Who doesn’t love spreading a healthy dose of homemade jam on toasted and buttered crusty bread? For some, there may be something strange about jam that’s made without fruit, but I would encourage anyone to try this brightly orange-colored and flavorful carrot jam.
Making jam is an age-old tradition in Iran (and the rest of the world); it dates back to the 12th century in ancient Persia. This was an essential means of preserving food far beyond the growing and harvest seasons. This tradition was also adopted and spread through many cultures who then put their own unique mark in the middle east and Mediterranean regions.
This is Ferni, one of the most comforting and familiar dishes in Persian cuisine; a smooth and creamy dessert that is loved by both the old and the young. Though to call it *just* a dessert really doesn’t capture the essence and significance of this dish.
Ferni is so much more than a sweet rice pudding; it is a cultural phenomenon which requires more explanation. But first let’s talk about it as a culinary creation.
Sholeh Zard is a beloved and popular rice pudding that has all the quintessential flavors of a Persian dessert. Fragrant Persian rice is slowly simmered in a large body of water until it begins to soften. One by one, saffron, rosewater and sugar find their way into the pot and diligently do their part to create a creamy, aromatic and vibrant rice pudding that is as familiar to Iranians as apple pie is to Americans.
It is that time of year: once again, Nourouz is here!
With the arrival of Nourouz, the Persian New Year, every Iranian diligently gathers specific items to be elegantly displayed on their Haftseen table (see more details below).
This is a lesser-known version of baklava that takes the form of a cake, instead of the flaky filo pastry that people are most familiar with. But it has all the familiar flavors that you would expect from a Persian baklava, such as rose water, ground nuts and cardamon. In Farsi, this cake is also called Kayk-e Sharbatie, referring to the syrup that is poured over the baked cake.
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.
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.