"I come from Iran where I lived until five years ago. Persian cuisine has a special place in my heart but inspiration comes from everywhere." -Maryam Sinaiee
Are you hungry? Want to "beet" those hunger cravings? Welcome to Tasty Tuesdays! I am thrilled and honored to introduce the remarkable Maryam Sinaiee who consistently teaches me new ways to eat beets and how to incorporate more Persian-fusion cuisine(s) in my kitchen. We became beet lovin' friends via social media where I discovered her delightfully delicious Beet & Yogurt Salad with Pomegranate Seeds. As I learned from Maryam, "Dressing cooked beets with yoghurt is very common in Iran." Since discovering her incredible recipes, I have been actively following her food blog, soaking up as much information as possible about Persian-fusion cuisine and other delicious recipes she shares. I greatly admire Maryam's experimental spirit as she uses recipes that have been passed down to her in the family while adding her own culinary flair, introducing new ingredients to create incredible fusions of flavors! In this Tasty Tuesday's interview, Maryam shares her blogging journey, unique ways to eat beets, and an introduction to Persian-fusion cuisine.
MEET MARYAM: passionate home cook, Persian-fusion cuisine experimenter, Iranian political analyst, United Kingdom dweller, savvy spice educator, and inspirational food blogger.
Interview with Maryam Sinaiee from The Persian Fusion
I would love to know more about you and your website, The Persian Fusion. Tell us about yourself and what inspired your fabulous blog.
"I come from Iran where I lived until five years ago. Persian cuisine has a special place in my heart but inspiration comes from everywhere. I love other Middle Eastern cuisines, Italian, Spanish, Indian and many other cuisines too. I try to make myself familiar with other cuisines through reading and experimenting in my own kitchen.
When I decide to cook classic Persian dishes I obviously try to follow the recipes handed down to me in the family but more often than not I just look in the fridge and the pantry to see what I have to hand and how I can combine ingredients to make something new and tasty. I always hunt for new ingredients when I travel. When I get home I can’t wait to experiment with my new finds. Very often I have no idea what the dish is going to turn out like. I keep tasting and adjusting the flavours but that’s where all the fun is, to get to the point when I think “that’s it”.
I wanted to share my kitchen adventures with others so one day, early May last year, I decided to start a blog. I had never blogged before and didn’t know a thing. I decided to call it The Persian Fusion because I wanted to post the recipes I create most of which are inspired or influenced by Persian cuisine as well as others that I just love making but are not Persian dishes.
A few days later I posted my first recipe. I shared it on twitter and facebook. Then came another post and another post and I enjoyed it so much I got completely hooked. I post a recipe almost every two weeks. That’s the time I need for testing, taking pictures and writing up. I work full-time and my day job is totally unrelated to food so most of that has to happen during the weekend. The feedback I get from my friends on social media platforms is very encouraging so here I am, a year later, still enjoying blogging as much as I did when I began, maybe even more!"
Let's talk beets. Why do you cook with beets? How do you prefer using beetroots and/or beet greens in dishes? Is there any specific way beets are prepared in Persian cuisine?
"Our diet is quite healthy. We generally eat a lot of vegetables and leafy greens. We put tiny cucumbers in the fruit bowl and are usually happy with having fruit or melons instead of dessert. On cold days you can always spot street vendors pushing mobile carts filled with piping hot syrup-glazed baked beets threaded on upright skewers around a tray filled with more beets and syrup and heated from below. People eat the beets from small plates, right there, or take a few big ones home to reheat and share with the family.
Cooked or baked glazed beets are added to salads when they are in season. People also like to mix chopped cooked sweet beets into yoghurt and have it as a light sweet ending to their meals or as snack. Beets also go into a lot of different soups. Our soups are usually filled with leafy greens (including beet leaves), vegetables and legumes. It’s really a shame that nowadays unhealthy snacks and fast food are changing the well-balanced diet that I grew up with."
What are 2 or 3 of your favorite beet recipes featured on your blog? Are there any beet recipes in “the works”?
"The very easy Beet & Yoghurt Salad with Pomegranate Seeds is one of my all time favourites. I also love the Beetroot and Chocolate Mini Bundt Cake recipe. I use the juices from cooking beets as food colouring, so my Persian Rosewater & Vanilla Ice Cream with beet juice. I’m hoping to write up the recipe for a sweet and sour beet and beet leaves soup. It’s a delicious herby vegan soup flavoured with herbs and vinegar."
Are there specific herbs and spices within authentic Persian cuisine that best compliment beetroots and beet greens?
"Not really. Persian dishes are usually very subtly spiced. Beets are preferred plain. In soups that include beets there is turmeric most of the time. It’s one of the most used spices in Persian cuisine."
How would you describe Persian-fusion flavors, dishes, ingredients, etc.?
"I create my fusion recipes by mimicking Persian flavours in dishes I make with non-Persian ingredients, using non-Persian cooking techniques with Persian ingredients or introducing non-Persian ingredients to Persian dishes. Persian (also known as Iranian) cuisine is very diverse. Our country is huge and has so many different climates. So I guess it’s best to say Persian cuisines rather than cuisine.
The food in the north (to the south of the Caspian Sea) where the climate is Mediterranean is flavoured with garlic and herbs and just a subtle hint of spices. There are lots of fish recipes from that region. In the south (to the north of the Persian Gulf) we have almost tropical climate and food is quite spicy due to Indian influence. In southern regions they eat a lot of fish too. In the regions lying between these two regions seafood is eaten only rarely primarily because of availability.
We use a lot of nuts and dried fruit in our cooking. Meat is mostly lamb, chicken or beef. Our rice dishes are refined and varied. We love rice. We generally use spices quite sparingly but our beloved saffron is an exception. We love to add it to both sweet and savoury dishes." -Maryam Sinaiee
This interview was incredibly humbling and thought-provoking as there are vast ways to use spices and diverse ingredients in recipes that I have yet to create or experiment with in the kitchen. Learning about the various climates that impact food preparation in Persian cuisines absolutely excites me as there is much to discover and analyze about climate and cultural impact on foods. It is bloggers like Maryam who continually inspire me to grow, invent, and adventurously create flavorful dishes and delve deeper into my love affair with food, especially beets!
Thanks, Maryam for sharing your remarkable love for food and Persian-fusion cuisine(s). You teach me new things every day! Inspired by Maryam? Stop by The Persian Fusion and follow Maryam for more delicious recipes and thoughtful information.
All photos provided by Maryam from The Persian Fusion.