MAST O KHIAR
COLD CUCUMBER SOUP WITH PLUMP RAISINS,
WALNUTS, MINT AND SPRING ONIONS
Iranians eat a lot of cucumbers. They’re considered more of a fruit than a vegetable and eaten as such. The cucumbers in Iran are small, juicy and packed with flavour. When you bite into one, the smell fills the whole room. At parties, they’re piled high, with some rock salt on the side for sprinkling.
This yogurt and cucumber soup is an example of a perfectly balanced ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ dish ‘cold’ yogurt is mixed with ‘hot’ walnuts and raisins, with fresh herbs for easy digestion. Here, I’ve used different types of yogurts to mimic the texture and slightly sour taste of yogurt made in the villages of Iran. You can also use just natural full-fat or even fat-free yogurt, mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice. One of my best foodie friends Maryam Samiy uses champagne grapes instead of raisins, which adds a whole new dimension to this dish.
1 large cucumber, semi peeled, seeded and diced, or 6 small cucumbers, diced
400g (13oz) 1 1/2 cups low fat Greek yogurt, or crême fraiche
200g (7oz) 3/4 cup full-fat natural yogurt
200g (7oz) 3/4 cup soured cream
50g (2oz) 1/2 cup raisins
4 tbsp roasted walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp dried mint
3 tarragon sprigs, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
fresh pepper, to taste
1 tsp dried rose petals, to decorate (optional)
Mix all the ingredients except the rose petals together in a large bowl. But if preparing in advance, add the cucumbers at the last minute so that they stay crunchy and don’t give out too much juice. You can also slice the cucumber first, sprinkle with salt, leave for an hour in a colander, run under the tap to remove the excess salt, dry the slices and then dice them. They’ll be extra crunchy and will not go limp the next day in case you have any soup left over.
Sprinkle the soup with rose petals and serve in individual bowls. On a hot day, add a few ice cubes.