If you live in Rome, discussions about where to find good ethnic food are common, while results for actual good ethnic restaurants are not. Sure, the Ethiopian is fine, but other than that you have a few mediocre Mexican restaurants and a spattering of hit or miss Indian places. That’s for a city of almost three million people. Eventually, you realize what Italians do best is, well, Italian, and you stop missing spice. They do Italian so well in fact that you start to crave it every day despite yourself, and you almost forget other cuisines exist.
But when you do remember, go to Sam’s Persian Kitchen for a cooking class and an amazing home cooked meal. Samira is an adorable Iranian woman who also happens to be a fabulous cook and a wonderful hostess. During her cooking classes she tells stories about the history of classic Persian dishes while taking you through her recipes in simple steps. An hour or so later, you’re sitting around a cozy table in Sam’s dining room, candles lit, wine in hand, and feasting on an exotic and delicious meal. Classes are small and intimate, giving participants the opportunity to test their cooking skills and get to know one another. By dinner, we were well on the way to conversations about favorite travel destinations and what brought us all to Italy.
During the class I attended, we made basmati rice with barberry sauce and chicken, eggplant with pomegranate sauce (amazing!), yogurt and cucumber dip, and Persian saffron ice cream.
The best part though was Samira’s enthusiasm. She’s happy and bouncy and excited to show off her food and culture, and she loves hearing about each of her “students.” She welcomes everyone into her home with champagne and laughter, and by the end of the class you’re her Facebook friend and there are photos and maybe even a video or two. After our class, Samira was sweet enough to send us typed up copies of the recipes and photos from the night.
A visit to Sam’s Persian Kitchen remains one of the highlights of my time in Rome. I’ve whipped up the ice cream dish many times since (it’s so easy!), and I love making the basmati rice on nights when I have more time. A must do if you’re living in Rome!
The ice cream recipe is below, and for more great Persian recipes take Samira’s class! If you’re not in Rome, buy this amazing Persian cookbook I’ve recently become obsessed with from Sabrina Ghayour. She’s won lots of awards for her recipes and the book was named one of the ‘Top 10 Best of the Year’ by the Guardian and Boston Globe. Buy it here: Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond
Persian Ice Cream With Saffron and Pistachio
Ingredients (5-6 servings)
600 grams panna ice-cream
1 tablespoon rose water
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
2 tablespoons silvered pistachios
Tiny pinch of saffron threads (pounded and dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water)
Let the ice cream melt until it becomes creamy and easy to stir. Add the icing sugar, saffron liquid, rose water, and slivered pistachios. Once all is mixed, pour the ice cream back into its container and place it back in the freezer 3-4 hours before serving .