JAVA HEMMAT: Cooking in Nashville since 1998

Dirty Page: Persian Saffron Pudding

photo: Andrea Behrends

photo: Andrea Behrends

Java Hemmat grew up in the United Arab Emirates with parents who had friends from around the world. She specifically remembers a woman named Sholeh Zard, whose background was both Iraqi and Iranian—and who brought a Persian saffron pudding to dinner.

“She used to make this beautiful, colorful, aromatic pudding, and it would have cardamom and cinnamon and would be garnished with pistachios,” Java says.“It was a feast with your eyes. It has always stayed with me.”

Years later, when Java left home for Middle Tennessee State University, her mother gave her a copy of the Persian cookbook that holds this saffron pudding recipe. “When I first started to learn to cook, it was sort of like chasing that dragon to make that recipe exactly as it was.”

Java describes the author of the cookbook, which is written in Farsi, as “the Julia Child of the Middle East,” blending European techniques with Middle Eastern flavors. And in the process of making these recipes and others, Java found her own passion. Though she worked in the corporate world for about six years, she began to study the history of hummus and its connections to Egyptians and Syrians. After a layoff from her job—and with just $40 to her name—she opened the Hummus Chick business. By 2014, she was working the business full-time.

“I cook everything,” she says, listing her favorites from cheeseburgers to Italian and French cuisines. “The basis is the same. The effort and the love—it’s universal.”

Cindy Wall