Easy everyday dishes from Sabrina Ghayour’s new cookbook, Simply
Sabrina Ghayour’s recipe books are amongst those used most regularly in my kitchen. I can rely on them for no-nonsense recipes that always please the family. Great ideas with chicken and fish, veg and rice, bulgar, spices, cheese and more. Persian in influence, Ghayour’s recipes are adept at adding twists or making dishes less complicated yet remaining packed with flavour. I am a fan. there are recipes that have become staples in my household from each of her previous cookbooks. Hers are books I give as gifts to friends, confident that they too will find dishes to tempt those at their dinner tables.
Simply (Octopus Books) is the fifth of Ghayour’s books and, as anticipated, has plenty to keep readers busy. I don’t cook red meat any longer so I was concerned that Simply might not be for me as it is quite meat-heavy, yet I found many recipes to put to work. Ghayour is much admired in the kitchens of home cooks as she herself is a self-taught cook turned chef, now cookery teacher and an award-winning food writer. She is very engaging with a strong online presence and is often very ‘real’ with her audience about her wellbeing.
Simply is a collection of Ghayour’s favourite Persian recipes that she recalls from her childhood. These make up a substantial chapter entitled Traditions with a Twist where Ghayour provides recipes for green hummus, butternut borani, kofte, falafel, kabab, tahchin, and albaloo polow. I was rather sad to have removed red meat from my diet when reading through recipes for lamb and sour cherries, braised lamb neck, lamb and bulgar meatballs and beef and caramelized onion pide.
Still, I did not feel deprived when I got to work on some of the other dishes. Ghayour’s recipes are always full of taste. In her brilliant book, Bazaar, she sometimes got carried away by her love of rose harissa. In Simply, many of the dishes I attempted had in common preserved lemons, tahini and the zest and juice of a plump lime.
From ‘Traditions with a Twist’ I started with butternut borani as this is one of my favourite side dishes. I usually make it with spinach so was intrigued by the chance to make it with a squash.
Thereafter I mainly cooked from the section entitled Effortless eating which could be renamed effortless cooking. Courgette recipes are always welcome in my kitchen as I cook with these several times a week. Charred courgettes with lemon, oregano and pul biber could not be easier and are utterly delish. I will certainly be making them again. Simply slice into thin rounds, anoint with olive oil zest of a lemon, dried wild oregano, salt and pepper and pul biber chilli flakes. Later some lemon juice. The key is the pul biber chilli flakes as these lift the courgettes onto a level of spiciness that keeps one coming back for more. I would recommend making an extra tray as these are as good cold the next day as a side salad or part of a mezze selection. They are very versatile and would make good conversation with just about anything else on your plate.
I served the charred courgettes with spice-rubbed spatchcocked poussin and tomato and garlic rice. I was rather proud of myself for finally – after decades in the kitchen – learning to spatchcock a bird. It is one of those slightly fiddly but very easy manoeuvres and is a game-changer once you have mastered it. The bird cooks so quickly when it has its backbone removed and is flattened out. The recipe calls for overnight marinading if possible and I would recommend this as the flavour was gorgeous, having spent twenty-four hours bathed in olive oil, lemon juice, toasted and ground coriander seeds, chilli flakes, garlic and dried marjoram. I roasted it as instructed for a mere 30 minutes, but it would also be great on a BBQ in the summer.
The tomato and garlic rice was so quick and easy and typifies Ghayour’s helpfulness to the busy cook. Onions went into a pot unsautéed, along with garlic, parsley, butter, tomato puree, garlic granules, ground coriander, zest and juice of a lemon, water, and basmati rice. Half an hour later a tasty, colourful, and warming rice dish presented itself.
Having lots of rice left over, I set about marinating chicken breasts in turmeric and spices and left them overnight along with the easiest cannellini bean mash. The next day I skewered the breasts, three minutes on each side allowing them to just cook through but remain tender. They were the colour of the summer sun and paired well with warm cannellini beans (dressed with preserved lemon) and a green bean salad dressed quickly with preserved lemons, tahini and garlic. Not the most exciting salad perhaps, but it went well with the kebabs.
From the cakes, bakes and sweet treats section I made lime and black pepper frozen yoghurt which, unfortunately, did not work for me. I would reduce the amount of black pepper for starters – I found the amount overpowering. Perhaps not having an ice cream machine reduced the quality of this dish; I used the old-fashioned method of freezing the mixture and stirring the crystals every hour for four hours.
It occurred to me that many of the dishes are perfect for those working at home right now. During a lunch break I popped a pile of butterbeans into an ovenproof dish, tossed in a punnet of halved, cherry plum tomatoes, bashed up a few garlic cloves, a shake of oregano, a spoon of tomato puree and olive oil. This continued to mind its own business, slow cooking until my tea break. (You can find the recipe at the end of this review). When I knocked off for the day, I whipped up a marinade of yoghurt, rose harissa, paprika, turmeric and garlic, poured it over my salmon fillets and in 10 minutes dinner was on the table. The butter beans were slick with garlicky oil and a fine accompaniment to the spicy fish which reminded me of tandoori. I served both with a simple avocado salad dressed with lime juice. I think Ghayour would have approved.
Simply is yet another book from Sabrina Ghayour that I can recommend. When I review cookbooks I usually try out three to four recipes. With Simply I could not restrict my choice and ended up making 10 of the recipes which, covering poultry, fish and veggie, are perfect for flexitarians. Meat lovers will enjoy the book as much. Over the festive season, it will be super useful to have some simple recipes to create when the kitchen gets busy and you want to warm those eating at your table over the winter.
A slow-cooked dish of garlicky pulses and tomatoes perfect for vegetarians
- 250 grams dried butter beans
- 250 grams baby plum tomatoes halved
- 4-6 cloves garlic peeled and bashed but kept whole
- 1 handful fresh oregano roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree heaped
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 50 grams butter
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 700 ml cold water
- Maldon sea salt
- Black pepper freshly ground
Soak the beans for 8-10 hours or overnight in cold water.
Drain the beans
Preheat oven to 180 C (160 C fan). Gas Mark 4
Add all the ingredients, except the water, to an ovenproof dish. Mix well together.
Pour over enough of the cold water to ensure that all the beans are covered.
Bake for two hours until the beans are completely soft. You can check how the beans are coming on after about a 90 minutes as beans differ in their cooking time depending on their age. Top up with more water if necessary.
Serve hot, along with crusty bread.
Read about more of my favourite new cookery books on London-Unattached. I’ve just been reading The Food Almanac by Miranda York, which comes highly recommended if like me you enjoy reading about food as much as discovering new recipes to try. And, Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi and Ixta Belfrage has given me a great new set of recipes to try too.
If you’d like to buy Simply by Sabrina, you’ll find it for sale in most good bookshops and online at Amazon retailing at around £26.