By Tim Hazell
The first dynasty of the Persian Empire was established by Cyrus the Great in 550 B.C. with the conquest of the Median, Lydian, and Babylonian monarchies. Its sovereigns controlled much of the ancient world and the largest population in history before being conquered in turn by Alexander the Great, founder of Hellenistic Persia, in 330 B.C.
Greek language, philosophy, and art flourished. Greek became the common tongue of detente, commerce, and literature. From 247 B.C. to 224 A.D., Persia was controlled by the Parthian Empire, followed by the Sassanian Empire, which ruled until the mid-17th century when it succumbed to Arab domination in 651 A.D. and the establishment of a vast Islamic Caliphate.
Harun al-Rashid (766 – 809) was the fifth Abbasid Caliph and ruler of Baghdad, Iraq at the height of the Islamic Golden Age, an era of scientific, cultural and religious prosperity. Rashid established Baghdad as a leading center of intellectual achievement in the Middle East.
The Caliph’s life has been the subject of many fictitious tales, most notable being the Book of One Thousand and One Nights. Scheherazade is its beautiful and wily protagonist. The same manuscript includes the adventures of Aladdin and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The Caliph discovered that his first wife had been unfaithful and resolved to remarry each day while doing away with the previous day’s spouse, so that she could have no chance to do the same.
Against her father’s wishes, Scheherazade volunteered to spend one night with the Caliph in place of her sister, who had previously been summoned. She recited her first story as he lay under her spell, interrupting her narrative as dawn was breaking. The Caliph was obliged to spare her life so that she would be able to continue the following evening.
Scheherazade was granted clemency anew each day, as the Caliph eagerly anticipated the conclusion of the previous night’s story. At the end of 1,001 nights and 1,000 stories, Harun al-Rashid had fallen in love with the comely and scintillating Scheherazade and made her his lifelong consort.
This Persian recipe is a wonderful version of our familiar omelet, perfect for lunch. Create your own variation with tomatoes, black olives, capers, additional fresh herbs, or extra nestled sunny side up eggs!
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. softened butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp. turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk to combine. Heat oil and butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and fry until moisture has evaporated. Continue on low heat until deep brown and caramelized, up to 20 minutes. Add garlic and saute until softened. Add turmeric, along with the salt and pepper. Add eggs to the pan and continue to cook as per a regular omelet, then gently transfer to a plate. Garnish with yogurt, mint leaves, black sesame seeds, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of dried chile flakes. Serve with a French-style baguette or flat crisp bread.