Have you been following along with my Seasoning Series? I started off with some familiar blends and showed you how I make them AIP friendly. First with Taco Seasoning, then moving on to a dairy free Ranch Seasoning. I’m kicking off week three with something a little different: Persian Seasoning! You know I’m always on the lookout for inspiring ingredients and cuisines that help bring flavor back to a healing diet and lately I’ve been obsessed with Persian, or Iranian, food and its influences. What’s not to love? Persian cuisine is packed with vegetable-heavy dishes that celebrate fresh and vibrant herbs, tart additions like dried sour fruits and tangy pomegranate molasses, plus fun, new-to-me flavor twists like the floral finish of rose petals or the perfume of orange blossom water.
As a child growing up relatively poor in the nineties, my food experiences were limited to anything cheap that came out of a packet, can or package. We moved a lot, shunted around from government housing project to project at the whim of faceless bureaucrats. I learned to be cautious. You never knew if the person you moved next door to was violent, dangerous or maybe just like you: someone in circumstances a little bigger than you had bargained for, now floundering in a new world of society’s rejects. Occasionally though, I was lucky enough to make new friends among the oddballs in these crazy communal living conditions.
One day I spotted a newbie: wide eyed and skittish, just as I’d been before I learned to mask any vulnerability in the face of the unknown. Although we couldn’t have looked any different – me the dowdy English kid in second hand clothes and her the simultaneously furtive yet flamboyant girl who had had to flee with her family from the war ravaging her home – I think we were both so curious about each other we became instant friends in the way only kids do.
When she invited me to her place after school one day, it had never occurred to me that she would eat any differently to the way we did at home. So you can imagine my surprise when I wandered into her living room to find a fully fledged feast laid out in the middle of the carpet! I’d like to say I acted indifferently, as though it was an everyday occurrence for me to see more food on the floor than I could eat in a week set out in an array of strange looking dishes, but the truth is my eyes probably reached a size of cartoon-proportions. I’d also love to be able to tell you that this was the beginning of my love for Persian food and that it was the inspiration behind this Persian Seasoning, but the truth is that it’s something I’m now (re)discovering as an adult who somewhat knows her way around a kitchen, if not all the ingredients!
But what I do want to share is how that meal made me feel. Although I was awkward and had no idea where to sit, what to eat or how to speak to my friend’s mama, I remember the warmth. How it felt to truly share a meal with others instead of eating a freezer meal off a tray in front of the TV. How exciting and terrifying it was to try something new. How astonishing it was to see so many family members living together spanning generations and yet feel the love that they shared. I don’t remember a damn thing about the actual food. What I do remembers just how that meal brought those people together. It connected them and included me in the experience of living and loving others.
Now if you go a-Googling, you’ll see that when you look for Persian seasoning blends, you’ll inevitably come across some version of a blend called advieh, which is the backbone of flavor when it comes to many Persian dishes. It’s a mild, warm blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg and rose petals that could be compared to a garam masala blend. (See Melissa Joulwan’s take on it here). Often variations will add ingredients like black pepper, coriander, caraway, nutmeg, pistachio and turmeric. I’m actually tinkering with a recipe along those lines that would be AIP friendly, but that’s not what this Persian Seasoning blend is about.
This mix was inspired by the plate of mixed herbs served piled high alongside so many Persian meals, sabzi khordan. It’s common to have a variety of fresh herbs on the table for people to enjoy with their meal, such as basil, cilantro, cress, dill, fenugreek, green onions, mint, parsley, radish and tarragon. This Persian Seasoning recipe is a riff on that idea, made into a convenient dried herb blend.
What I love about this Persian Seasoning mix is that it’s a blend of the familiar – dill, parsley, cilantro and chives – and the more novel. I don’t tend to use dried mint in my cooking very often and both the fenugreek leaves and dried lime are a little out of the ordinary, too! The result of combining them is a mix that is fragrant, light and bright. It’s not jarringly strange, but it’s not instantly recognizable either. Added to burgers, meatballs, soups or sauces, it’s subtle but interesting enough that people will usually ask me what I’ve used to season a dish and then ask for the recipe. (If you want to learn more about fenugreek, dried lime, where to buy them and where to use ’em in your cooking, I wrote about them both here).
As always with my Seasoning Series, I’ve kept this blend salt free because (a) I don’t like filler and (b) I like to salt dishes individually as I find pre-salted mixes can accidentally overpower a dish. This recipe will make you about a 1/2 cup (20 g) of Persian Seasoning which will juuuuust fit in a repurposed glass spice jar if you mix it up by hand instead of grinding it. Grinding the seasoning in a spice mill is totally optional, but will give you a finer texture that is easier to shake out of the standard spice jars with shaker lids: fenugreek can have little stems attached to the leaves (like in the photo above) so a few pulses in a spice mill will help break those up a bit.
Not too long after that dinner (and a lesson in Iranian dancing that I’m pretty sure I bombed), I switched schools. And in the days before texting and emails, that was the social kiss of death. I never did find out what happened to my friend after I left. But every now and then I like to imagine her thinking back to that weird little English kid who had no idea what to do when she came to dinner.
Use this blend here: Herbed Persian Meatballs with Apricots
Did you miss my earlier AIP Seasoning Series posts?
This post was included in the AIP Recipe Roundtable.Print
- Yield: 1/2 cup / 20 g 1x
- MIX: Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir to combine evenly.
- PULSE: This step is totally optional, but if you would like a finer texture, transfer all the ingredients to a spice mill and pulse a few times until you break up any fenugreek stems and get the texture you prefer.
- STORE: Keep in an airtight container at room temperature. This makes just about the right amount to fit in a 3 1/2 – 4 oz glass herb or spice jar.