It’ll be no surprise that rice dishes are cherished and consumed in Persian cuisine. Rice found its way to Iran from China via the silk road, and took root in the Caspian Sea region, where the climate and landscape are very hospitable to rice production.
Recently I’ve been reading about the wide variety of rice that exists in Iran, and have been reminded of the distinctive characteristics of the rice we encountered when we traveled north to the Caspian Sea. I’ve been quite homesick for those familiar scents and flavors! Here in the US, the Basmati rice that I purchase at the Persian grocery store is the closest I’ve found to the rice I remember eating as a child in Tehran, with its signature flavor and texture.
Sometimes simplicity is the best approach, and these rosewater and raisin cookies are just that: simple. Cream the butter, add eggs and then the rest, and you’ll have these lightly rose-flavored buttery raisin cookies.
This beauty is another of the Caspian Sea region’s contributions to Persian cuisine. Not only is this pastry unique to this region, but also the two provinces that border the Sea – Gilan and Mazandaran – each have their own versions. Though a walnut paste is the most common filling, possible alternatives include dates, bananas and coconut.
For as long as I remember these delicate and brittle little cookies were present at the tables and spreads of a Persian home. Most significantly these cookies would have their place at the Nowruz table (Persian New Year), which would also meet the company of a variety of other sweet treats, dried nuts, and fruits. These cookies are so popular among Iranians that you typically ended up just buying them from the neighborhood bakery. I actually don’t ever remember my mom making them!
Valentine’s day has come and gone and I am just getting around to posting this cake recipe on the blog. To state the obvious, Valentine’s day was not always a day that was celebrated in Iran and there was certainly no cake to go with it! But as times have changed, so have some of the traditions and rituals around these holidays.
Let there be jam! Homemade jams are such an integral part of Persian culture and cuisine. Quince is one of those rare and sometimes underappreciated tart and crisp fruits that are best enjoyed either cooked in a stew or made into a jam. The fruit itself is very aromatic and I can always detect a note of rose scent in it. When making this jam, I make that note much more pronounced, and make a symphony of aromatics by adding rose water and various spices – not necessarily traditional, but magical!
I have such fond memories of my mother making these tasty treats as a young child. Qhotab is traditionally deep fried (though, I bake mine), creating a delicate and flaky textured crust with creamy and aromatic cardamom and rose water walnut paste on the inside. I can still recall the scent of the oil and the sweet pastry as a 4-year-old in the Amirabad region of Tehran, in our first home!
Iranian baklava showcases layers of flaky pastry with nuts, sweetened with a fragrant and buttery syrup of rose water and cardamom. Typical nuts for baklava are pistachios, almonds, and walnuts. I have also made this baklava with orange blossom water.