Kayk Yazdi – cardamom and rosewater cupcakes

کیک یزدی

Kayk Yazdi is to Iranians what vanilla or chocolate cupcakes are to Americans! I have yet to serve this cake (“kayk” in Farsi also translates to cupcakes in English) without generating a twinkle in the eye followed by an ear to ear smile. For anyone of Iranian origin, this familiar little treat evokes a sweet and tender emotion, prompting nostalgic stories about a distant childhood eating Kayk Yazdi in Iran.

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Cardamom and rose water rice cake

Cayk-e sheer berenji

کیک شیر برنجی

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.

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Naan-e Berenji – Rice flour cookies with poppy seeds, pistachios, and rosewater

نان برنجی

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!

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Kayk-e Eshgh – Persian love cake

کیک عشق

Today and every day we celebrate LOVE!

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.

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Qhotab – Walnut​ ​turnover​ ​pastry​ ​with​ ​cardamom​ ​and​ ​rose​ ​water

قطا ​ب ​

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!

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Halva-ye Haviji

Halva with Carrots     

حلوای هویجی

When trying to introduce this dish, I had a hard time as there is truly no equivalent in western culture for this type of dessert.  It is not a cake, not a cookie, not a pie nor a bread.

I have seen it referenced as a paste, which doesn’t sound terribly appetizing and I have seen it referenced as a brownie, which still doesn’t really fit the bill.

So – let’s just call it Halva!  And to make matters even more interesting, different regions in the middle east have different versions of this Halva.  This is the Persian version!

This dish is typically associated with and prepared for the Persian Winter Solstice Festival called Shab-e Yalda, various religious holidays as well as for funerals and memorials.

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