Categories: Food & Drink

Simi’s Kitchen – a taste of Persia in Bath

Bath is better known for its Georgian splendour than for Persian cuisine – but Simi’s Kitchen is proving to be an irresistible attraction for tourists and locals alike.

Simi Rezi is a cookery teacher and author, who also undertakes private cooking assignments.   She told British Muslim:

“I only came to cookery when I was in my thirties after doing my PHD.  I am Azerbhijani, and my family lived on the Silk Road at Tabriz.  It is the equivalent of Bologna in Italy, the food capital of Iran.  I come from a foodie background. My grandmother fermented cheese and yoghurt, and I’ve always been interested.”

Despite this food heritage, she began her career in a very different sector – working for corporate businesses such as HSBC, London Underground and eventually moved to Toronto for a while. It was only after moving to Bath that her interest in food developed into a career. 

“One of my friend’s children was diagnosed coeliac.  My friend remembered how I had cooked rice and grains, and came over to me to learn how to cook grains.  She told other people, and other friends came to learn and it grew organically.  Soon people came to learn how to cook food from my heritage.”

Since then, demand has grown steadily arousing considerable interest in Persian cuisine. It is easy to see why it has become so popular when considering the key characteristics – fragrant, seasonal, fresh and surprisingly vegetarian.  There is very little meat used in this type of cookery and the meals are served with rice, vegetables and flatbreads.

Simi now finds herself holding cooking sessions and demonstrations of Middle Eastern & Iranian cuisine in a wide range of locations. “I have cooked in all types of places including in the middle of a field with no electricity, in parks, in National Trust houses and even a hotel billiard room!  Cooking in a kitchen on my own induction cooker is a luxury.  I could be cooking for a corporate event, a few people or a group of forty plus.”

She also holds classes on a regular basis teaching different types of Persian and Middle Eastern food for example:

Persian Feast focusing on Kashk bademjan (an aubergine dip with Kashk, a dairy based sauce with walnuts) and Zereshk Polow ( rice with emerald pistachios, ruby barberries and canary diamonds saffron almonds) all of which is served with saffron coated chicken.

Vegan Moorish Medly with seasonal Arabic, Turkish, Persian, Azeri dishes such as salads, taayer, muddadarsh, mutable, freekeh and tagines

A rice masterclass in which rice is cooked in three different ways such as Zereshkpolow, Baghali polow (dill and broad bean rice), Advieh polow (rose petal and spice scented rice, Tahchin (rice with egg and yoghurt tah-dig) and a saffron & rosewater rice pudding known as Sholeh zard.

“I do a regular class in Bath which can be booked, and also private classes for groups or people who come to Bath and stay in a B&B.  Each cooking session lasts around three hours maximum and it depends on what they want.  It often relates to allergies.  I do vegan, vegetarian, a little fish, lamb or chicken. I teach five or six dishes, demonstrate and then we eat the food.”

A popular dish is Iranian rice, a type of pilau rice. 

She says, “I show how it can be cooked in two stages. You cook the rice to al dente, then put in a pot and layer it with various flavours.  It could be cumin, rosewater, saffron, curry spices.  There is a layer of rice, then a flavour, then another layer of rice, a flavour and so on until the pot is full. It is covered with a cloth, and then a lid.  Leave it on a gentle heat and it will cook to leave a crust on the outside, and soft fluffy rice inside.  We tend to fight over the crispy bits – they are so nice!”

One of the more unusual ingredients in Persian style cookery is a fermented food known as Qurut, Simi explains how it is used: 

“It can be purchased on Ebay, Amazon or in middle eastern food stores under the name Kashk.  Qurut started as a way of preserving milk to make yoghurt, cheese. After churning butter from the buttermilk, the remainder is boiled down and put into a bag. The whey runs off leaving a residue behind. This is turned into balls, and left to dry in the sun.  It can keep for up to a year. You can eat it as a snack, grind it up and add to meals or soak it and make into a paste.”  

Simi has now been commissioned to write a book on Fermented Dairy Products of Central Asia.  She explains ”Fermented products originated in central Asia and I will be talking to archaeologists about the evidence found on pottery for these foods, as well as exploring how they are used in everything from yoghurts to kimchi.  Fermented foods are good for biodynamic diets, and help people to live well and healthily.  There is so much we can do with fermented dairy products including drinking, eating, putting on skin and cooking with it.”

SUMMER RECIPE PROVIDED BY SIMI FOR BRITISH MUSLIM MAGAZINE

Beetroot Rubies

4 medium beetroot, boiled in the skin then peeled and diced.  You can also get vacuum packed cooked beetroot (not pickled).
1 small garlic made into a paste or smooshed
1 – 2 tablespoon of pomegranate molasses – or more depending on the flavour of the molasses and your taste
1/8th tsp of ground white pepper
1/8th tsp of fine salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Optional extras, for crunch, toasted nuts, seeds or spices e.g. coriander seeds
If you’d like, you can crumble feta cheese on top as a garnish or to make the dish more substantial


Boil, peel and chop the beetroot to your liking, I like it in 1cm cubes. 

Mix the dressing ingredients and then pour and mix into the beetroot cubes.  

Leave it, then taste, adjust seasoning if required and serve a few hours later or next day.  

Just before serving sprinkle with the crunchy seeds, nuts or spices and cheese if using.

www.simiskitchenblog.wordpress.com

Dr. Simi Rezai-Ghassemi is a cookery teacher, gardener and food historian based in Bath.  

Instagram: @SimisKitchen

British Muslim Magazine

The adventurous spirit behind the pages of British Muslim magazine. As the Editor-in-Chief, Natasha leads with a passion for exploration and a pen dipped in wanderlust. With a keen eye for halal travel experiences and an insatiable curiosity for new experiences, she brings readers along on captivating journeys to far-flung destinations. Through her vibrant storytelling, Natasha invites readers on enriching adventures, where every experience is a window into the muslim world.

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