What’s Nowruz? Persian New 12 months traditions and meals defined

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By Calvin S. Nelson

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Simply as spring is a time for rebirth, the Persian New 12 months is a time to have fun new life. Nowruz is well known on the spring equinox, which Tuesday, March 19.

This celebration of spring is stuffed with symbolism round rebirth and renewal, as a result of spring is a time when life is coming again after a protracted, chilly winter, stated Yasmin Khan, the London-based human rights campaigner turned writer of “The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen,” “Zaitoun: Recipes and Tales from the Palestinian Kitchen,” and “Ripe Figs: Recipes and Tales from the Jap Mediterranean.”

These three cookbooks from Khan encourage and supply a window into the cultures and tales of individuals from the Center East by way of meals.

The dialog has been edited and condensed for readability.

CNN: What are a few of Persian New 12 months’s traditions and rituals?

Yasmin Khan: On the final Tuesday earlier than the New 12 months, there’s a custom to make small bonfires in your backyard. Historically folks leap over the bonfires, and it’s purported to be a logo of purification, challenges of the 12 months passed by, and energetically cleaning you and getting ready you for the 12 months forward.

A key custom is to arrange an altar in your own home known as a Haft-seen, which implies seven S’s in Farsi. You place seven issues in your altar that start with the letter S in Farsi, that are symbols or qualities you’d like to ask in for the 12 months forward. You’ll be able to have apples for good well being, candles for gentle, eggs for fertility, wheatgrass for rebirth and renewal, vinegar for knowledge, and a gold coin for abundance and prosperity. Every individual chooses objects which have which means for them.

The pageant lasts two weeks. On the finish of the pageant, you’re taking the wheatgrass you’ve been rising in your altar and you’re taking it all the way down to some working water someplace. You tie knots within the wheatgrass then throw it into the working water. It will float off together with all of your hopes and goals for the 12 months forward.

CNN: What meals is vital for the vacation?

Khan: Like all cultural celebrations, meals is a very integral half. As a result of it’s a pageant celebrating spring, we eat plenty of inexperienced and contemporary herbs. For instance, there’s this dish known as Kuku Sabzi (see recipe under), which is a beautiful herb and spinach frittata that we all the time eat on the primary day of the 12 months in our home. The frittata is aromatic and fragrant and is served with flatbreads, sliced tomatoes and pickles.

The primary meal of the Persian New 12 months is all the time fish served with herb-flecked rice stuffed with dill, parsley and chives in it. The 2-week pageant is a time of celebration with folks you already know … historically you go to folks’s homes and eat plenty of scrumptious sweets and pastries.

CNN: What are some straightforward methods folks can be a part of within the celebrations?

Khan: Cooking might be the best and most enjoyable method to have fun the brand new 12 months. I actually advocate that individuals give some Persian recipes a go. In addition to being scrumptious, they’re wholesome and vibrant with all of the herbs which can be packed in them.

Within the weeks earlier than the brand new 12 months, we do a giant deep spring cleansing known as “shaking down the home” in Farsi. It’s actually beautiful to have a spotlight and have one thing that’s about bringing in new life, renewal and rebirth throughout this troublesome time.

And nobody regrets a spring clear, so I feel that’s additionally a very nice thought. I feel this can be a stunning type of nonreligious pageant that everybody can be a part of into and that we will all relate to. It’s a time the place we actually attempt to let go of any difficulties that we’ve had prior to now 12 months and attempt to begin the brand new 12 months with a clear slate.

This Iranian frittata is a sensational deep inexperienced colour and tastes like spring on a plate, bursting with contemporary herby taste. It’s extremely fast to throw collectively, will preserve for a couple of days within the fridge, and will be loved sizzling or chilly.

Function an appetizer or as a part of a mezze unfold, wrapped up in a flatbread with some slices of tomato and some salty and bitter fermented cucumber pickles, or add some crumbled feta and frivolously toasted walnuts for a extra substantial essential.

Makes 4 servings as a essential or 8 servings as a starter

Prep time: Quarter-hour | Whole time: 35 minutes


7 ounces|200 grams spinach

1 3/4 ounces|50 grams contemporary parsley

1 3/4 ounces|50 grams contemporary dill

2 2/3 ounces|75 grams contemporary cilantro

5 medium eggs

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly floor black pepper

1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaf

2 teaspoons sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed


1. Wash spinach, parsley, dill and cilantro, then dry nicely on paper towels or in a salad spinner. Squeeze out as a lot moisture as potential; if the greens are moist when they’re cooked, they’ll make the kuku go spongy. Chop finely or blitz in a meals processor, in a few batches.

2. Warmth broiler to excessive. Crack eggs into a big mixing bowl. Add turmeric, flour, salt, pepper and fenugreek leaf. Stir within the chopped spinach and herbs.

3. Warmth oil in a big ovenproof skillet. Add garlic and gently fry over low warmth to melt, about 2 minutes.

4. Ensure that garlic is evenly distributed across the skillet, then pour within the egg combination. Cook dinner over low warmth till kuku is sort of cooked by way of, 5-8 minutes. End off in sizzling broiler.

5. Let kuku cool barely, then reduce into triangular slices to serve.

This is typically the first meal served during Nowruz, according to cookbook author Yasmin Khan.

Makes 4 servings



2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup darkish soy sauce

Juice of 1 medium lemon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of cayenne pepper (elective)

4 salmon fillets

Combined herb rice

1 3/4 cups white basmati rice

Sea salt

Pinch of saffron strands

Pinch of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons freshly boiled water

1 small bunch contemporary parsley, finely chopped

1 small bunch contemporary coriander, finely chopped

2 tablespoons contemporary dill, finely chopped

2 tablespoons bunch contemporary chives, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

Sunflower oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided


1. To make the marinade, mix garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and cayenne pepper, if utilizing, in a deep bowl. Add salmon, flip to coat nicely, cowl with plastic wrap and let marinate within the fridge for no less than half-hour.

2. Rinse and parboil rice and put together the saffron liquid. Place saffron in a pestle and mortar with sugar and grind till you could have a positive powder. Add just-boiled water and let steep for 10 minutes.

3. Very rigorously, fold rice, chopped herbs, garlic clove and 1 tablespoon oil collectively, being cautious to not break the rice grains.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F/Gasoline 6. Place an 8”-wide nonstick saucepan with snug-fitting lid over a medium warmth. Soften 1 tablespoon butter with 2 tablespoons oil. Add 1 tablespoon saffron liquid and season with a pinch of salt. As soon as the fats is sizzling, sprinkle a skinny layer of rice over the underside and firmly press all the way down to line the bottom of the pan. Utilizing a big spoon, gently layer the remainder of the rice on high, constructing it up right into a pyramid form. Utilizing the deal with of a wood spoon, make 4 holes within the rice. Dot remaining 1 tablespoon butter into holes after which pour over the remainder of the saffron liquid.

5. Place a clear tea towel or 4 paper towels on high of the pan and match the lid on tightly. Tuck within the edges of the tea towel, or trim paper towels to suit, in order that they gained’t catch the flame. Cook dinner over medium warmth for five minutes, then scale back warmth to very low and prepare dinner Quarter-hour extra. Take rice off warmth and let sit. Don’t be tempted to sneak a peek whereas it’s cooking as this can disturb the steaming course of. When rice has been cooking for 10 minutes, place salmon on a baking tray and bake pores and skin aspect up till cooked to your liking, 10-Quarter-hour.

6. As soon as rice has cooked, fill sink with 2” chilly water and place saucepan – with lid nonetheless tightly on – within the water. This may produce a rush of steam that ought to loosen the bottom of the rice. Take away lid, place a big plate on high of pan and rapidly flip rice over. Current the herbed rice with the fish and serve instantly.

This recipes are tailored from Yasmin Khan’s e-book “The Saffron Tales: Recipes from the Persian Kitchen.”

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