Janny de Moor Janny de Moor

Barbarian bread (Iran)

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Baking material:

  • baking tray
  • covered with baking parchment


Dough (makes two pieces):

  • 500 g strong white flour
  • 1 sachet easy-blend/easy-bake dried yeast
  • 250-300 ml lukewarm water
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt (4 g)


To finish:

  • 2 tbsp. melted butter
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds

During the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadineyad (2005-2013) book censorship increased enormously in Iran: no foreign novels, but educational theological titles and oddly enough: ‘How do I cook healthy for my family’. Theological and cookery books can have a lot in common! The Iranian philosopher al-Ghazzali, for example, wrote the Revival of the Religious Sciences (11th century) in ‘the Language of the Angels’ (= Arabic). That work contains a still popular part about table manners ‘because’, he wrote, ‘food belongs to the religious matters’. No wonder cookery books passed the Iranian censorship: according to the folk tale of Mulla Nasrudin they love recipes. He was on his way home with a piece of liver in one hand and in the other a recipe a friend had given him. Suddenly a crow flew off with the liver. “Fathead”, he shouted, “You may have the liver, but I still have the recipe”!

Nan-e barbari (from ‘barbarian’Afghans on the Eastern border) is eaten for breakfast with fresh cheese, sweet omelette, jam. In cold regions with roasted lamb or veal livers (Jigarak) with oil, pepper and parsley: a barbecue. This includes pickles and shabzi-khordan: radishes, watercress, tarragon, mint, yogurt, plus roasted Halloumi cheese on skewers with pieces of spring onion.

The Iraqi sesame bread Sammoen looks exactly like this Nan-e-barbari, as does the Turkish pideh, an oval flat bread with sesame seeds on top. You can find it in Lebanon and Jordan under the name choebz frensi (French bread). In fact, it is a practical version of the ordinary daily bread for people who have an oven, but do not much time. The shaping is done in an instant. A tasty alternative for baguettes. Even if not baked in a wood-fired oven.

  • Stir the yeast into the flour, add water and oil and after a little kneading the salt. Knead for 15 minutes until the dough releases easily from the hands (kneader 10 minutes). Allow to rise for an hour in a bowl brushed with oil and covered with a damp cloth.
  • Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/gas 6.
  • Divide the proofed dough into 2 balls, cover with the damp cloth and proof again for 15 minutes. On a smooth work surface squeeze out into 2 ovals (36 x16 cm.). Transfer to the baking tray. Using the side of the thumb, press 5 rows of deep pits along the length. Brush evenly with butter, sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  • Slide the tray onto the middle shelf of the preheated oven and bake the dough until golden brown in about 20 minutes. Preferably eaten warm. Can be frozen.

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