As you might have gathered, last year we made the move from London to Wales, settling in a small village near Abergavenny in Monmouthshire. We absolutely love our new home, and haven’t regretted the move for one second, but I can’t pretend I don’t miss the easy access to international cuisine that we had in London.
Within a few minutes walk of our North West London home we had excellent Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Turkish restaurants. A few minutes drive got us to the amazing Bang Bang Oriental (food court) as well as many other restaurants, and a hop on the Tube gave us access to a whole world of cuisines.
We have already discovered many restaurants in and around Abergavenny (including Black Bear Inn, The Gaff, The Hardwick, Tapas Twist, and more), and there are more restaurants in Cardiff, about 45-60 minutes drive away. I hope that all manage to survive this current pandemic-driven lockdown.
But usually, we don’t have anywhere that would deliver to our new house, and only one place within walking distance; our local pub. That’s the flip-side of a new rural lifestyle.
So it was that I was moaning (on twitter) about really fancying a kofte kebab and wishing I could nip out and grab one. In response, friends in Cardiff suggested we look up Taste of Persia as they’d just seen that it was now offering a delivery service covering our location. We headed over to the Taste of Persia instagram page, found the menu for the coming weekend and placed our order. The rest is, as they say, history, and we’ve been enjoying a delicious Persian meal nearly every weekend since.
Over the weeks since, we’ve got to know Taste of Persia’s owner Kamran as we often enjoy a chat about food, instagram and life when he arrives to deliver our orders. Sharing the joys of Persian food is Kamran’s second career, after retiring from 25 years in the financial services sector. Leaving that behind when the banking crisis happened, Kamran pondered what to do next until friends suggested he share his love of authentic Persian food more widely.
His main business today is private catering. He tested the market and his recipes by selling at food markets in Abergavenny, Cardiff and Usk, and quickly discovered a very appreciative audience. Indeed, he has often been asked to demo his cooking at major events, including live events with BBC Wales. When the pandemic hit, food markets and catering were both off the table so Kamran quickly and successfully pivoted to offering a weekly menu direct to customers’ homes instead.
Kamran publishes a new menu to Instagram on Monday, and customers have till Wednesday evening to place their orders for delivery on either Friday or Saturday that week. Each menu has two fish or meat options, and two vegetarian ones, with different dishes offered every week. Favourites do make reappearances now and again, especially when requested by cheeky customers!
What we love is that Kamran never compromises the authenticity of what he offers, refusing to adapt what he makes for British palates or difficult-to-find ingredients. He does, of course, use top quality British produce to great effect.
Taste of Persia is currently able to deliver directly to homes in and around Abergavenny, Chepstow, Monmouth and Usk, and also does drop and meets at pre-designated locations in Cardiff, Newport and the Forest of Dean. If you’re in the area, do place an order to try for yourself.
The easiest way for me to share Kamran’s food is to show you each of our Persian feasts in turn.
Our first order was in early April and we loved the tender spiced beef and lamb mince kofteh kebabs, fluffy flatbread, rice, salad, minted yoghurt and cucumber, sumac, chilli sauces… All we had to do was cook the kebabs and reheat the rice.
Our next Persian feast included Fesenjoon, a sweet sour chicken dish with pomegranate molasses, walnut, onion, tomato puree and spices, served with saffron rice. The balance of sweet and sour was so deft and the richness in texture of the sauce so perfect, this was absolutely fantastic. We also had the Baghali Polo, a slow cooked lamb shank in a traditional spiced sauce full of flavour and reminiscent of my mum’s North Indian lamb curry, which I adore. Kamran also gifted us a portion of Dolmeh Barg, vine leaves stuffed with rice, which were so soft and delicious.
Kamran switched the dill and broadbean rice that was offered with the lamb to a second saffron rice on request. The meals came with mixed salad and two pots of homemade veg pickle.
For our next order, we were particularly greedy and ordered three dishes between the two of us to share – sorry not sorry!
So we had Sabzi Polo Mahi – seabass fillets marinated in lime, parsley, olive oil and spices, with mixed herb rice and homemade pickle, Polo Shirazi – a traditional lamb biryani from central Iran, with lamb, green lentils, mixed herbs and spices, and more pickle; and Kookoo Sabzi – a heavily herbed frittata with barberries, saffron, walnuts and spices, with salad and naan bread.
All we needed to do was cook the fish according to the instructions and reheat the other elements. As you can imagine, we were absolutely stuffed, but since I’d made a special request for kookoo sabzi the week before and Kamran kindly obliged, I couldn’t miss it (and no way was I missing the seabass or that biryani!)
By early May, our Persian feast had become a much-anticipated weekend ritual, and we enjoyed another wonderful dinner. This time we had the most succulent and tender Joojeh Kebab – chicken breast marinated in a delicious mix of yoghurt, lime, onion, saffron and spices, a fabulously flavoured Ab Goosht – a hot pot of lamb, potato and chickpeas in a rich sauce, served with naan to soak in the juices; and soft and comforting Dolmeh Bademjon – aubergine and green pepper stuffed with a filling of rice, split peas, garlic, onions herbs, and spices served with a naan and natural yoghurt.
Also in the delivery were a box of mixed salad, powdered sumac, Kamran’s homemade pickle and some herbs and radishes. There were also skewers for the chicken fillets to make it easier to grill or barbeque the kebabs.
Everything was delicious, full of wonderful flavours and textures.
By mid May, the weather was getting really hot, and barbeques were being pulled out of sheds and garages all across the country. In response, Kamran created Persian BBQ packs, and we had ours delivered on Friday night so that we could enjoy our BBQ for Saturday lunch.
We cooked only a portion of the kebabs – at least half the beautifully marinated meat was stored in our freezer for future barbeques. I had panicked and upped our order from a 2 person to 3 person serving because I do like an excess of meat at a barbeque. But of course, when it arrived there was enough meat for 4-5 people! Like their brethren across the Middle East, Iranian people are both generous and hospitable. One never goes hungry! I’m wasn’t complaining, it meant another great meal to come!
So what was in the feast? We got koobideh kebabs (beef and lamb mince kebabs), joojeh kebabs (ridiculously tender chunks of chicken breast marinated in seasoned yoghurt with saffron, lime juice and onions), chicken wings (in a mix of mint, fiery spices, green lentils, potato, garlic and onion), lamb ribs (with a herby lemon, garlic and onion marinade), and lamb chops (in a seasoned paprika, yoghurt and lime mix). And I must mention how happy I was to see lamb chops with their full strip of fat, rather than it being trimmed off and discarded as is too often the case!
We also received a large green chilli pepper and tomato per person, and there were three huge naans, three portions of saffron rice, three boxes of mixed salad, and a pot of minted yoghurt sauce.
We didnt need both naans and rice, so the rice made a really fabulous egg fried rice that evening (I have not failed to notice the beautifully long and slender grains of rice that Kamran uses). With the barbeque, I also served a bowl of mixed tomatoes from Isle Of Wight Tomatoes, a supplier from which we’ve been ordering regularly throughout lockdown.
The next week’s menu included Joojeh-por – a poussin (also known as baby chicken or spring chicken) stuffed with fruit and vegetables in a pomegranate sauce served with barberry rice. The juicy meat and delicious gravy worked very well with the sweet sour dried-fruit and vegetables within the small cavity. It was fiddly to eat but worth persevering.
The other dish of the meal was Albaloo polo – a beautifully flavoured rice dish with sour cherries and tiny lamb meatballs (of which I wish there were more!)
I mentioned to Kamran when he delivered the previousmeal that although we’d loved the dishes every single week, our absolute favourite dishes so far had been his Fesenjoon and the lamb shank from a few weeks before. I was delighted when he decided to repeat this combination for the next menu.
The Fesenjoon delivered once again with tender cubes of chicken in a rich walnut and pomegranate sauce, perfectly balanced between sweet and sour, the walnut giving extra richness of texture and flavour. And the little pops of fresh pomegranate seeds as they burst in your mouth was so refreshing. This dish came with saffron rice and salad.
The Mahicheh was a hefty lamb shank cooked until tender, this time in a delicate saffron-spiced sauce. Soft and beautifully flavoured, this was a real comfort dish. The meat, pulled off the bone, and its rich gravy are traditionally served with lentil rice and salad, as shown.
As always, a box of Kamran’s mixed salad came with the meal – that bright pink pickle you see is homemade turnip pickle with a little beetroot for natural colour.
I couldn’t narrow down what to order from the next menu so I ordered all of it, handily available as a Family Feast of all four dishes of the week.
At the top right is Gheymeh Bademjoon, a lamb and aubergine stew with tomato, sour grapes and yellow split peas, garnished with potato crisps. The aubergine was silky, the lamb tender and the split peas, usually an ingredient I’m not keen on, added the perfect bite. Next (going clockwise) was our regular favourite, Fesenjoon, chicken in a pomegranate and walnut sauce. The gravy is a little runnier than usual but the flavour is still the usual intense and joyous balance between sweet and sour. Onwards around the clock to the falafel – these ones are made from fava beans, onions, garlic and herbs – these come with flatbread, a garlic hummus dip, and salad. I’m not always a huge fan of falafel but loved the flavour of these. The last of the main dishes is Kashkeh Bademjoon, barbequed aubergine mixed with mint, garlic and walnut into a delicious dip – the smokiness in this was wonderful.
The naan bread was to accompany the Kashkeh Bademjoon, but we ate it with everything. The feast came with Kamran’s usual mixed salad (more than shown here), full of lettuce, cucumber, radish, rocket, and various pickles) plus saffron rice (two boxes, of which one is on the table). There were also hot and sweet chilli sauces and natural yoghurt.
Our most recent order (though you can be certain there will be more) was for two portions of Kamran’s joojeh kebab, the tender breast fillet marinated in yoghurt, saffron and spices. As usual, it was juicy and delicious. I had a hankering for eating it in a wrap rather than with the rice provided, so Pete made me some big naans and we made fabulous wraps with the salad provided, and some Isle of Wight tomatoes.
Kamran also gave me a surprise extra this week, keen for me to taste his Ush rushteh. And I’m so grateful that he did because it’s not a dish I would have ordered from the description. In fact, we both loved this thick soup of mixed beans, garlic, herbs and noodles – there was a wonderful flavour from the garlic and herbs, then the texture of beans that weer fully cooked through but not turned to mush, which was a perfect contrast against the slippery noodles. Teaches me to order out of my comfort zone next time!
Taste of Persia food is so beautifully cooked, and always easy to serve, as Kamran provides full instructions. For most dishes, it’s just a case of reheating in a microwave; very quick and easy. With some dishes – marinated fish, minced kebabs and meat – you will need to cook these fresh, either on the stove or on a barbeque. Nothing complicated and worth the few minutes of extra effort.
Save for later: