Sandevich-e Kalbas (Persian Mortadella Sandwich)

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It’s kind of a stretch to call this a “recipe” but Sandevich-e Kalbas is an essential part of Persian cuisine.  Yes, this sandwich may seem rather ordinary, but it is it is anything but and is pure nostalgia for us Iranians.

Persians take the art of simple sandwich making very seriously and sandwich shops are very popular in Iran. My parents tell me stories of their favourite sandwich shop from their younger years in Tehran, Andre. There were crowds lining up for the best sandwiches Iran had to offer. Although they had many different varieties, they were famous for their Kalbas Sandwiches. Although I never had the pleasure of experiencing one of Andre’s famous sandwiches, my parents often re-created them at home in Canada. Tasting one instantly brings back childhood memories of picnics in the park and lunch at my Saturday Farsi school.

Kalbas is often referred to as Persian Mortadella. But there are significant differences  from the Italian version. In terms of taste and texture, Persian Mortadella is almost like a cross between Italian Mortadella and Kielbasa Sausage (I suspect that is how Kalbas got its name). Instead of the traditional peppercorns, Kalbas is usually studded with pistachios and has a distinct garlic flavour. Also, while Italian Mortadella is made with pork, Persian Kalbas is often made with beef or veal, in addition to a pork version.

The perfect Kalbas sandwich is served on a soft baguette or a fresh submarine bun, with lots of mayonnaise, Persian pickled cucumbers and ripe tomatoes. I’m a purist, so when my husband suggested adding avocados (which I normally love in sandwiches) I almost had a heart attack. There are some things you just don’t mess with.

Sandevich-e Kalbas
(serves 1)

Soft French Baguette or bun
3-4 Slices of Kalbas (Persian Mortadella)
Mayonnaise
3-4 Slices of Pickles (preferably Persian Pickled Cucumbers)
3-4 Slices of Tomato
Lettuce (optional)
Salt & Pepper (optional)
Split the baguette or bun. Spread a good amount of mayonnaise on the bread and arrange the kalbas slices on the bread.

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Top with the pickles, tomatoes and lettuce. You may season the tomatoes with salt and pepper if you wish.

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Enjoy!!!!

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Kabab Torsh (Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Marinated Beef Kabab)

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Until about seven years ago I had never heard of Kabab Torsh. My (non-Persian) husband claims that he is the one that discovered it at a Persian restaurant called Shomal in Toronto that specializes in Northern Iranian cuisine. My memory of the discovery is a little foggy and I am not sure how accurate his story is, but according to him it was HE who introduced this delicious regional dish from the province of Gilan to us.  His story is that when we looked at the menu, we all overlooked Kabab Torsh in favour of our usual order of Kabab Sultani. He, on the other hand, found the description of this new unfamiliar Kabab intriguing and ordered it despite our naysaying. His story is that once he gave us a little taste we were all hooked!

Now I’m not sure if I’m ready to give him all the credit but I will say that he is right in the fact that once we tried it we were hooked. Tender beef marinated in pomegranate, ground walnuts and garlic, Kabab Torsh is a perfect balance of slightly sweet and sour. My husband is such a fan that when we are invited to a Persian restaurant the first thing he asks is if they have Kabab Torsh on the menu and if they don’t he sulks and whines.

Kabab Torsh
(Serves 4-6)

2 lb beef tenderloin*, cut into  1 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups walnuts
3/4 cup pomegranate paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Using a food processor, chop the walnuts until very fine.

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Add the pomegranate paste, garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and process until it resembled a thick paste.

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Add the yogurt to the food processor and pulse a few times until its incorporated.

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Put your beef pieces in a large glass or plastic bowl (or you may use a big ziplock bag) and pour the marinade over it. Stir to cover all the pieces. Refrigerate and let marinate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

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When ready, take out of the fridge and let come up to room temperate (about 20-30 minutes).  Thread onto skewers. I prefer to use metal skewers but if you use wood ones make sure to soak them for at least an hour so they do not burn.

Barbeque all sides over high heat for approximately 8-12 minutes total depending on your preferred doneness (8 minutes will usually result in a nice medium-rare).

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When done, cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.

I like to serve my kabab with steamed basmati rice, lavash bread, bbq tomatoes and mast-o-khiar (and a nice cold beer!) Enjoy!

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*You may use sirloin if you wish. It will be delicious but not as tender.