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Posted on: March 19, 2019

Persian Recipes for Nowruz

Happy Nowruz! Ring in the Persian New Year by cooking a traditional meal that many families eat to celebrate the equinox.

Cook book cover that displays a plate of rice surrounded by a skewer of chicken wings, pomegranates, nuts, and spices.

The Nowruz menu includes dishes that are symbolic of good luck and prosperity in the new year. In the egg-based herb frittata, the eggs and herbs represent fertility and rebirth respectively. In the rice with fresh herbs and fish, the herbs again represent rebirth while the fish symbolizes Anahita – one of the Zoroastrian angels of water and fertility. Celebrate the changing of the seasons the ancient way with a feast fit for kings.

Herb frittata wedge over the pan it was cooked in.

Fresh Herb Frittata (Kuku Sabzi)

Makes 4 servings, preparation time 45 minutes plus 40 minutes of cook time

Ingredients:

Garnish (optional) –

1 tablespoon oil, butter, or ghee

1/3 cup barberries, picked over, soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, drained, and rinsed

1 teaspoon grape molasses or sugar

2 tablespoons water

Batter –

1/2 cup oil, butter, or ghee

1 large or 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped

6 eggs

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons advieh (Persian spice mix)

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1/2 cup Romaine lettuce, finely chopped

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh spring onions

1 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves or 1 cup chopped fresh (optional)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. To make the garnish: In a wide skillet place 1 tablespoon oil, the barberries, grape molasses, and 2 tablespoons water, and stir-fry for 4 minutes over medium heat (beware, barberries burn easily). Transfer the barberries to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in the skillet over medium heat and sauté the onions until lightly golden. Remove the onions and allow to cool.
  3. Break the eggs into a large mixing bowl. Add baking powder, advieh, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Beat lightly with a fork. Add the garlic, lettuce, herbs, walnuts, flour, and sautéd onions. Fold gently using a rubber spatula (do not overmix).
  4. Heat 6 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch skillet (or frittata pan) over medium-low heat, pour in the mixture, and cook, covered, until it has set (about 15 to 20 minutes). If you have a frittata pan, simply flip over and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until golden. If not, cook the top under a hot broiler for 2 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the kuku to a round serving dish and garnish with barberries. Cut the kuku into wedges and serve hot, or at room temperature, with lavash bread and yogurt. Nush-e Jan!

 

A serving platter of dill rice

Rice with Fresh Herbs and Fish (Sabzi Polow ba Mahi)

Makes 6 servings, preparation time 45 minutes plus 1 hour of cook time

Ingredients:

Rice –

3 cups long-grain basmati rice

1 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives or spring onions

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh dill

2 1/2 cups coarsely shopped fresh parsley

2 cups chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves

3/4 cup oil, melted butter, or ghee

1 teaspoon ground saffron dissolved in 4 tablespoons hot water

8 green garlics, trimmed, or 4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

Fish –

1 large white-fleshed fish, scaled and cleaned and cut into six pieces, rinsed and patted dry

4 tablespoons oil

Dusting –

1/2 cup flour combined with 2 teaspoons sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. To cook the rice: Clean and wash the rice. Bring 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large, non-stick pot. Pour the rice into the pot. Boil briskly for 6 to 10 minutes. Bite a few grains, if they feel soft and all the rice has risen to the top, it is ready to be drained. Drain rice in a large, fine-mesh colander and rinse with 3 cups water.
  2. In a bowl, toss the chopped herbs and fenugreek together and set aside.
  3. To make the crust: In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup oil, 1/4 cup water, and a few drops of saffron water. Pour this mixture in the same pot.
  4. Place 2 spatulas full of rice in the pot, then add one spatula full of herbs. Repeat, alternating layers of the rice and herbs, sprinkling the cinnamon between the layers. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium heat.
  5. Pour the remaining oil, 1/2 cup hot water, and a drop of saffron water over the rice. Arrange the garlics on top. Wrap the lid with a clean dish towel and cover the pot firmly to prevent steam from escaping. Cook for 60 minutes longer over low heat.
  6. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a wide skillet over medium heat until very hot. Dredge the fish in the dusting mixture, and brown the fish pieces on both sides. Add more oil if necessary. Arrange the fish on a serving platter. Sprinkle each piece of fish with a squeeze of bitter orange and a dash of the saffron water. Keep warm.
  7. Remove rice pot from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes on a damp surface without uncovering it. Transfer the rice onto a serving platter. Unmold the tah-dig and place around the rice. Serve the rice with the fish and garnish with small limes. Nush-e Jan!

Learn more about Nowruz and find these recipes in Najmieh Batmanglij’s cookbook Food of Life: Ancient and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies.