I tend to go on and on – don’t protest you know it’s true – but sometimes you just have to get to the point already. A culinary version of jumping straight to the bottom line is kookoo ‘ye sib zamini – that is: potato kookoo.
Kookoo is one of those things in the repertoire of a Persian cook that is ready to be whipped out for a light lunch or supper, or for picnic food, or to feed an unexpected gaggle of guests. Of all the many possible kookoo variations, potato kookoo is amongst the least fussy – and whilst the flavor is somewhat one-note, that one note delivers. Is it a decadent or glamorous dish? No. Is it satisfactory, comforting, and deserving of a well-done pat on its back? Unless you want to hurt the poor potato kookoo’s tender feelings, the correct answer is a resounding yes.
All types of Kookoo are served with flat bread and a plate of sabzi khordan (assorted fresh herbs.) This so goes without saying (when it comes to serving Persian food) that it’s akin to me declaring: “Hey guess what? Squirrels like to eat nuts.” As Sherlock said to Watson: It’s elementary my dear!
Moving on, it similarly goes without saying that you can pair kookoo with yogurt and it will be a sensible and savory union and they will live happy ever after. (To cut to the chase re yogurt and Iranians and Persian food: we love it and yogurt is basically the best-friend-forever of practically any and every type of savory Persian dish imaginable and it’s always at hand. The end.) Any member of the torshi family (Persian pickles) would also make a fabulous if not extravagant escort for kookoo. It needs be said that feta cheese would also be a most excellent addition to this dish.
Unique to potato kookoo – due to its somewhat bland, pancake type of flavor – is the distinction of it being amenable to having a sweet companion, something like, I don’t know, maybe syrup or powdered sugar or jam. Or: candid, I mean candied, turnips! Candidly delightful candied turnips.
Backtracking here a bit … remember when I made the honeypot turnip homemade cure? In the process, I was left with honey and turnip. Waste not, want not is a golden motto and I ended up making a man’darari (improvised that is) concoction that turned out into a type of turnip jam. The particular je-ne-sais-quoi flavor of turnip once melanged and mellowed out by the sweet honey has a unique flavor that at least to my palette tastes intriguing, exciting even, and definitely delicious. I mean, if potato kookoo is a solid but monotonous musical intonation, candied-turnip is an understated but super-cool jazz chord that will make you go: “Whoa. Huh! Interesting.” And the combo of the flavor and texture of potato kookoo and candied turnips is — if I may continue to harp on the music metaphor — cheerfully harmonious.
Mind you, as I am a puritan at heart when it comes to enjoying veggies – liking them most when they are as close as possible to their natural state or else grilled or else in my blender – I ultimately don’t intend to make candied turnips a staple. But, as mentioned, it goes quite nicely with something like potato kookoo. With some crushed walnuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon, it is delicious enough to even be a dessert of sorts. I guess it can also be a good way to trick a child into eating turnips. Trickery and child-rearing going together like yogurt and Persian food? That, being sans-child myself, I’ll leave to the discretion of those of you with experience to debate and conclude.
Let’s now jump straight to the twofer (two for the price of one that is, ha ha) recipes.
- 2 medium potatoes
- 4 eggs – room temperature
- Saffron – a pinch dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water
- Baking powder – a pinch
- 1/3 cup walnuts – chopped into small pieces (optional)
- 1/2 cup diced turnips
- 2 tablespoons honey dissolved in 1 cup of hot water
- PREP: Leave eggs out to reach room temperature. Dissolve saffron in hot water. Scrub and wash potatoes but do not peel.
- Cook potatoes in boiling water till soft and tender. Allow to cool, then peel and grate into a big bowl. Avoid mushing up the grated potato in the process.
- In a separate bowl crack eggs, add salt, baking powder, salt and pepper and dissolved saffron. Optional: add walnuts. Stir with a fork – gently and a few times – to combine the ingredients but do not whip.
- Pour egg mixture over grated potatoes and use a fork to gently mix all ingredients.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan till oil is hot enough that a droplet of batter would puff up. Pour batter into the pan and evenly spread – but do not press down – with a spatula.
- Lower heat to medium and cook, with lid ajar, for 9-12 minutes or until the bottom of the batter has cooked.
- Cut batter into wedges using the edge of a spatula and flip each wedge over. Cook for another 10-12 minutes with the lid ajar till the other side of kookoo is nicely done as well.
- Heat 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Once oil is quite hot, lower heat to medium hight and saute turnip for a minute or more until it slightly changes color and softens a bit. Care not to burn or brown them.
- Add the honey & water mixture to the pan, lower heat to medium-low. Simmering, cook until syrup has thickened and is mostly absorbed by the turnips. Thickness of syrup’s texture to taste.
Serve kookoo and candied turnips while hot and along with some bread and sabzi khordan. You could also skip the candied turnips and simply serve with bread and yogurt; or with bread and feta cheese.
Kookoo makes a delicious left-over – use it to make a sandwich – but is best used within 24-48 hours.
Make it, enjoy it and noosheh jaan!