Everyone knows that Persians have a thing for pomegranates, rosewater and all sorts of yummy fluffy saffron rice. What is less known is that we also have a major yen for yogurt. A bowl of yogurt is nearly always served with lunch and dinners as either a condiment or side dish or sauce; and we also have many yogurt-based dishes in the Persian culinary repertoire. It’s safe to state that yogurt is among the major staples of the Persian cuisine.
For example you may recall borani, a vegetarian genre of Persian dishes made with yogurt mixed with various types of veggies. Yogurt is also a tried and true ingredient liberally used in or added to hearty soups (like ash ‘e mast or ash ‘e reshteh); we also have yogurt as the essential and star ingredient of popular side dishes like mast ‘o khiar; and of course, last but not least, let’s not forget that yogurt is the main ingredient of doogh, a most popular Persian soft drink. (Remember this lovely dude?)
Today I have for you a refreshing yogurt-based dish — a deceptively humble yet classic Persian delight called abdoogh khiar — that comes to you courtesy of an adorable relative of mine, nameed Valeh. How are Valeh and I related? Well, let’s put it this way: our fathers are brothers. Ha ha, yes, what I’m saying is that Valeh is my cousin or dokhtar amoo (literally: daughter of paternal uncle) as we say in Farsi.
Abdoogh khiar itself may be said to be a cousin of mast ‘o khiar, as they are quite similar, which is fitting then that the recipe is courtesy of your faithful blogger’s lovely cousin, Valeh.
Now I have to digress and tell you that Valeh is a beautiful Kurdish name that means “to be besotted by” and it’s an apt name for my very pretty cousin and her pretty green eyes. One of the many interesting facts about Valeh is that she lived in Japan for a few years where among other things she picked up the art of Ikebana (flower arrangements) that she enjoys greatly and practices beautifully. Valeh has a fine arts degree from the University of Tehran; an interior design degree from here in the U.S.; and most importantly, she has arguably the most adorable little girl in the world.
Aside #1: Thomas Jefferson, as it so happens, is my second favorite historical American. I kind of lurv him. Care to guess who’s my number one? Well, it’s a tie between Benjamin Franklin and Lincoln. I’m ardently passionate about both of those lovely American gents. By the way if you care for that sort of thing, I highly (HIGHLY) recommend this podcast: The Jefferson Hour. It’s amazing!
Aside #2: If you think this photograph is the only Persian connection with good ol’ Thomas Jefferson, think again! On a whim and just for the hell of it, I Googled “Jefferson and Persian” without having the slightest expectation of finding anything and then THIS turns up: Cyrus Cylinder: How a Persian monarch inspired Jefferson. I mean!!!
Going back to our regularly scheduled programming, namely abdoogh khiar, that exquisitely simple chilled Persian yogurt and cucumber summer time soup:
Valeh likes to add bread torn into small pieces to the yogurt soup, just like you might do with abghusht. That’s why Valeh likes to call abdoogh khiar a summer-time abghoosht!
- 4 cups yogurt
- 2 medium sized seedless Persian cucumbers
- 5 radishes
- small bunch of green onions (scallions)
- small bunch of parsley
- a good pinch or two of dried dill weed, and dried basil
- handful each of walnuts and raisins
- water to add to yogurt
- Salt and pepper to taste
- crushed edible rose petals. a pinch or two (optional garnish)
- bread (lavash or if you don’t have lavash you can substitute with pita or other flat bread)
Note: Valeh’s measurements are given in a loosey goosey manner, as in: please feel free to adjust these to your preferred taste.
- Peel cucumbers, slice ends.
- Scrub radishes, trim root end and bottom.
- Rinse green onions clean under cold water, trim root end, peel off slimy skin off the white parts, cut and remove almost all of the green tops. (You can use the green parts of the green onion for an omelet or soup or some such thing later.)
- Rinse parsley clean under cold water; soak in water for awhile, drain, and leave to dry completely. Trim stem ends.
- On a cutting board and using a sharp knife, chop cucumbers, radishes, green onions and parsley. (Try to get een sized small pieces.)
- In a big bowl mix all the chopped ingredients with yogurt, dried dill and basil, walnuts, and raisins. Add 1/2 cup of cold water (or add a few ice cubes and melt instead.) Stir to mix.
- Garnish with rose petals and maybe more sprinkling of walnuts and raisins. Chill until ready to serve.
Serve chilled abdoogh khiar in a big bowl. To best enjoy abdoogh khiyar, serve with bread: tear bread into small pieces (we call this terid kardan), mix it with your portion of abdoogh khiar, and dig in!
Enjoy the crunch of cucumbers and walnuts and the sweetness of raisins offset by the smooth and delicious coldness of yogurt.
Thank you wonderful Valeh joon for your wonderful recipe and the beautiful food styling & photography!
Make it & enjoy it.
نوش جان! Nooshe jaan!