The Weird Dish- Gourds and Eggplant

My feast last Sunday night (Fall Coronation of Valbrandr and Cerric) was mostly from the 16th century Maddat ol-Hayat, translated by MR Ghanoonparvar and published as “Dining at the Safavid Court”. Saturday night I cooked a few dishes for our household dinner. I’m growing bottle gourds this year and I’ve been overwhelmed by the harvest, so I’m finding lots of medieval references and recipes for bottle gourds. Ghanoonparvar translated something as “zucchini”. We know that there was no zucchini in 16th century Persia, so since I have found copious evidence of bottle gourds being consumed in all the areas around Persia, I assert that these references to zucchini are actually bottle gourds (or another edible gourd, they are basically interchangeable).

Chapter 3- On the Varieties of Burani

The method of preparation of burani is that meat is sauteed with onions and spices and broth is added until it is cooked, to which cinnamon sticks, cloves, and caraway seeds are added in addition to zucchini cut into small pieces. And it should have very little water, because zucchini gives out moisture. Small meatballs should be dropped on the top of the zucchini, and the herbs for this dish are spinach, leeks, and mint. Eggplants are boiled separately, browned, and placed on top. Thickened yogurt with dry mint and garlic are poured over the burani after it is cooked on the top of which qeymeh is sprinkled.

Qeymeh-ye Kadu

This dish is also called Qeymeh Qabaq. Its method of preparation is that minced meat is cooked along with onions and spices, to which zucchini is added and cooked. Yogurt is a requisite.

*Qeymeh means “cooked, minced meat

Unfortunately I didn’t have the book right in front of me when I got down to the actual cooking, so I ended up making a mash-up between the two dishes. A unique ingredient to this cuisine is dehydrated and reconstituted whey, called kashk. It’s almost toffee-colored, thicker than strained yogurt, and intensely salty. It is an alternate ingredient in several “yogurt” toppings in this manuscript, so since I actually found some in my local Indian grocery store I decided to try it out.

4 Japanese eggplants, cut into pieces
1 large bottle gourd, peeled, cored and cut into pieces
2 large onions
1/2 tsp turmeric
sweet sesame oil
an entire head of garlic, peeled and chopped/smashed
2 lb ground beef (this should be lamb! or goat)
1 c kashk
dried mint
more chopped/smashed garlic
pepper

We were cooking over charcoal, so I ended up using a large cast-iron wok. I heated a generous amount of sesame oil and fried the gourd, eggplant, and onion until the eggplant basically disintegrated and the vegetables were dry and frying again, then added the garlic and turmeric. Then I fried the ground meat separately with a bit of cinnamon and fennel seed (I didn’t have caraway) until it was a bit crispy. In a separate bowl, I mixed the kashk, a bit of whole-fat yogurt, dried mint, and some crushed garlic. To serve it, I spread the meat over the fried mashed vegetables. I served the kashk sauce separately but it should be poured over the top. This fed 12-ish people as a side dish.

Sorry for the weird turban thing, there was a strong wind and my hair was out of control so I just wrapped my dupatta around my head. This is just the fried vegetables, the dish wasn’t finished until after dark.

This was absolutely delicious. It’s not an attractive-looking dish, mostly brown mushy stuff, but man was it good. Gourd softens but never turn to mush like zucchini or eggplant. So the texture is lovely and silky, even if it’s rather on the “brown goo” side of dishes. I cut this from the feast menu because I was worried it would be too weird but everyone loved it. I would definitely include this in another Persian feast.

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