In discussion with Simi Rezai
The Queen of Persian cookery gives me some of her time.
Ever since I decided I wanted to write an article about Simi Rezai, I have pondered how I wanted to write it. It seemed easy to talk about her being a pioneer for Persian food in the UK or to talk about how delicious her food was but I wanted to think about how she had influenced me as a cook and as a person.
This involved looking a little deeper but I started by asking her about her food and her inspirations.
What has been inspiring you in the kitchen lately?
Lots of seasonal wild greens such as the wonderful wild garlic, wild chives, nettles then the woody herbs like sage, rosemary and myrtle as well as sorrel and rhubarb.
What is your favourite dish to enjoy with friends and family? And what do you like to cook for yourself on a quiet night in?
Osh, as it varies with seasons. Now I’m making osh with some the greens I mentioned above. We made it at our Neston Farm Supper Club and I think everyone, that is the guests and your crew really enjoy it. It isn’t just healthy it is delicious, comforting and aromatic.
To me, Osh is a wonderful thing and really sums up what I felt I have learned from working with Simi. In essence its a soup which is made wonderful by a combination of a really well flavoured stock for body and freshness brought from fresh herbs (aromatics). The body is made up with grains and pulses.
Now I think I fell in love with this dish before I fell in love with Ramon. They use the same concept. Traditionally in the case of Ramon, its a great stock with fresh aromatics and noodles for body.
But as I said, I wanted to look further into this to look at her influence on me. To do that, I wanted to ask her about what makes her tick.
Who is your food hero / heroine?
As for famous people, so far I’ve met several of them. Anna Del Conte and Claudia Roden who have both become friends and have kindly encouraged me. I’d like to meet Darina Allen, Sheila Dillon and Carlo Petrini.
Among so much, Anna Del Conte talked about how in Italian cookery you wouldn’t use both onions and garlic in a dish as they do the same thing. Seems obvious and a rule I’ve stuck to ever since.
I like to ask people what they would cook for the queen if she came to their house, In this case I feel the same question is appropriate for Simi’s food hero.
Depending on when they come, what else but a seasonal osh? I believe if you cook the food you love your self and are proud to share then people feel that pride and love in the dish.
Slow food and Carlo Petrini is a subject very close to my heart. ‘Slow food Revolution’, a book where he is in conversation with Gigi Padovani was a huge influence on me when I read it many years ago.
I think Simi has become the ‘real life’ personification of the slow food movement to me. The understanding of cooking with tradition and passion to gain so much pleasure from eating such simple food.
I still felt the need to look that one step further. It is Simi as a human that inspires me. I have been fortunate enough to be invited to her home for a tasting of her menu and her hospitality is so genuine and kind. She is a quiet person and at times appears to lack confidence. I think I see a lot of myself in that.
Simi Rezai runs her own cookery school and does food demos across Bath. Find out more…
How do you feel the people of bath have responded to your style of food? What could they learn from it?