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Home Cook: Arman Abrahimzadeh, domestic violence campaigner

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Arman Abrahimzadeh is a remarkable man who has not only turned a family tragedy into a powerful and positive cause, but is also transformative in the kitchen, creating exotic Persian dishes from scratch.

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Since the killing of his mother Zahra by his abusive father in 2010, Abrahimzadeh has become a passionate advocate for the protection of women and children against domestic violence. As well as being the 2016 Young South Australian of the Year, he is a White Ribbon and Our Watch ambassador, and a co-founder of The Zahra Foundation Australia, an organisation he established together with his sisters.

Abrahimzadeh also operates his own design firm and is a keen cook who likes to re-create some of the traditional Iranian dishes his mother used to make.

Here, he gives us a look inside his kitchen and shares Zahra’s recipe for khoresht gheimeh, a Persian stew made from diced meat, yellow split peas, saffron or turmeric, tomato paste and sun-dried lime, with a distinct citrusy and earthy flavour.

In the kitchen I am …
Creative, experimental and energetic. I love to sing when preparing ingredients, even though I don’t have a voice for singing.

The fridge is nearly empty – what do you cook for dinner?
If there’s nothing in the fridge, then I always try the pantry. I try to use legumes as much as possible;, they are a big part of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking.

Most useful cooking tool?
A fork. I had a camping experience once when I forgot to pack utensils and I used a fork as a knife (to cut), as a spoon (to serve food) and even used it over the fire to roast marshmallows!

Three essential grocery items?
Chickpeas – they are healthy and you can add chickpeas to just about anything.
Eggs – full of protein and good cholesterol, you can make breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes using eggs.
Yoghurt – I make my own yoghurt. I go through approximately two kilograms of yoghurt each week. It is full of probiotics and it can easily be made into several different side dishes and dips.

How did you learn to cook?
My mum was a big influence. I also experiment with different ingredients and cooking methods. I have undercooked and burnt food many times, but over time have learnt from those mistakes.

Favourite restaurant?
I go to Scuzzi on the corner of O’Connell and Tynte Streets in North Adelaide. They have great food, great coffee and friendly service. The owner is a character and we have a good laugh every time I’m there.

Favourite recipe?
In Iran, Friday is equivalent to our weekends here in Australia, hence we only get one day off. My mum used to make khoresht gheimeh on Fridays and the tradition continued here. In my eyes it was the dish that brought the family together and so when I feel homesick and reminisce about the old times, I get in the kitchen and make some gheimeh. Not only is it a delicious meal, but I have many good memories to enjoy with it.

Armen-Zahra's-Gheimeh_1

Khoresht gheimeh: Persian meat stew with split pea and lime. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Khoresht gheimeh

Ingredients

1kg lamb or beef, washed and cut into small pieces
1 cup yellow split peas, picked over and washed
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
4-5 dried limes, soaked in water for 5 minutes then pierced in several places with a fork*
½ teaspoon turmeric
pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon rosewater (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
vegetable oil
water
2 large potatoes, peeled and chopped

Dried limes are available from Iranian/Persian grocery stores, such as The Persian Grocery at Thebarton.

Method

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small pot over medium heat, add the tomato paste and saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it starts to change colour. Set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and saute until they are translucent; add turmeric and stir well. After a minute or two, add the meat and the potatoes. Add salt, pepper and a pinch of cinnamon. Stir well.

Add the yellow split peas to the pot and saute for 5 minutes, then spoon in the tomato paste. Mix thoroughly.

Add water to cover all the ingredients in the pot by 1-2 inches. Add in the dried limes. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 1 ¼ hours or until the meat is well-cooked. Add a little bit of water and adjust the seasoning when needed.

Yellow split peas shouldn’t turn too soft and mushy, they still need to have a bit of bite to them. You may parboil them separately until they are just tender and add them to the pot in the last 30 minutes.

In the last 10 minutes add the rosewater if you like.

Served with steamed rice and a simple salad of diced tomato, cucumber and onion.

Serves 6

If you need help, or know of someone who does, contact the 1800 RESPECT helpline: 1800 737 732.

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