Iranians have a sweet tooth. My mother — who was born in Iran but immigrated after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 — doesn’t put sugar in her tea; she puts sugar cubes in her mouth and lets them melt on her tongue as she sips the hot, dark chai. Iranian desserts are literally drenched in sugar and honey syrups, and many recipes for otherwise savory, meaty stews call for a spoonful of fruit molasses for, cooks will say, balance.
So an omelette filled with dried fruit and scented with warm spice never struck me as odd. Imagine all of the sweet foods that benefit from a pinch of salt — caramel, candied nuts, chocolate — and all of the salty foods enhanced by a touch of sugar. That’s what this dish, from London-based author, cook, human rights activist, and political commentator Yasmin Khan, who is half-Iranian and half-Pakistani, achieves with little effort and a handful of ingredients that recall her childhood spent in Iran.
Khan’s first book, The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen, chronicles her journey as an adult through Iran’s countrysides and cities. Her trek — funded on Kickstarter — produced a book that gives a Western audience a glimpse into a land that is largely closed off and often misunderstood; one growing increasingly isolated after President Donald Trump ordered a ban on immigrants from six countries, including Iran.
Iranians, my mother would admit, have a lot of sayings, and one of them feels especially appropriate right now: “You can close the city gates, but you can't close the people's mouths.” The saltiness of the world’s current political climate cannot be overstated; here now, look beyond it with a touch of something sweet:
Date and cinnamon omeletteI first ate this dish on a chilly February morning at the home of Maman Betty, a lovable grandmother from Tabriz who sat me in her kitchen and fed me plate after plate of local delicacies until I could barely speak. Tabriz is a city in the mountainous north-west of Iran, where winter temperatures rarely reach more than 2 or 3 degrees above freezing in the daytime and where the local food is hearty and filling. This sweet omelette, filled with dried fruit and warming spices, is incredibly soothing on a weekend morning, when all you want to do is snuggle up on the sofa with the newspapers. As the dark, sticky dates begin to caramelize in the cinnamon and ginger flavored butter, they will fill your kitchen with a deliciously sweet scent – a rather fine way to start the day, I’m sure you’ll agree.
¼ cup pitted Iranian or Medjool dates, halved
A couple of pinches of cinnamon
A good pinch of ground ginger
3 tbsp cold water
A pinch of sea salt
2 tsp milk
Scant tbsp butter
Place the dates, a pinch of cinnamon, the ground ginger and water in a small pan. Stir well, put a lid on the pan and cook on a low heat for 5 minutes, until the dates have softened.
Meanwhile, crack the eggs into a bowl with a pinch of salt and the milk. Beat with a fork until fluffy.
Put a frying pan over a low heat and let it get hot. Add the knob of butter. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the dates and fry for 2 minutes. Space the dates out evenly in the pan and then pour the eggs in, giving the pan a gentle shake to spread them out evenly.
Cook until the omelette is almost set and then fold in half and lightly press down. Slide onto a plate and dust with cinnamon just before serving.
Recipe, text, and photograph reprinted with permission from Bloomsbury.
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