Breakfast – the Iranian way

Lots of people ask me when I run my Persian cooking courses what a traditional breakfast in Iran might look like so I decided to post a little something about this meal in response. It really made me think of my grandmother Bibi as it’s the sort of thing she ate every morning religiously and I can almost here her enunciating all the words for me in Arabic clearly so I could learn them (We spoke Arabic at home not farsi). It’s a simple but lush affair and remarkably healthy with a general feel of abundance and vitality.

My Glamorous Grandmother Bibi (middle) with 3 of her children – yes she looks more like their sister than their mother!

A flat bread of some sort would be a staple and would be bought fresh daily and would be fluffier and lighter (sort of naan like) than the brown wholemeal flatbreads I have featured here. Unfortunately I have yet to learn to make “noon-e-barbari” so my wholemeal chapati style flatbreads will have to suffice. In fact – I don’t think anywhere in Cape Town sells the type of iranian style bread which is cooked in a clay oven. If anyone ever finds some please let me know!

Sweet items like a fruit preserve (think sour cherry or quince) and honey to combine with the salty feta style cheese usually derived from goat or sheep is a flavour sensation that may seem odd until you have tried it. I like to zest lemon skin over my feta and add fresh thyme or herbs and glug of olive oil. The lemon zest lifts it up and works so well with the tang of the cheese. I always have 2 or 3 home made preserves in the fridge – which I know makes me sound like an uber domestic Goddess but they are SO easy to make and SO worth the trouble as you can use less sugar and have a more vibrant fruity flavour. I have apricot and orange blossom here and fig with cinnamon which go really well with cheeses. Whatever is in season – I will make a plan to cook up a jar or two and they make the perfect gifts too!

Fruit would also feature and would no doubt be seasonal and include fruits unusual to us like persimmons, greengages and loquots but watermelon and grapes would also be popular. There are some super lush watermelons around right now and I love to sprinkle a little rose water over my juicy chunks and scatter some mint for freshness. The sharp sheep’s feta compliments the watermelon well too! Cucumbers, tomatoes and some fresh herbs would also be a regular feature and I personally love to wrap up some cucumber, feta, tomato and herbs in a flatbread and eat them just like that – a herby feta wrap – really delish!

Tea is the drink of choice and although Iranians will drink tea all throughout the day much as we might drink cups of coffee but the first cup of the day would be a sweet tea – or “Chai shirin”. The other cups of tea enjoyed throughout the day would be served with dates or raisins, or something else sweet instead of sugar actually in the tea.

Iranian Tea scene from Reddit

Eggs certainly do feature here and there – mostly in the form of an omelette or shakshuka style dish but I kept this particular arrangement in line with a more simple day-today affair.

Breakfast is definitely an important meal but is made without fuss and most definitely shared which is one of the most important aspects of this type of cuisine. After all – eating something alone is no where near as good as sharing it with loved ones!

Food is the ingredient that binds us all together!