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Iranian-style sweet and sour olives

October 7, 2014

Iranian sweet and sour green olives -  mycustardpie.comIt was one of those special nights, spent with good friends who have known each other forever. The wines were good, the banter was lively, within moments at the table white damask napkins were knotted as handkerchief hats, soon the dog was wearing one too. The menu planning was just right so I wasn’t dashing around at the last-minute and there were enough murmurs of contentment to reassure me that everyone was happy.

The evening began in the kitchen, as it inevitably does, with Sipsmith gin and tonics and nibbles.  I gave a warning that the olives, in their strange coating of purple-brown, knobbly dressing, might be, ahem, rather unusual. As one after another were speared from the bowl to a chorus of ‘God, they’re gorgeous’ one olive-hating friend stood back. In the end, the commotion got the better of him and he reached out tentatively with a cocktail stick. A Damascene moment, an olive conversion. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

Menu with an Iranian influence

is what I dubbed this dinner; this was the menu for ten of us:

  • Plov (from Do-Ahead Dinners by James Ramsden) – chicken thighs cooked in spices, deboned and shredded, stirred into fragrant rice, rice with chicken stock, tangy with herbs and pomegranate seeds.
  • Carrots roasted with smoky Emirati honey and za’atar, sprinkled with fresh herbs and toasted pine nuts (from the same book).
  • Yoghurt, cucumber and mint or maast va khiar (From A Persian Kitchen by Jila Dana-Haeri)
  • Tamarind coriander chutney or chutni-e gashneez (as above) – a spicy, tangy, addictive sauce, the perfect foil for the plov
  • Salad e Shirazi – a salad of diced cucumber, tomato and onion tossed with vinegar and dried and fresh mint (Pomegranates and Roses by Ariana Bundy)
  • Chocolate and apricot tart (Art of the Tart by Tamasin Day-Lewis) – very un-Persian except for the sheet of apricot paste used in the filling which comes from Iran. Most requested dinner party dessert.
  • Cheese board including a baked Camembert (I have to serve cheese).

Iranian sweet and sour green olives -

Iranian style sweet and sour olives

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

I adapted this from Jila Dana-Haeri’s recipe for zeiton parvardeh as I thought 4 cloves of raw garlic might be particularly anti-social. It also looked very brown so the pomegranate seed garnish is not traditional but, to me, seemed appropriate and added a nice, sharp crunch.


  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 50g walnuts
  • 120ml pomegranate molasses
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon golpar (Persian hogweed, sometimes known as Angelica seeds)
  • 300g small green olives, with or without stones
  • handful of fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)


  1. The easiest way to make this is in a small food processor or grinder (I use the attachment with my stick blender). Whizz up the garlic until finely minced then add the walnut and process again until finely chopped but not a powder. Otherwise chop them by hand until fine. Transfer to a bowl.
  2. Stir in the pomegranate molasses, half the lemon juice, the mint and thyme (or golpar). Fold in the olives. Taste – it will be sour but the molasses can also be quite sweet. If you want a fresher taste add a bit more lemon juice until it’s the way you like it.
  3. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for a couple of hours (will keep happily for several days).
  4. Serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and some cocktail sticks (the olives are sticky).

Marinated olives are simple to do and have a wow factor when friends come round. Here are three more marinade ideas from Laura. The pomegranates from Oman mean that these definitely qualify for Ren’s Simple and in Season.

What’s your favourite thing to cook for a crowd?

  1. October 7, 2014 6:01 am

    What a fabulous meal. And sounds like a great evening all round.

    • October 7, 2014 7:48 am

      It was really good fun 🙂

  2. October 7, 2014 6:02 am

    Your Iranian menu looks so exotic and flavorful. And these olives look absolutely delicious! I was thinking of substituting the walnuts with pecans in this recipe. Do you think it’ll work? Thank you 🙂

    • October 7, 2014 7:48 am

      Although not authentic, I’m sure pecans would be fine.

  3. October 7, 2014 6:08 am

    How does one snag an invite to such a party? 🙂 Those olives are just gorgeous.

    • October 7, 2014 7:47 am

      You’d always be welcome Michelle – and I’d love to sample your delicious cooking too.

  4. October 7, 2014 7:14 am

    You’ve got me salivating at 4 am! What a wonderful meal!

    • October 7, 2014 7:47 am

      What are you doing awake at 4am?!!

  5. therealgeordiearmani permalink
    October 7, 2014 9:09 am

    Great menu, I am not a fan of olives but will give these a try. I enjoy cooking a roast for a crowd 🙂

  6. October 7, 2014 10:36 am

    Delicious recipes and ideas….the olives sound wonderful…have to do that.

  7. October 7, 2014 11:58 am

    A very interesting combination! Those olives must taste amazing.



  8. October 7, 2014 12:00 pm

    Sounds like quite a night, the absolute best sort too, good friends, great food and wine, lots of laughs.

  9. October 7, 2014 1:13 pm

    Ever since a kid, I have been obsessed by olives. They are in my top 5 of food loves. I will definitely try out your recipe and agree with 4 cloves of garlic being too much! Lucky friends to enjoy your dinner party. I never give dinner parties anymore, nor go to them. Maybe I need to rectify this!

  10. October 7, 2014 1:14 pm

    Also thanks for linking to my olives 🙂

  11. October 7, 2014 2:01 pm

    What a wonderful menu!! I love Middle Eastern food {as you know} and will be looking out these books for inspiration. Your olives sound especially divine. Congrats on the conversion! That must have been worth more than all of the mmm’s you would have heard the whole evening. PS I have to serve cheese too.Dessert can be forgotten but not the cheese!

  12. October 7, 2014 2:53 pm

    These sound so delicious. I just love anything with pomegranate.

  13. October 7, 2014 4:34 pm

    Wow! What a fab meal!!

  14. October 7, 2014 5:58 pm

    Wow! I’ve never seen a recipe like this before, it looks so good! LOVE olives 🙂

  15. October 7, 2014 7:41 pm

    How I miss the simplicity of hanging out and eating without friends. The olives look so pretty and I’ve never tried them with pomegrate, but I want them now x

  16. October 8, 2014 10:46 am

    The olives look very appetizing and your menu is a real treat for the taste buds, Sally.

  17. October 8, 2014 10:55 pm

    Sipsmith gin alongside these sounds perfect. I love the pomegranates too. So vibrant and appetising. I had not realised they were so easy to make either. Had thought it was longer than a few days and more of a faff boiling them or adding lots of vinegar. I love the molasses here too. It’s a new ingredient for me that I am loving.

  18. October 9, 2014 12:39 am

    Sounds like a great party. I love olives. This recipe takes something amazing and makes it even more delicious. Bookmarking. What a menu!

  19. ramblingtart permalink
    October 10, 2014 6:19 am

    Wow, those olives look and sound fantastic. They may have seemed strange but they would’ve intrigued me right away. 🙂

  20. October 10, 2014 11:08 am

    Beautiful. Pomegranates are absolute gems:)

  21. andreamynard permalink
    October 11, 2014 12:26 am

    What a wonderful dinner/evening. The olives sound fantastic as does drinking Slipsmiths gin in the kitchen with them.

  22. October 11, 2014 12:37 am

    This looks delicious! I am definitely making this soon. What a unique combination!

  23. October 13, 2014 2:49 pm

    Gosh they look divine, gin, tonic, olives and that menu – to die for! Thank you for entering them into Simple and in Season xx

  24. October 16, 2014 3:58 am

    I love chinese sweet and sour pork and I love the idea of experimenting with pomegranate mollasses in the quest to discover the Eldorado of that elusive balance between the twin sweet and sour sensations! 🙂

  25. lizzygoodthings permalink
    October 25, 2014 8:33 am

    Oh wow, what a wonderful dish! I adore pomegranates!


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