Recipe: Terry Sweeney’s Persian Tart

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Terry’s Persian Tart earned him a first place ribbon in the savory pie category at the Third Annual Good Food Pie Contest.  The judges raved about his pie.  Keep reading for Terry’s story and his recipe…

It’s safe to say that no Persian ever made – or ate – a tart like this. So where do I get off calling it a Persian tart? It was inspired by a stew recipe (qaliyeh-ye maygu) I learned to make in a Persian cooking class at the New School of Cooking in Culver City eight years ago. Its bold flavor derives largely from tamarind, which has a sweet-sour quality that’s less familiar to Western palates. Its other unusual ingredient: fenugreek, an herb that’s mostly stem, but also a little grassy and very sweet (its dried form is used to flavor many candies). Fresh fenugreek is tough to find; Indian spice stores often have it; so do the Persian grocers on Westwood Boulevard. The Farsi word for fenugreek is shanbelileh.

The original stew recipe calls for serving it with shrimp, a firm-textured white fish, or chicken. In the four test versions I made, halibut and shrimp basically disintegrated in the tart filling. For the version I entered in the pie contest, I used a pound of chicken, which was meatier and more noticeable once the tart was baked. When I make this again, I intend to try small cubes of browned lamb.

I also wanted a crust that was coarse enough to neutralize the strong flavors of the filling; I adapted <a href=””target=”new”>this tart crust recipe</a> I found on I think the cornmeal is a nice counterpoint to the acid of the tamarind and the heat of the dry spices in the filling.

Persian Tart filling

¼ cup olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced

8 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 ½ cups cilantro leaves (3-4 bunches)

2 large tomatoes, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons dried or 1 cup fresh chopped fenugreek

¼ cup chopped basil

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground toasted coriander

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon tamarind paste, diluted in ½ cup water

1 pound boneless chicken breast meat

Cornmeal crust (for 11-inch tart pan)

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup whole grain pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, chilled

6 tablespoons canola oil

4-5 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Combine cornmeal, flour, and salt in a bowl and stir well. Cut in the butter and oil; add water a tablespoon at a time till dough holds together and is lightly sticky. Refrigerate for an hour, or even overnight.

Cut dough ball in half; roll out the bottom crust and press firmly into edges of tart pan. Cover surface of dough with foil, including sides and crust; weight foil down with dried beans or pie weights.

Bake for 20 minutes; then remove foil and beans or weights and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the surface of the crust is lightly browned.

Remove shell from the oven and let cool.

Boil chicken breasts for 15-20 minutes. When cool, cut or tear meat into bite-sized pieces; set aside.

In a skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Brown the onion for 5 minutes and add the garlic. Add the cumin, turmeric, coriander, pepper and cayenne and stir to combine. Add the cilantro, tomatoes, fenugreek, basil and tamarind mixture and stir well. Cover and simmer over low heat for approximately 20 minutes; remove lid and simmer until consistency is thick, not soupy. Taste to adjust seasoning.

Scatter chicken pieces in bottom of tart shell. Pour or spoon tamarind-cilantro mixture on top to fill the shell. Roll out the other half dough ball for the top crust; cut off any overlapping dough. The crusts do not need to be sealed or crimped together. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees until top crust is lightly golden.