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Persia in Peckham: Recipes from Persepolis [Paperback]

Sally Butcher , Carlos Calvet
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Product Description


...This book is the one we will be cooking from this year
-- Sam Clark of Moro Restaurant

From the Publisher

Short-listed for the André Simon Food Book of the Year Award 2008

About the Author

Sally and her Iranian husband, Jamshid, run a small Persian empire in south-east London comprising an import and distribution business, and the shop of the title. A university drop-out, she spent a number of years pretending she could cook for a living, along the way acquiring a vast store of useless foodie information and just a scraping of culinary ability. She absorbed both the Persian language and the Persian kitchen by osmosis.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Persepolis is a Persian emporium in Peckham. It is also shopping taken to a
new level (not necessarily a higher one, just a different one). It is
shopping with passion, feeling and a great deal of humour. It is a food
shop with handicrafts, a craft shop with a cultural dimension, a book shop
with an audio section, a music shop with a patisserie. It is of Iran and
about Iran; in it we have tried to showcase the timeless essence of Persia.
But it is also about the journey there. And it is about not taking anything
too seriously. My husband, Jamshid, and I opened Persepolis (in Iranian
Persepolis is actually known as `Takhte Jamshid - Jamshid's Throne) as a
showroom for our burgeoning Persian import business. But that was just too
straight-laced ... so we did the full on shop thing instead. And it kind of
took on a life of its own, expanding in all sorts of unforeseen directions,
taking in not only Iran but many of her neighbours as well. It's not even a
proper shop (most shops are pretty boring places too if you think about it)
as its layout utterly defies logic, and it's all annotated. With little
bits of yellow paper and blackboards, bearing the most ridiculous
witticisms/facetiousness. Ok, I know this all sounds quite daft...you
really will just have to come along and see it. It has been described as
more of an installation than a shop. As Camberwell Art College is just
`down the road', the shop frequently attracts students looking for unusual
subject material for assorted projects; we have, furthermore, been
photographed and featured in a series of marketing videos (they liked the
blackboards), and my (seasonal) gallery of painted water-melons features in
various lectures (on the meaning of `surreal') by a South Bank philosophy
We really are `an ethnic corner shop', by the way. The shop is perched on
the corner of a windswept little cul-de-sac leading up to that most
glorious of institutions, the Peckham Job Centre. We may not offer the full
range of conventional provisions, but a lot of folk depend on us for their
daily pint of milk. Tom Norrington Davies writes, "I am very lucky.
Persepolis is my corner shop. But even if it wasn't, I'd happily cross town
and country to get there. Otherwise I'd miss the heady scent of their herbs
and spices every time I opened my kitchen cupboards. Never mind the
slightly worrying addiction to pomegranate juice. Persepolis is an emporium
in the true sense of the word. To pigeon-hole it as Iranian would be
disingenuous. It feels
exotic and local all at once, and this is, in no small part, thanks to
Sally Butcher. She is always happy to give advice on everything from chick
peas to hookahs with the same warm mix of humour, expertise and enthusiasm.
And if the samovar is on you get all the above with a cuppa. Persepolis is
the sort of place no neighbourhood should be without." What do we actually
sell? The criteria are loosely that if we like it we'll consider selling
it. Setting aside for a moment our ranges of hand-carved game boards, and
embossed glass ware, musical instruments and shishe pipes, there are
shelves of somewhat incongruous things - incense, brightly coloured socks,
tagines - which aren't strictly Persian. As we are located right on that
well-known desert, front-line Peckham High Street, a lot of passers-by
assume that we are a mirage - it is not, after all, the most obvious
location for an exotic Middle-Eastern bazaar. Peckham residents are puzzled
as to why we set up camp on their doorstep when a lot of other shops left
years ago (since we took a stand, there have in fact been a lot of
initiatives in Peckham to get rid of its Del Boy/Yardie reputation): and
Persian customers are equally puzzled as to why we didn't open a `Super' in
Kensington like everyone else (very Iranian, this - if one little Persian
person opens a shop somewhere, another five will come and open up next
door). Actually we're jolly fond of our little urban village, so critics
are wasting their breath.

Persian cuisine is as old as the Caucasus, and there are several worthy,
Mrs.- Beeton-esque tomes full of the country's finest regional fare. But
nothing new has come out of the Persian kitchen for about a thousand
years...The book of the shop started as a much requested...nay, demanded,
collection of the recipes which we have featured in our monthly (quarterly)
newsletters. It takes Iran as the centre of its culinary universe and then
roves freely around the Middle East, and also visits the shop's own
neighbours in Peckham just for fun. The other shops in Peckham are full of
wonderful Caribbean and African spices and vegetables, and inevitably these
ingredients have crept into our food.
This is meant to be a user-friendly, fun guide to Iranian food. I am
anxious to emphasize right at the beginning that whilst I obviously
recommend that the whole world should shop at Persepolis, I have suggested
alternatives to some of the more exotic ingredients which the recipes
require. There are now Iranian shops in all the major cities of the UK, not
to mention
plenty of companies happy to mail order goodies, and so even the stranger
ingredients should be easy to source. There is a little black book of
suppliers on pages....

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