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Persian Love Cake and a Marriage Proposal

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Heavily spiced and beautifully balanced – Iranian cuisine is definitely a new interest of mine. I was lucky enough to attend a Persian dinner party on Saturday with some good friends. I was also fortunate enough to receive a marriage proposal! Of course I accepted – so this has definitely been a Valentine’s weekend to remember. In fact, it has been the best weekend I’ve had for a long time – the food was exceptional, the proposal unexpected and the hangover, well rather inevitable.

I’m not one to attend a dinner party empty handed. Of course taking wine is perfectly expectable, but whipping up a delicious, decadent dessert is even better. Given that the theme for the evening was Persian food, I set about researching some recipes and I found myself confused as to why I hadn’t discovered Iranian food sooner. It all looks so wonderfully unfamiliar and exotic – that excites me a little. There is certainly nothing boring about cardamom, saffron and rose water all rolled into the one recipe. I stumbled upon a recipe for a Persian Love Cake on the brilliant Twigg Studios blog written by Aimee Twigger. What better recipe for a Persian dinner party on Valentine’s weekend?

There is something quite wonderful about a cake decorated with crimson rose petals and bright green pistachios – it’s a real show-stopper. I couldn’t quite believe how well it complemented the Raan (roast leg of lamb in yogurt that Bryan cooked) with spiced side dishes of spinach, cauliflower, rice and potatoes.

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Our friend Bryan’s surname is Haines and we call him the Haines Manual, because he is a endless fountain of knowledge. I asked him for the Raan recipe and he bought out this book, the cover fell apart from the pages as I opened it – obviously a rather old and well used book. Bryan tells me it has many a delicious Iranian recipe – The Yoghurt Book by Arto Der Haroutunian (Syrian born). The book was first published in 1983, but I’m hoping I can find a copy online. I will have a go at the dish myself at some point and share the recipe with you, once I have photographs to go with it.

The Persian Love Cake was made with many of the same ingredients, cardamom, saffron, almonds and complemented the meal beautifully. You can view the recipe here.

I still can’t quite believe that I’m engaged – let the wedding planning commence.

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salad

Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad



When I’ve nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we’ve grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.
I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn’t follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.
The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?
Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 
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Halloumi Salad

This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I’m going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.
I’m trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I’m constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.
It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill
Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.
Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.
Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately.