Ttoday is Nowruz, the celebration of spring and the renewal that ushers in the Persian New Year. However, the celebrations usually start weeks earlier, with what could be called a spring cleaning and a haft-sin, which is a screen of seven elements that begin with the letter “s”. In recent years, people have personalized their displays into what is probably my favorite part of the entire celebration, because each item on display symbolizes a wish for the coming year.
Traditionally, the celebrations go on for two weeks filled with family, friends, and amazing food, and lots of food too. There will be fresh herbs galore, symbolizing renewal, fish for life, eggs for fertility, and of course plenty of sugary treats to start the year on a sweet note. Unfortunately, the confinement took its toll on last year’s celebration, and it will do so again this year as well, but we will still bring out a sin, cook a celebratory meal for two, and video call our loved ones to wish them. comes out nu mobarak!
Baqleh gatog (broad bean and chives with garlic dressing) with spiced almonds and pomegranate
Homework 10 minutes
Cook 25 min
It serves 2-3
250g in pod large Beans, or frozen and thawed
1 small white onion, peeled and finely chopped (50 g net weight)
Olive oil, for frying
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
Salt and black pepper
1¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
20 g of sliced almonds
1 teaspoon (2 g) cumin seeds
3¼ tablespoons (10g) finely chopped garlic chives (widely available in Asian food stores, larger supermarkets, and online), or 1 additional garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 heaping tablespoon (5 g) finely chopped dill
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
15ml pomegranate molasses
1 handful of pomegranate seeds
Some sprigs of dill
1 poached egg (Optional)
Fill a medium bowl with water and ice. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, blanch the beans for three to five minutes, until they are soft (time will depend on the size of the beans), then drain and drop into the ice water; This will help preserve its vibrant green color. Once the beans have cooled, drain and peel the outer skin.
Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of oil for about five minutes, until soft and translucent, then add the garlic and sauté for another minute. Season with salt, pepper, and a quarter teaspoon of turmeric.
In a dry skillet, toast the sliced almonds until golden brown, add the cumin seeds and the remaining turmeric, cook for another minute, until fragrant, then remove from heat and cool.
Meanwhile, place beans, onion mixture, chopped herbs, lemon juice, and zest in a food processor and blend until smooth. Test and adjust the seasoning. (If you prefer a more rustic sauce, just mash the beans, then add the onion mixture and chopped herbs.)
Spread the sauce on a platter and drizzle the molasses on top (if the molasses is very acidic, mix with date molasses or honey to make it sweet and sour). Garnish with the spiced almonds, pomegranate seeds and a few sprigs of dill and serve. For the full Nowruz experience, top with a poached egg, for fertility.
Mahi shekam by (trout stuffed with saffron and bitter orange and stuffed with almonds, dill, nuts and pomegranate)
Homework 15 minutes
It serves 2-3
1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped
Olive oil, for frying and greasing
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
30g whole or flaked almonds finely chopped
20 g barberry
30g dried apricots, Chopped up
½ large bunch of dill (or parsley), collected and finely chopped (5g)
Zest of 1 lemon
20 ml pomegranate molasses
Salt and black pepper
1 small pinch of saffron threads
20 g bitter orange marmalade (when in season, use the zest and juice of 1 Seville orange instead)
2 medium rainbow trout (about 350-400 g each), cleaned and butterfly (or 1 trout fillet 250-300 g, boneless)
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F / gas 4. Sauté the onion in a tablespoon of olive oil for five minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and turmeric and cook for two more minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and while the onions are still hot, add the almonds, barberries, apricots, dill, lemon zest, and pomegranate molasses, then season to taste.
Crush the saffron threads with your fingers, then put in a small cup, add a tablespoon of boiling water and let it steep for five minutes. Add the jam and reserve.
Season the trout inside and out with salt and pepper, brush the cavities with the saffron mixture, then fill with the almond and barberry mixture. Place the fish on a greased baking sheet and broil for 20 minutes, until the meat begins to flake. (If you are using a large fillet instead, line a tray with a large sheet of greased aluminum foil, place the fish skin side down on top, brush the pulp all over with the saffron mixture, spread the filling on top, and season generously. Wrap in foil and broil for 12 minutes. Open package to check meat is flaky; if not, wrap again and cook for another three minutes.)
Transfer the fish to a platter and serve with the next plate of rice and perhaps a simple shaved fennel salad.
Sabzi polo shirt (rice with herbs with confit fennel saffron and dill)
Homework 10 minutes
Cook 1 hour 20+
It serves 2-3
30 g unsalted butter
½ teaspoon of sugar, more extra to spray
1 pinch of saffron threads
1 medium fennel bulb, about 250g
100g basmati rice, washed and soaked for at least 15 minutes
1 large bunch of dill, collected and finely chopped (30 g net weight), or a mixture of dill, parsley and coriander
2 tablespoons barberry, to finish (optional)
In a medium saucepan put half a liter of water with the butter, sugar, a teaspoon of salt and saffron and bring to a simmer.
Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, add to the pan, and cook uncovered for 30-45 minutes, turning every 15 minutes to cook evenly, until a knife cuts through without resistance. Scoop out the fennel, then reduce the sauce until just a saffron butter remains at the bottom of the pan.
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the rice, and simmer until all the grains are white and can be crushed between your fingers with just a little resistance; start checking after five minutes. Drain, then rinse under cold running water to cool quickly.
Heat oven to 180C (160C fan) / 350F / gas 4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mix the chopped herbs into the cooled rice. Place the fennel cut side down in a nonstick ovenproof pot, pour over half of the saffron butter, then top with the herbed rice and press down to compact. Level the top of the rice, then cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and if the edges are not crisp, bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.
In a small skillet, mix the remaining butter with the barberries and a pinch of sugar, and sauté for two minutes, until the barberries are puffed up.
Run a knife around the edge of the rice, place a plate on top, and turn everything over to invert the rice on the plate. Garnish with the buttery barberries and serve hot.
Marwa Alkhalaf is chef and co-owner of Nutshell, London WC2.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism