sense of family. One of my best friends, Mersedeh, is from a family of incredible Persian cooks and I remember eating these little bakes, kookoo shabzi, a generously herbed kind of Persian frittata, at their family parties. I get my fix of these now at a great Persian stall on Broadway Market in Hackney, where kookoos are made in dainty little portions.
These are my version. I expect they veer a long way from the original (especially with the addition of peas), but they are my homage to Persian food and family in all its colourful, highly flavoured glory. I’ve been told the key to a good kookoo shabzi is to use an equal amount of each herb so the flavours are balanced, and to gently cook the herbs first to release all their water. I serve them with a beetroot labneh (salted yoghurt) and some leaves and flatbreads.
PERSIAN PEA + HERB LITTLE BAKES WITH BEETROOT LABNEH
I have purposely planned this recipe so that you have a few of these little kookoos left over, as I want you to try how great they are thrown into a wrap with some pickles and a drizzle of tahini for lunch the next day.
FOR THE BAKES
a good pinch of saffron strands
400g frozen peas
4 spring onions
a bunch of fresh mint
a bunch of fresh dill
a bunch of fresh chives
a bunch of fresh parsley
a little olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander
6 free-range or organic eggs
1 green chilli
FOR THE BEETROOT LABNEH
2 small cooked beetroots
8 tablespoons good, thick Greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon tahini
1 unwaxed lemon
a small handful of walnuts
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas 7. Fill and boil a kettle and get all your ingredients and equipment together. Put a non-stick frying pan on the heat. You’ll also need a non-stick 12-hole muffin tin. Once the kettle has boiled, soak the saffron in a little boiling water (about 25ml). Put the peas into a heatproof bowl and cover with more boiling water. Finely chop the spring onions, then finely chop all the herbs to a more or less even size. Heat a little oil in the hot frying pan and add the onions, all but a little pinch of the herbs and all the ground coriander. Stir for 1–2 minutes, until softened and wilted.
Whisk the eggs in a large mixing jug or bowl, then add the saffron liquid, drained peas and the wilted herbs and spring onions. Chop the chilli finely and add that too, season with sea salt and black pepper. Mix well.
Drizzle a tiny bit of oil into each hole of a 12-hole muffin tin and jiggle it around a bit to coat the holes. Pop the muffin tin into the oven for 30 seconds for the oil to warm up. Then take the tin out of the oven and pour the batter into each hole, to come two-thirds of the way up. Place in the hot oven for 10–12 minutes, until cooked through and slightly golden.
While the bakes are cooking, grate the beetroots into a bowl. Add the yoghurt, a really good pinch of salt, the tahini and the juice and zest of the lemon, mix well, then break over the walnuts and scatter the remaining herbs over the top.
Serve two bakes each, with warm flatbreads, salad leaves and generous spoonfuls of the beetroot labneh.
Thank you to April Preston, Gurd Loyal and Louisa Levison for all their help in making the event such a success.
Persian bakes image: Matt Russell
Table images: Jess Lea-Wilson