Home and a Whey

The founder and head chef of Berenjak, Kian Samyani, talks about bringing traditional Iranian cuisine to Soho and how to cook Kashk e Bademjoon

It’s an exciting moment for Iranian food in London: despite the negative light that the country is seen in internationally, some great Iranian restaurants have opened recently. People are becoming more aware of this style of cuisine, and there are now even Iranian suppliers.

I opened Berenjak in 2018 with the aim of establishing a restaurant that did Iranian cuisine properly: a relaxed environment, somewhere that doesn’t take itself too seriously – fresh produce, good music, somewhere central. It’s subjective of course: you’ll always think the way you ate as a child, how your mum cooked, how your dad cooked, was best. I set out to try and evoke a sense of that nostalgia, of eating as a family. We get a lot of young Iranians coming in, so we must be doing something right.

Kashk e bademjoon was always on the table growing up – it’s a family favourite. I’ve never followed one particular recipe; it’s instinctive. Kashk is a kind of whey that is fermented and formed into balls. Japan has miso and the Italians have Parmesan – ingredients that enhance the dish with an umami flavour: Iranian cuisine has kashk.

It can be a challenge to replicate those intimate family meals in a fast-paced restaurant environment, to serve it over and over again and be consistent, but I think – with the help of some authentic imported ingredients – we’ve been able to capture some of the love, care and attention of this wholesome, hearty ancient cuisine.

Kashk e Bademjoon Recipe

Ingredients

5 aubergines

1 white onion, diced

6 cloves of garlic, puréed 1 tsp turmeric

100ml jar of kashk – from a Middle Eastern super market, or any sour yoghurt

Sprinkling of crispy onions 300ml vegetable oil

Dried mint

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Method

Preheat your grill to 200oC.
Prick your aubergines with a fork and grill for about 30–45 minutes, or until soft, turn- ing every 15 minutes. Place the aubergines in a bowl and cover with cling film: the steam helps to separate the skins from the flesh.

Once cool, peel away the skin and dis- card, placing the flesh into a strainer to drain for 10 minutes. Return the aubergine flesh to a chopping board, chop roughly and set aside until later.

Cover the base of a large frying pan with 150ml of vegetable oil, and fry your garlic until brown. Add diced onion, and fry for about 10–15 minutes until translucent and the edges start to brown, mixing frequently so as not to burn the garlic. When everything is nicely fried add a teaspoon each of salt, pep- per, dried mint and turmeric, and mix well.

Add the aubergines, turn up the heat and stir continuously for 5–10 minutes, until it’s all cooked down and comes together. Adjust seasoning as necessary and remove from heat.

Mint Oil

For the garnish, you will need to make a small amount of mint oil. Heat 150ml of vegetable oil in a pot to 90oC, then add two tablespoons of dried mint and take off the heat, whisk well for a few seconds and set aside. Once cool, this can be stored in a jar for up to a month.

Kashk

Take a spoonful into a bowl and whisk until smooth, adding a few drops of water to get it slightly loose. Do the same if using yoghurt. Don’t add too much water or it will seep into your aubergine mix.

Once everything is ready, you can dish up. Heat the aubergine mix in a pan, arrange on a plate in a flat layer and drizzle some of the kashk, followed by the mint oil, making sure you mix both well first. Enjoy with hot toasted bread of any kind – preferably Iranian!

As told to George Upton

Photography Sophie Gladstone

This article is taken from issue 24. To buy the issue or subscribe, click here

Remixing the Espresso Martini

Martin Hudak, head bartender at the Savoy’s American Bar, takes Port through three new cocktails that reinterpret the Soho classic

The heart of Soho is the birthplace of the Espresso Martini, originally the Vodka Espresso, created by bartender Dick Bradsell. As I heard it, one very famous model walked into the bar and asked for “something that will wake me up and fuck me up”. He looked at her and just grabbed a vodka, sugar, coffee liquor, shook it, and bam. That’s the beauty of this drink. It’s simple. But, that was 30 years ago. We respect the Espresso Martini, we respect the history of it, but we want to create something new.

Beetroot Flat White

This looks to the Polish roots of Belvedere Vodka. We wanted to use Polish ingredients and they eat a lot of beetroot and raspberry. It was a big challenge to make a coffee cocktail with vegetable, but we created a sweetener made from blended raspberry for its fruitiness and fresh beetroot juice for the flavour and colour. We then mixed with Colombian coffee and Belvedere vodka for its purity. We call it the Beetroot Flat White.

50ml vodka
25ml shot of espresso
20ml beetroot & raspberry syrup*
Shake
Martini glass
Dried raspberries on top

*
200ml beetroot juice
100g fresh raspberries
200g caster sugar
Blend it all cold way and strain it

Coffee Collins

The more refreshing Coffee Collins is inspired by Southern Europe’s espresso and tonic. Instead of espresso, we make cold brew coffee, which is just coffee beans left in cold water overnight. We add grape juice and use ginger syrup to give it a sweet, spicy edge.

20ml pressed ginger juice with caster sugar 1:1, slightly reduced
20ml Verjuice
30ml vodka
12.5ml Splash Tonic
20ml brewed coffee
Garnish with candied ginger on wooden stick

Belvedere Vodka launches Cafe Belvedere, a week long coffee cocktail pop up in Soho’s Bateman Street open to consumers throughout London Fashion Week

Cold Brew Gimlet

For the Cold Brew Gimlet we tried to replicate the drink’s elegance and crispy flavour while keeping it almost transparent. We took the same cold brew, a little bit of sugar, and fresh lime peels to make a sweet and sour coffee cordial. You won’t believe how flavoured it is, the layers and texture.

60ml vodka
20ml Coffee & Lime cordial
(1:1 sugar, citric acid and cook with lime)
Garnish with a morello cherry depending on the cordial and lime oil on surface.