Following in the theme for the week here’s a quick and easily produced meal for when your hungry and in a bit of a hurry. It takes no more than an hour from start to finish, it’s filling, and very, very delicious. The recipe below is for two just multiply the ingredients as needed.
HALIM E BUDEMJAN
- 400 gr’s minced meat ( either lamb or beef)
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 medium aubergines
- 1 cup of kashk
- 1 teaspoon of advieh
- 1 cup of lentils ( cooked)
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- salt and pepper to taste.
For the garnish:
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic sliced
- 3 tablespoons of dried mint
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts ( optional)
- Bake the aubergine in the oven until soft. This usually takes 45 mins on 20
- Peel the aubergine, mash and put to one side.
- Fry the meat until brown, and salt, pepper, saffron, lentils, 3 cups of water and allow to reduce.
- Add the aubergine and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Then add 1/2 cup of kashk ( you can use kashk straight from the freezer and I freeze it in 1 cup quantities).
- Finally add the advieh, stir in well.
- Allow to simmer for a few minutes and then put to one side.
4. Add 1/2 cup of hot water to the remaining kashk, bring to the boil and then place to one side.
Now make the garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. Be careful not to over fry it as you want it brown and crispy but not burnt.
- Add the turmeric and dried mint, stir well, remove from the heat and put to one side.
Bringing it all together
- Place the meat mixture into a serving dish.
- Pour on a little of the liquid kashk ( you need to keep some in reserve to serve with the meal)
- Then decorate with the garlic and mint garnish by spooning it on
- Use the remaining oil from the pan you fried the garnish in to spoon over the top and add walnuts if you wish.
Serve with a small bowl of the liquid kashk, a fresh green salad, naan or pitta bread.
Nooshi joonet ~ Enjoy
Khoresht e Feseenjun is an exquisite Persian dish made with ground walnuts and pomegranate paste. Although it actually doesn’t look so great, it’s to die for. It’s more a dish that you would make for a special occasion rather than everyday. Typically it’s made with poultry, chicken turkey or duck or you can substitute the poultry with meat balls. The dish is intended to be both sweet and very slightly sour.
KHORESHT E FESEENAN or PERSIAN WALNUT AND POMEGRANATE STEW
- 1 kilo gr chicken or turkey
- 2 large onion
- 500 gr’s of ground walnuts
- a generous pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 teasp of turmeric
- 2 tablespoons of lime juice
- 1 tablespoon of sugar
- 1/2 teasp of salt
- 5 tablespoons of pomegranate paste or 2 cups of pomegranate juice.
- 6 glasses of water
- Place 6 glasses of water in a pan and bring to the boil.
- Add salt, ground walnuts, pomegranate paste and sugar
- Lower the heat and allow to simmer for about 3/4 hour. The oil from the walnuts will come out and help to thicken the khoresht.
- Meanwhile chop the onions and fry in a little oil until golden
- Add the chicken pieces ( or meat balls ) and brown off
- Add the turmeric and stir in
- Add these to the khoresht and leave to simmer on a low heat for about another 40 minutes
- Just before serving sprinkle with a few chopped walnuts.
Serve with plain white rice and a fresh salad.
HOW TO MAKE POMEGRANATE PASTE
It’s not always easy to find Pomegranate paste unless you live near an Iranian grocery store. But don’t worry it’s really very easy to make yourself. Here’s how:
- Take about 6 cups of pomegranate juice and bring to the boil
- Add a little salt and a little lime juice ( or lemon juice) to taste and simmer for about 3/4 hour or until the sauce thickens.
- When thick remove from heat and pour into a jar with an airtight lid.
- Allow to cool and store in the fridge.
Nooshi joonet. Enjoy.
Nan e Berenji originates from the Kermanshah region of Iran. Pure delight for me because they are made from rice flour. These delicious little cookies melt in your mouth and are just perfect to nibble on with your afternoon tea. They are just the right size for little mouths too… the children in our family adore them.
I know this recipe looks long and complicated but it’s not. There are three parts to it, unless you already have ghee, in which case there are only two.
NAN E BERENI
- 240 mls or 1 cup of ghee or clarified butter
- 720 mls or 3 cups rice flour
- 4 egg yolks
- 1.5 teaspoons of cardamom powder
- poppy seeds to garnish
- the syrup (below)
Method for clarified butter:
- Either use ghee or clarify your own butter by heating it slowly over a low heat until it boils.
- Allow to simmer for a couple of minutes and remove the bubbly froth
- Remove from heat and put to one side.
- Once it settles and hardens you will have ghee.
Ingredients for the syrup:
- 1.5 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup of water
- 8 tablespoons of rose-water
- 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice
Method for syrup:
- Add the sugar and water to a pan and bring to the boil.
- Allow to simmer for a few minutes and remove from the heat.
- Add the rose-water and lime juice and leave to cool.
Method for the cookies:
- Pre heat the oven to 180 c and prepare a biscuit baking tray by lining with grease proof paper. Place to one side.
- Make the syrup and leave to cool.
- Take a bowl, preferably a plastic one and beat the egg yolks until thick and creamy
- Add in the cool syrup and place to one side.
- In a another bowl add the rice flour, butter and cardamom and beat well.
- Add the egg yolks and mix for 15-20 minutes to create a dough and to ensure there’s lots of air in the mix.
- Knead the dough briefly. It should not be sticky at this point.
- Take a teaspoon of dough and roll into a small round shape and then flatten slightly and arrange on the baking tray leaving a distance of about 2.5 cm’s between each cookie.
- Decorate the biscuits if you wish and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
- Cook in the middle of the oven for about 12 minutes.
- Remove carefully as they are quite delicate and allow to cool.
Introducing themes to my blog and this week it’s going to be recipes using kashk or whey. You can buy kashk from any Iranian grocery store or you can easily make it at home yourself. It’s not easy to find in your local supermarket but if you don’t live within easy access of an Iranian store, you’ll probably find it in an Indian grocery store too . I’ve always bought it for convenience but there’s a first time for everything!
Kashk or whey is suprising useful, not only for Persian cooking but also in Italian dishes, for soups, cheese, biscuits and pastries , a substitute for cream and you can even make chocolate with it. I’m not going to include all those recipes but you can easily find them via a search engine. Kashk or whey is gluten-free for people with coeliacs, it’s vegetarian and has a high protein content. It’s also high in lactose so for those with lactose intolerance, beware. Swedish nutritionalists have found that kashk promotes the easy release of insulin and therefore is helpful to people with type 2 diabetes. Please talk to your doctor about this if you have diabetes.
HOW TO MAKE KASHK OR WHEY
This recipe will make about 1/2 pt of kashk. If you divide it up and store in airtight containers you can keep it in the freezer for to use as needed.
- 3 pints of natural unsweetened yoghurt
- 1 tablespoon of salt.
- 4 oz of water
- 2 pieces of cheesecloth
- Keep the yoghurt at room temperature for about 2 days or until the yoghurt becomes a little tangy. It should begin to smell quite strong and have a sour taste.
- Using a blender, add the yoghurt along with the water and salt and allow to blend away for about 6 minutes or until smooth.
- Place in a pan and bring to the boil. It should become quite thick and lumpy at this point.
- Take the 2 cheesecloth layers and drain the yogurt through them.
- Make a knot with the ends of the cheesecloth and leave the remaining yoghurt to drip away. The best way to do this is using a wooden spoon suspended over a bowl. If you don’t have any cheesecloth use a fine mesh drainer.
- After 30 mins, the remains of the yoghurt left in the cheesecloth is Kashk or whey. To make the process more speedy, add some weight on the top.
- Take the kashk or whey and form small balls sqeezing the kashk as you go (make the balls about the size of an average ice cube or plum). Then simply leave to dry out a little before freezing.
Another of our favorite rice dishes Sabzi polou is easy to make and served with chicken, fresh herbs and salad it makes a great nutritious and gluten-free meal. We eat the traditional persian way with a sofreh, it’s like a table-cloth on the floor, unless we have guests when we sit at the table. The children love it! It’s a bit like having a picnic indoors!
Taadig is the crusty rice bottom. I have used potatoes in this recipe but you could use flat or unleavened bread. We rarely do because I have Coeliacs Disease, an allergy to gluten found in wheat.
SABZI POLOU BA MORGH
This recipe serves 4.
Ingredients for the rice:
- 4 cups of basmati rice
- 4 handfuls of dried dill
- 1-2 teaspoons of salt ( according to taste)
- vegetable oil
- 1 thinly sliced potato for the taadig
- 1/3 small cup or egg cup of liquid saffron
- Pre soak the rice in salted water for at least 2 hours
- Drain the rice and rinse well under running cold water and put to one side.
- Take a large pan, add plenty of water and bring to the boil.
- Add salt. If you like your rice a little salty add 1.5 – 2 teaspoons. Otherwise add 1 teaspoon.
- I always add a few drops of liquid saffron to the boiling water also but this is optional.
- When the water is boiling, add the rice and allow to boil.
- Add 3- 4 handfuls of dill. I have a medium size hand!
- The rice will swell and you should see them grow in length. Be careful not to let the rice become too soggy. You want the rice to be ‘al dente’ or soft to bite.
- When ‘al dente’ remove from the heat and drain.
- Lightly rinse the rice again and put to the side.
- Meanwhile place a non stick pan on the heat, add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil and a few drops of saffron and mix.
- Take the thinly sliced potato’s and add them to the bottom of the pan. They should sizzle a little. Be careful not to burn yourself.
- Add the rice now
- Take a spoon with holes in and lightly pour on about a tablespoon of oil
- Cover with a lid wrapped in a clean tea towel and leave to cook for about 1.5 hours on the lowest heat setting you can. Please be careful and make sure the tea towel is secure to avoid risk of it catching alight.
- When the cooking time is finished pour the rest of the liquid saffron over the rice. Then take your serving dish (usually a large flat dish or tray) and place over the top of the pan and quickly turn upside down and your rice will come out as in the picture above. Alternatively spoon it onto your serving dish and arrange your crispy potatoes around or over the rice or simply serve the taadig on a separate dish.
I have only made enough for two but just increase the amount of chicken you use if you are cooking for more
- 3-4 Chicken breasts
- 2 teaspoons of liquid saffron
- salt and pepper to taste
- A knob of butter
- Heat your oven to 200 c
- Heat a little oil in a pan and add the chicken pieces.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper
- Fry until golden
- Place some tin foil in an oven dish and add the chicken
- Pour a few teaspoons of liquid saffron over the chicken and add a knob of butter to each chicken piece.
- Wrap the foil around the chicken and cook in the oven for about 25 mins. This will vary according to the size of the chicken pieces you use.
- Half way through cooking time, remove from the oven and pour the liquid over the chicken again to keep it moist.
- Remove from the oven and pour the remaining liquid over the chicken before serving.
Nooshi joonet. Enjoy
I’d forgotten how delicious Sholleh Zard is but was reminded at a Norooz gathering last weekend and I thought I’d make it and share the recipe with you.
Sholleh Zard is a bright yellow sweet rice pudding and everywhere in the world seems to have their own versions. In Iran it is made with zaafaran and rose-water and best eaten cold although some regions in Iran like to serve it warm. The ingredients are a wonderful blend of flavors that is typically Persian and will lift your spirits.
Here is a very simple recipe which serves 6-8 people.
- 1 cup of basmati rice ( you can use any rice)
- 6 cups of water
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup of rose-water
- 1.5 or 2 cups of sugar
- 250 gr’s of butter
- 1/2 teaspoon of saffron
- 3/4 cup of sliced almonds
- 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom ( optional)
- Pistachios to garnish
- Grind the saffron with a little sugar and dissolve in about 50 ml’s of hot water. Cover and leave to stand, stir occasionally.
- Rinse the rice under cold water under the water runs clear.
- Bring the 6 cups of water to the boil, add a pinch of salt and then add the rice.
- Cook the rice on a low to medium heat until the water has evaporated and the rice becomes mushy. You will need to stir occasionally to avoid any burning. This might take between 45 mins to an hour.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the saffron, rose-water, sugar almonds and cardamom.
- Return to the lowest heat setting you can, cover and leave to simmer for about another 45 mins or until the pudding is thick and creamy and coats the back of a spoon.
- Stir it occasionally and you may need to add more water as you go.
- You can continue to cook until the rice becomes completely smooth but we like ours with a little form.
Pour into your serving dish, usually a shallow bowl or into individual bowls if preferred and allow to cool. Garnish with cinnamon and pistachios before serving.
Sholleh Zard should be stored in the fridge and can be kept for between 4 -6 days.
Typically flavored with zaafaran ( saffron) and rose-water this Ice cream is to die for! You can use the same recipe whether or not you use an ice cream maker. Add pistachio nuts for a little texture and hey presto creamy exquisite ice cream.
SAFFRON ICE CREAM
- 1/2 pint of milk
- 1/2 pint of cream
- 3 tablespoons of caster sugar
- 3 egg yolks
- a good pinch of saffron
- 3 tablespoons of rose-water
- crushed pistachio nuts
- Place the milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Put to one side.
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together and add the milk and be sure to continue to whisk.
- Return to a medium heat and stir continuously until the milk begins to thicken. DO NOT LET IT BOIL! or the eggs will separate.
- Take a good pinch of saffron and a pinch of sugar and grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar.
- Add the saffron to the milk and stir in.
- Add the rose-water and stir in.
- Leave the whole mixture to cool down. To speed up the cooling process, stand the milk (still in the pan) in some cold water. It should only take a maximum of 15 minutes.
- When cold, add the cream and stir in.
- If you’re going to use an Ice Cream maker follow the instructions and don’t forget to add in the pistachios
- If you’re not using an Ice Cream maker, add the pistachios and pour into a clean container and place it in the quick freeze area of your freezer.
A Persian meal is always served with some fresh vegetables be it in a salad or a dish of sabzi khordan or both. Fresh vegetables are essential for vitamins and minerals which help prevent illness and have many other benefits such as an aid to our digestive system, skin, hair and bones but salad’s can become a little boring unless you spice them up. A perfect way to add flavour is through the use of herbs.
One of my favorite herbs is mint and it makes for a perfect salad dressing. Mint is easy to grow and you can grow it all year around and it’s easily sourced in a dry form from any supermarket. This recipe below is one I use regularly and completely transforms even the most basic of salads into some something delicious.
- 4 desert spoons of olive oil
- 1 desert spoon of grape vinegar or apple vinegar ( these are gluten-free. Malt vinegar contains gluten)
- A teaspoon of fresh or dried mint finely chopped
- A teaspoon of fresh flat leaved parsley finely chopped
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
5.Take the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pepper and whisk with a fork and then pour over the salad.
Nothing could be easier and you have yourself a tasty, zingy salad.
Nooshi joonet . Enjoy
If you ask anyone who has never eaten Persian food before they always imagine that it’s heavily spiced, a lot like Indian food! And then they’re always surprised to learn it isn’t!
Persian cooking is made with a delicate balance of sweet and sour, hot and cold and the flavours are subtle and memorable. Quite unlike most other middle eastern food, Persian cuisine has a flavour all of its own. Often we take a recipe and ‘Persianise’ it, like Spaghetti ! We add what we think it lacks to create a better balance, or a taste that we prefer.
The ingredients of Persian food are largely the same ingredients that food all over the world is made from and yet when we add spice to a recipe, it literally transforms it. In Persian cooking we use fruits, herbs, flowers and ground roots to create a delicate aroma and a rich flavour. Each spice has a purpose and is helpful in maintaining a healthy mind, body and soul.
Here I’ve put together a list of the spices used in Persian cooking. Food is always created with the intention of making a hot or cold meal and we use spices to help create healthy and delicious food.
- Persian advieh is a blend of 5 or more different spices. Although similar to Gharam Masala, the emphasise is less on a hot flavour. Advieh can be bought from Iranian (and Indian) grocery stores already made up but it’s great to make it yourself to your own individual taste. There are different blends of Advieh depending on what you’re cooking, where you come from in Iran and personal taste . There’s one for rice dishes, which tends to be more fragrant and is sprinkled on the rice just before serving, another for khoreshts, which would usually include limu amani and zaafaran and another for pickles which would consist of spicy and sour flavours. The first five on the list are the usual spices used but if you want a spicier flavour add black pepper and cloves. Anything goes really ! For an Advieh basic recipe use equal parts of the following, try using one teaspoon to start with.
- Cardamom seeds
- Coriander seeds
- Dried rose petals
- Star of Anise
- Limu amani
- Black pepper
- sesame seeds
Simply take your spices of choice, grind with a pestle and mortar and store in an airtight container in a cool dark cupboard.
There is nothing so delicious as spaghetti Persian style! Complete with taadig ( a crusty bottom) if you want it! This is one of the few times I’m happy to let my other half loose in the kitchen simply because he makes it so much better than I can! We use Gluten free pasta but you can use wheat pasta. Serves 4
- 400 gr’s ground beef
- 1 large onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Tomato puree
- 1 tin of tomato’s
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon,
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon of fresh chopped ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder
- A pinch of dried mint
- Olive oil.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fry the chopped onion in some olive oil until it begins to turn transparent
- Add the turmeric, ginger and cinnamon
- Add the mince and the curry powder and cook until brown.
- In a separate pan heat some olive oil, add the garlic, a little turmeric and a good pinch of dried mint.
- Add the tomato puree and fry
- Add the tin of tomato’s, salt, pepper to taste and 1/2 glass of water and cook for 15 minutes over a low heat until the sauce thickens.
- Combine the meat and sauce in one pan
- Allow to simmer for 30 mins on a low heat.
- Meanwhile cook the pasta.
- Combine the meat sauce and pasta and return to the heat for about 15 mins.
- If you want to make a taadig simply allow it to cook in the pan for about 15-20 mins on a low heat. When ready to eat, cover the pan with your serving dish and quickly turn upside down. If it doesn’t all come out at one, rest the pan in some cold water for a few minutes and try again.
Serve with a salad or sabzi and we like ours with mast or natural yoghurt .
I love making these all in one pot meals. Once it’s in the pot you have time to tidy up, prepare the table and if you’re lucky, to relax with a pot of chai before you eat and Tah-chin ba morgh is the perfect meal for this. Most of the work is in the preparation and once it’s all in the pot you are free to do other things.
You can make Tah-chin either on the cooker in pan or in a dish in the oven. I’m going to take you through the pan method but if you prefer, place your ingredients in a pre greased, large, deep oven proof dish and cook for about an 1 hour to an 90 minutes on 250 c for about 90 minutes – 2 hours.
- 3 cups of basmati rice.
- 1 large onion
- 350 gr’s Chicken boneless breast pieces
- 1 cup or approx 300 ml’s of mast or natural yoghurt
- 4 eggs
- 1 small cup od concentrated liquid zafaran
- salt and pepper to taste.
- barberries ( optional)
- Skin and trim the chicken breasts or pieces and cut into medium size pieces.
- Take a desert spoon of lime juice , a pinch of salt, mix well and pour over the chicken and then keep in the fridge for a few hours before using.
- Beat the eggs yolks
- Combine the eggs yolks with the rest of the yogurt, add a pinch of salt and 2 teaspoons of concentrated zafaran liquid.
- Pre soak the rice a few hours before you intend to cook in salted water.
- About an hour before cooking, rinse your barberries, place in a drainer and put to one side.
- Rinse the rice and put to one side
- Boil up a large pan of water, add a teaspoon of salt, a drop or two of zafaran and a teaspoon of butter.
- When boiling add the rice
- Keep the rice boiling until it becomes soft to bite. The rice should become long but not fluffy.
- Remove from the heat and drain.
- Rinse the rice lightly. Put to one side.
- Chop an onion and fry in a pan until it starts to go change colour.
- Now take the chicken and add to the pan, add a pinch of salt and fry until golden.
- Remove from the chicken from the pan and put to one side.
- Take the barberries now and place them in a frying pan and heat without oil or water. This will cook off any remaining water from their rinse. You should see a little steam. When the steam is finished, add a little oil and fry gently, then add the zafaran and allow to bubble away for a minute. Remove from the heat and put to one side.
- Take a large pan with a lid.
- Place a few tablespoons of oil in the pan and heat.
- Add a few drops of the saffron liquid and mix it into the oil.
- Now add the yoghurt mix you put aside earlier and put it in the pan with the oil.
- Add a layer of rice and press down into the yoghurt
- Add a layer of chicken and then another layer of both yoghurt and rice and continue until all the ingredients have been used.
- After you add each layer, press down gently before you add the next.
- Cook on a low heat for about 90 minutes to 2 hours. The longer you leave it the better the taa dig will be.
To turn it out for serving you can do this two ways:
- Place your serving dish over the top of the pan and turn upside down. If it the rice gets stuck in the pan wait a few minutes and gently tap on the bottom of the pan. or
- Remove the rice from the pan with a spoon onto your serving dish. Mixing in your barberries in the saffron as you go. Then remove the taadig separately when you come to it.
Persian Kebabs are well known for being the most delicious kebabs and that’s all down to the marinade. You can use veal, beef , or chicken and this is the recipe for one of two marinades we use. The other marinade uses mast or natural yoghurt rather than zafaran. Both are divine.
Ingredients for the marinade :
- 500 gr’s Lamb
- 1/2 teaspoon of zafaran
- 2 Onions
- 1 desert spoon of Lime juice
- salt and pepper
- Wash, trim and cut the lamb into large cubes
- Place the meat into a bowl
- Roughly chop the onion into quarters
- Pour on the zafaran and mix it well
- Add salt and pepper, lime juice
- Leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour before grilling
- Put the meat onto skewers and grill or BBQ until brown
Nooshi joonet. Enjoy
Turmeric is such an under valued spice. We use it everyday in Persian cooking but forget all the magical healing qualities of this wonderful spice. It has a rich and vibrant colour and smells great but beyond that there are numerous health benefits.
Turmeric comes from the ginger family of plants. It’s often known as ‘poor man’s saffron’ because it’s less expensive than zafaran. It has a slightly earthy, bitter mustardy taste. The root is cultivated, dried and then powdered and that is what we end with in our supermarkets.
Here are just some of the healing benefits to gained from Turmeric:
1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent, useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.
2. When combined with cauliflower, it has shown to prevent prostate cancer and stop the growth of existing prostate cancer.
3. Thought to be helpful in preventing lung cancer
4. May prevent melanoma and cause existing melanoma cells to die
5. Reduces the risk of childhood leukemia.
6. Is a natural liver detoxifier.
7. Thought to be helpful in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease .
8. Thought tobe helpful in the prevention of many different forms of cancer.
9. It is a natural anti-inflammatory that works as well as many anti-inflammatory drugs but without the side effects.
10. Has been helpful in slowing the progression of multiple sclerosis
11. Is a natural painkiller.
12. May aid in fat metabolism and help in weight management.
13. Has long been used in Chinese medicine as a treatment for depression.
14. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, it is a natural treatment for arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
18. Has been shown to stop the growth of new blood vessels in tumors.
19. Speeds up wound healing
And here are a few quirky facts about turmeric that I came across! Bet you didn’t know these:
- A spoonful of turmeric added to the water in water-cooled radiators will stop leaks.
- Use turmeric to get rid of ants in your garden…. It might leave the garden a nice colour too!
- Turmeric paste is a home remedy for sunburn and it is also an ingredient in many commercial sunscreens.
It’s that time of year again. The start of spring, March 21st, Norooz the Persian New Year is nearly with us and it’s time to start preparing for the ‘haft seen’ table. I love this time of year when we know it marks the end of the dark winter months and the coming of light and life again. The time of rebirth and good things to come. Norooz literally translated means ‘new day’.
The traditions of Norooz have their roots in the ancient times of the Zoroastrian religion when people would offer the god Ahura Mazda trays of symbolic gifts representing the principles of their faith: good thoughts, truth, justice, virtue, prosperity, good deeds and generosity. Today this tradition continues through the setting of the ‘haft seen’ table.
The ‘Haft seen’ table is both a tradition and spiritual. I’m always surprised when I hear that so many Iranians in diaspora no longer carry on with this tradition. It’s like christmas without the tree or Easter without chocolate. It’s made up of seven ‘S’s. These are the most popular in these modern times and there are many other things people add. The items in red are the most traditional of the ‘S’s’ and each has a special meaning.
- Sabzeh. Wheat, barley or oats sprouts grown in a small dish to symbolise growth, new beginnings.
- Sir or garlic one of the worlds most natural medicines.
- Sib or an apple which represents beauty
- Sanjed is the dry fruit from the lotus tree which symbolises love.
- samaq or sumac, dried berries powder red in colour to represent the warmth of the sun
- serkeh or vinegar symbolises age, patience and wisdom.
- Sonbol or a hyacinth a sign of spring
- sekanjabin a sweet mint syrup
- sekkeh or coins reflecting wealth
- A mirror to smile into and wish for a happy year ahead.
- 2 Candles to represent fire
- decorated eggs, one for each member of the family to represent fertility
- Goldfish in a bowl to symbolise life itself
- A bowl of rose-water for it’s cleansing properties.
- samanu a sweet desert to symbolise affluence.
You will need some wheat grass seeds and about a week to 10 days to grow the seeds. You can buy the seeds from almost any nursery, garden centre, health food shops and even sometimes from your local supermarket. They usually cost around £1.50 per packet.
1. Place the seeds in a flat bottomed bowl or dish. Soak in water for about 2 days to soften them. They absorb water pretty quickly so you need to keep them moist by spraying water them regularly. After 2 days you should begin to see little white sprouts emerging. If you want to force the seeds on, cover with damp kitchen towel / paper and place in a warm dark environment, an airing cupboard is perfect. You will see results within 24 hours. Small white shoots will begin to emerge.
2. Monitor the seeds, spray when needed and keep them warm.
3. After 2 days or 3 days when the seeds have some growth, remove the damp cover and place into the light. A kitchen windowsill is perfect. Somewhere warm and sunny. Continue to keep them moist but don’t drown them.
After the 13 days of Seezdah Bedar (the 13 days celebration of norooz) the sabzeh is said to have collected all the illness and bad luck of the previous year is now thrown into running water which it is believed will help rid the house and family of evil or bad luck. Another old custom would be for single women in the family to tie the sabzeh into knots in the hope that they will find marriage before the new year is out.
First boil the eggs and allow them to cool off and then be as creative as you are in the mood for.
TRADITIONAL NOROOZ FOOD
Sabzi Polou ba mahi or Herb rice with fish and Reshteh polou or Persian Noodle Rice .
- Basmati rice 1 cup per serving
- 1 handful of reshteh per three servings For coeliacs use rice noodles or gluten-free spaghetti.
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 1 small onion
- Follow the recipe for making Persian rice to step 3 and then place to one side.
- Break the noodles into pieces. It doesn’t matter what size
- Chop and gently fry the onion in the butter and oil and add the noodles until golden
- Combine the rice and noodles in one pan as from step 4 and continue through the rest of the instructions to step 14.
- Some people like to add cinnamon and raisins which is delicious and you can sprinkle these on just before serving.
- Sabzi for polou is usually shivid or dill and tareh or leek chives. You can use fresh herbs or dried.
- 1 cup of rice per serving
- Follow the recipe for making Persian Rice
- If you use dried herbs add them at step 5 or if you are using fresh herbs add them about 20 minutes before serving and mix in gently.
- Follow the rest of the instructions to step 14.
Other Norooz Traditions
In preparation for Norooz it’s traditional to thoroughly ‘shake’ the house clean, ”Khane tekani’ . The walls are freshly painted, floors, furniture, curtains and other soft furnishings are all cleaned and scented with rose-water. Flowers are brought in from the garden and decorate the tables. This is a very symbolic ritual which comes from the Zoroastrian’s and is about purification and ridding the house of negativity.
Tips for shiny, sweet smelling houses:
- White vinegar . It’s cheap and goes a long way. Pour a little on some kitchen towel and clean your windows and mirrors squeaky clean. The great thing about this is there are no smears! Pour into toilets, in bathtubs, hand basins and use on the kitchen work surfaces. Great for cleaning tiled floors and walls and even laminate flooring.
- Lemon juice is great for cleaning soap scum, fantastic for brass and copper. Mix with baking soda to make an abrasive paste and use for more ground in stains.
- Also put lemon peel in the garbage bin, it will help neutralise those nasty smells. You can also use orange or lime peel in the same way.
- If you can’t repaint walls, wash them down in a solution of vinegar and lemon juice to wash the walls down. Place in a spray bottle and it’s easy.
- Pour some rose water into a spray bottle and spray your furniture, curtains, beds etc for a lovely sweet smelling home. Keep it nearby and spray just before guests arrive.
- In keeping with old traditions, place some Rose water in a small dish or jug and invite arriving guests to rinse their hands. This is a Zoroastrian Norooz tradition and is thought to wash away any illness.
- If you can find some scented rose petals place in small pots around the house.
Okra is one of the richest sources of calcium in any food which is perfect for coeliacs whose diets generally lack calcium. Okra is a little used vegetable and there are very few recipes that call for Okra. However this a great one and I like to eat it regularly. Okra is a seasonal vegetable but these days it’s generally available all year around. If you can’t find it in your local supermarket, try an Indian grocery store.
- 500 gr’s of lamb or beef
- 2-3 onions
- 600 gr’s of baamieh or okra
- 2 medium – large potatoes ( optional)
- 2 cloves of garlic ( optional)
- 1 teaspoon of turmeric
- 4 tablespoons of lime juice
- 2-3 tablespoons of tomato puree
- salt and pepper to taste
- Trim and cut the meat into cubes
- peel and chop the onions
- Wash and remove the stalks from the baamieh and cut into approx 1 inch pieces.
- If you want to add potato, peel and cut into small cubes
- Gently fry the onion in a little oil until it begins to turn golden.
- Add the cubed meat, salt and pepper and brown off.
- Add the turmeric and stir in.
- Add some hot water, enough to cover the meat and cook for about 45 minutes until the meat is tender.
- Add the cubed potato now.
- In another pan gently fry the baamieh in a little oil until darker in colour. If you gently shake the pan rather than stir the Okra, the sticky syrup from the okra wont ouze out.
- Add the okra, tomato puree and more seasoning if needed. Cook for about another 10 minutes.
- Add the lime juice and leave for around 10 minutes. The baamieh should not become too soft or too slimey.
Serve with plain white rice, mast or natural yoghurt and a fresh green salad.
Nooshi joonet. Enjoy.