You say frittata: I say Kuku; you say (Spanish) tortilla: I say K . . . and we are saying the same thing – almost! It is actually a stretch to call this dish a frittata or a tortilla, but I don’t know a better comparison.
Kuku is an Iranian egg-based dish that combines vegetables, herbs and/or meat mixed into the egg mixture along with spices, and is baked or pan-fried to create a light and fluffy savory delight.
This Kuku is another specialty dish from the Caspian Sea region of Iran. This region has such an affinity for simple but exceptionally flavorful dishes that are naturally plant-forward and rely heavily on abundant local produce.
Herbs are wildly popular throughout Iran and in Persian cuisine. What is unique about northern Iranian (Shomali in Farsi) cuisine is the reliance on specific herbs that are native to the region and hard to find fresh anywhere else. I have had the great fortune to cook with some of the dried versions of these herbs that were purchased and lovingly dried by my aunts and brought to the US when my mother returned from a visit to Iran. But I have yet to get my hands on the fresh versions of these herbs, and I am constantly looking for the opportunity to obtain some seeds, so that I can bring some of the Caspian Sea into my own garden.
This dish is quite adaptable and has many different variations based on individual family traditions. Some add a touch of sugar and serve this either as a breakfast item or as an afternoon snack. Others add ground meat to make it heartier. Others keep this Kuku simple and straightforward and serve it as a side dish to Khoresh Fesenjoon, a beloved Persian chicken stew with a walnut and pomegranate sauce.
This recipe focuses on walnuts, while adding enough herbs to enhance the flavor and the gastronomic experience. You really can’t go wrong with the herbs, and as a matter of fact I encourage you to play around with mixing whatever seasonal herbs you have on hand. Improvise and change things up, and you will create your own unique flavor profile!
My attitude toward food has always been with a deep sense of appreciation for the art of improvisation and cooking with what is on hand and seasonally available. Additionally, in my efforts to introducing Persian cuisine to non-Iranians, I take great pleasure in being able to introduce this cuisine with a degree of flexibility in order to make it more accessible.
A final and crucial note about this dish and the recipe:
One of the aspects of social media that I have come to appreciate is the camaraderie it allows with like-minded Iranians who are also promoting Persian cuisine. I consider myself quite fortunate to call Leila of Safferon Catering in Vancouver, Canada my friend. It was she who so generously shared this recipe with me, and I have only made subtle adjustments. Coincidentally, Leila is also from the Caspian Sea region, from a beautiful city called Rasht. Thank you, Leila jaan!
- 1 medium Yukon gold potato
- 1 cup walnuts, ground
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup mint, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chives, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt, adjust to your taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 5 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons oil
- Place the potato and enough water to cover it in a medium sized sauce pan, cover and cook until the potato has softened, about 15 minutes.
- Once cooled, peel, grate and set aside in a medium sized mixing bowl.
- Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Take extra care to not over process them. Remove and add to the mixing bowl.
- Place the fresh herbs in the same food processor and pulse until you have a finely chopped mixture of herbs. Remove and add to the mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix well.
- Select a medium sized pan, add 4 tablespoons of oil and heat over medium heat until the oil begins to shimmer.
- Pour the entire Kuku mixture into the pan and shake until the mixture has spread and has an even smooth surface.
- Cover, reduce the flame to medium low and cook for 15 minutes.
- After 15 minutes, the Kuku mixture should have firmed up enough to be flipped over. The easiest way to do this is to cut the Kuku in quarters and flip each piece individually. If you would like to keep the Kuku whole, however, you can place a plate large enough to cover the pan and carefully flip the Kuku onto the plate. Once flipped, you can slide the Kuku back into the pan.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to side of the pan and shake the Kuku around so that the oil spreads underneath it.
- Cook uncovered for 10 minutes.
- Remove the Kuku from the pan and serve with Persian flat breads, fresh herbs and a side of yogurt.