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Chef Kian Samyani is the founder of Berenjak, an Iranian restaurant in Soho, London inspired by the hole-in-the-wall kebab houses of Tehran. Before founding Berenjak, Samyani cooked in the kitchens of Benares, The Bingham, Gymkhana and Brigadiers. Named after the brightly coloured, crunchy toasted rice eaten as a snack at funfairs in Iran, Berenjak highlights the importance of sharing food with friends and family, enjoying each dish until every bite is gone. Having grown up in London, Samyani has Iranian roots, and it’s this heritage that inspires his mouth-watering cooking at the restaurant. Ducking through a reimagined Persian shop-front, upon entering the Romilly Street eatery, diners are greeted by an open kitchen, giving a full view of the flaming tanoor, mangal barbecue, and vertical rotisserie – all the traditional tools of the Persian chef. On the menu, discover coal-cooked meats marinated in flavours like citrus and saffron, hearty stews, an enticing selection of mezze plates, and of course, for dessert, baklava, reconceived by the chef as an ice-cream sandwich. To create a taste of the Middle East at home, Samyani shares with Something Curated his recipes for a delicious vegetarian mezze, perfect for sharing. The below are his words.

Kian Samyani / Courtesy Berenjak

Meat-Free Middle Eastern Mezze – Hummus, Baba Ghanouj, Labneh and Flatbreads

I eat Iranian food at the restaurant almost every day therefore when I get an evening off I feel it’s good to take a break and try foods from our neighbouring countries and the rest of the Middle East so here are my go to recipes for a quick, easy and delicious meatless dinner. The great thing about eating this way is that you can add a dish or two for something more substantial and all the ingredients are readily available from most supermarkets. I love the idea of households across the country embracing the romance of how we break bread around the dinner table and share what’s in front of us and can’t wait to hopefully see what you come up with. As a general rule I always have at least 3 dips – a cooling yoghurt dip of any sort, an aubergine dip like muhammara or baba ghanouj, and then finally some form of hummus.I think the balance of flavours, having all three to mop up with some fluffy on the inside, crisp on the outside flatbreads or pitta is just perfect. Don’t be afraid to whip up some hot sauce and garlic sauce to accompany these dips to give everything that lift if you like punchy flavours.

Berenjak / Courtesy Berenjak

Shopping list:

I’ll always recommend to buy the best you can and have available to you but fear not and don’t go out of your way or stress about every little detail – let your instincts take over.

Serves 2

Cold pressed rapeseed oil
Maldon salt
Coriander or parsley
Banana shallot
Green or black olives
Romano pepper
Strained Greek yoghurt
Pickles of your choice (optional)



2 cloves garlic (10g)
Lemon juice (from one lemon, 30g)
Cold pressed rapeseed oil (35g)
Tahini (110g)
Ice cubes (210g)
Salt (5g)

Put everything into a blender and blend on high speed for as long as possible till it’s velvety smooth and shiny, split into two containers and keep half in the fridge to chill.

Makes 300g


Chickpeas (450g drained) 40g set aside
2 clove garlic (10g)
Cold pressed rapeseed (30g)
Tahini (90g)
Lemon juice (from one lemon, 28g)
Salt (10g)
Ice (95g)

In the blender jug, grate the garlic, add the tahini, rapeseed oil, lemon juice, salt, ice and half the chickpeas and blend on high speed till as smooth as possible, add the remaining half (setting aside 40g) and pulse till you have your desired consistency. I like mine a bit smoother than coarse.

Makes 595g


2 shallots (110g)
3 cloves garlic (14g)
Cold pressed rapeseed oil (50g)
½ Romano pepper, roughly chopped (25g)
1 aubergine cooked (200g pulp)
Salt (6g)
Cracked black pepper (2g)
Parsley leaves, chopped (3g)
Green olives, roughly chopped (30g)

First we’ll need to cook the aubergine; pierce the aubergine all around with a fork so it doesn’t explode later on. Then either under your grill in the oven, on a BBQ or even on a gas fire hob, cook the aubergine on high heat till the skin has blistered and the entire thing goes soft to touch, place the blackened cooked aubergine into a container and wrap with cling film, the steam should release the skin from the flesh.

When cool, peel the aubergine and set aside, discard the skin.

Next, slice the garlic and shallots and heat a medium non-stick pot and when hot add the rapeseed oil, shallots and garlic and start to fry till translucent and starting to brown.

Add the aubergine, salt and pepper and cook until the aubergine pulp breaks down completely and starts to brown a little (3-5mins) then remove from the heat, add the chopped Romano peppers and olives of your choice and finally the chopped parsley leaves.

Makes 240g

To bring it all together:


First warm up the tahini sauce that’s not refrigerated, spoon 300g of the hummus onto a starter plate or bowl and make a well with the back of a spoon. Fill the well with the warm tahini sauce and sprinkle over the reserved chickpeas from earlier and the chopped parsley stalk.


Spoon a generous pool of the cold tahini sauce onto a starter plate/bowl followed by the aubergine mix.


Making sure the yoghurt is fridge cold, decant onto a starter plate/bowl and make a well with the back of a spoon, sprinkle the za’atar generously all over followed by a good glug of cold pressed rapeseed oil or extra virgin olive oil, whichever you prefer.

Finally, toast your bread until crispy on the outside and then stack up so they soften a little where they’re touching and this way they also stay hotter for longer.

And serve!

Feature image: Berenjak / Courtesy Berenjak

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