Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I May Not Speak Farsi, But I Can Make A Mean Khoresh

No, not really. I mean yes, really, I don't speak Farsi. But no, I really don't make a great Khoresh. In fact, Jason has informed me that I don't even pronounce Khoresh properly. If I can't say it, I sure shouldn't try to cook it.
Our local homeschool group has an International Dinner every year. Each family that participates selects a country and creates a display about the country. Then they cook a dinner dish and dessert that is typical of their country.

Our family picked Iran. Really we only picked it because Jason speaks Farsi and he knows a great deal about Iran and their customs. He even has an autographed Persian cookbook. That meant I could hit him up for information and he could be involved in the project even if he's more than 10,000 miles away.

The kids chatted with Daddy weeks ago and he helped them answer questions about Iran for a lapbook they were creating. They had a lot of fun! And then I asked Jason if I could borrow some of his Persian items for our display.

But first, we had to cook our meal. And I don't really like to cook at all. I love to eat, but don't love to cook. I probably should have married a chef. Anyway, here's the meal we created...

From "New Food of Life" by Najmieh Batmanglij
Orange Khoresh

I started by mixing this special Persian spice mix called advieh. Basically you just measure and stir these spices together but the challenge is locating some of the obscure ingredients.

2 tbsp ground dried rose petals
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground angelica
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp dried Persian lime powder
Next comes the fun part...

I chopped up 2 tsp of pistachios and set them aside. And I made quite a mess doing this too.
Here are the ingredients for the Khoresh:

2 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lbs chicken legs (cut)
1/3 cup oil
1 tbsp flour
2 tbsp slivered orange peel
1 tsp advieh (see above)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
2 large carrots
4 oranges
2 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

2 tsp slivered pistachios
2 tsp slivered almonds

In a Dutch oven, brown the onions and chicken in 3 tbsp of oil.
Sprinkle in 1 tbsp flour and mix well. Add orange peel, advieh, salt, and pepper. Pour in the OJ. Cover and simmer for 35 minutes.
Slice the carrots into thin slivers. Saute in 2 tbsp oil for a few minutes and then add carrots to the chicken. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.
Peel the oranges and segment them.

In a saucepan, combine the vinegar, lime juice, sugar and saffron water. (This will smell awful.) Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat.
Remove from heat and add the oranges. Set aside for 10 minutes. Then transfer the stew to a casserole dish and arrange oranges on top.
Just before serving, sprinkle the stew with slivered pistachios and almonds. Serve hot with rice.
It doesn't look too bad and the chicken was actually pretty darn tasty. The oranges were really bitter though. I couldn't get past the pungent odor from the oranges but once they were added to the stew it wasn't as smelly. Obviously I'm not Persian and have zero experience cooking with these spices. Overall, this is a really nice meal to try if you want to impress someone with your awesome Persian cooking skills. Too bad Jason missed out. He's probably the only one that would have appreciated this meal!
For dessert, I already knew that most of the traditional Persian desserts are a bit... odd. They include ingredients such as mint and yogurt. In the same dish. Jason warned me to stay away from dishes such as these. I happily obliged. I've eaten traditional Persian food before because I used to have some dear friends who brought me meals when we used to work together. I know to be wary of certain foods.

We picked the Coconut Cookies as our Iranian dessert. They looked simple and I didn't think we could go wrong with coconut.

Coconut Cookies

4 eggs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup melted butter or oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sifted flour
2 cups dried grated coconut
2 tbsp ground pistachios for decoration
In a mixing bowl, mix eggs, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Gradually add in flour while mixing. Batter should be smooth. Fold in coconut. (Kids love to help with this part!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper. (I used a silicon baking mat instead.) Drop batter by the teaspoonful on the sheet. Decorate with ground pistachios. (Kids loved dumping the pistachios on top of the cookies!)Bake 15-20 minutes. (We baked for 12 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cookies cool.Enjoy!

These were really good. They aren't too sweet and they were easy to make. The kids devoured them.
Once we had our meal ready we headed to the church to set up our display. Matthew and Joshua worked with David (my nephew) to create the display board and contributed their lapbooks to the project. We brought several items to display, including a bootleg Shrek movie in Farsi, a hookah, and some Iranian jewelry. Jason has some weird things, I know. The hookah has never been used but in Iran they smoke flavored tobacco from it. I have no idea where the bootleg Shrek movie was found, but Jason has several movies dubbed in Farsi and once I caught him listening to some crazy Farsi techno in his truck. He's immersed himself in Persian culture I guess. He cracks me up! (Geez, I miss him!)
The kids all went around the room to see each display and answer questions about the other countries. Of course we all enjoyed the interesting foods too! It was so much fun and a great learning experience for my kids.I was proud of how the boys worked together on this project. Matthew is not the easiest kid to work with but fortunately Joshua is the most patient and forgiving child I've ever seen. God spaced my children perfectly.
Not everyone was excited about the dinner. Leila and Nathan both took a nice nap instead.

Matthew and Joshua really loved going from table to table collecting charms to hang on their little "wand." They had one from each country and were challenging each other to collect them all. It was a pretty fun night!

This is a perfect example of why I love homeschooling. I do love it and I will not give it up.

For the record, I was never actually considering putting the boys in public school. My mother pressures me to do it but I've gotten pretty good at ignoring her advice. Last week she told me to put the boys in school and wean the babies. I just let it go in one ear and out the other. She means well but she has no idea what she's talking about sometimes.

We will continue to homeschool through this transition because it is what is best for my children. And I do feel that God has called me to do it. (Although some people do not think that's a good enough reason!) Whatever happens, we will learn and grow from it. We learn lessons in the strangest places! I wouldn't have it any other way.

P.S.- Check out my interview here!
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