CELEBRATING SPRING WITH A PERSIAN NOWRUZ FEAST
Did you know that the Spring Equinox is the day when the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalises night and day? In other words, night and day become equal in length. This happens twice a year, in Spring and in Autumn.
Here in Southern California, it seems as though spring arrived a month ago, when in reality it began just yesterday. The blooms on the trees in my garden have already come and gone……
the snow has long since melted……
and, because it is so warm, this weekend I plan to construct the greenhouse kit I received for Christmas.
But, since Spring is now officially here, I decided I’d share with you some recipes I have for typical Iranian dishes.
Why Iranian food for Spring? Because not only is it Spring, but it is also the Persian New Year. You see, the Spring Equinox marks what is known as “NOWRUZ” which is a secular holiday celebrated by many cultures around the world. But in Iran, the first day of Spring also marks the beginning of the new year in the Persian calendar. Nowruz, meaning “New Day”, has been celebrated by people of diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years, but the rituals associated with Nowruz were first written about in Persia. So it is thought that the practice originated in Persia, the area we call Iran. Persians celebrate Nowruz by eating traditional Iranian foods. Because I happen to love Iranian food, I prepare it quite often, having learned several dishes from a Persian girlfriend who is an excellent Persian chef. Today I am going to make a typical Iranian dish called Chelo Kebab.
Chelo is the name given to the steamed basmati rice that is often prepared with a buttery, crunchy golden crust on the bottom.
When Chelo is served with Kebab Koobideh, or Kebabs made with ground meat, it is known as “Chelo Kebab”. And trust me, it is super delicious!
Chelo Kebab is also served with a tangy Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Sauce, a dollop of which enhances everything. So, join me in celebrating Spring with a Persian Nowruz feast.
We will begin by preparing the Chelo or Persian Rice with a golden crust. It is the crunchy bottom of the rice known as Tah-dig that everyone is crazy for, and in my family, is what everyone fights over. In Iran, it is traditional to offer the crust to your guests, but I tell my kids it is traditional to offer it to the elders in the family. That would be me of course! I often have trouble making perfect rice, but the way in which this rice is prepared makes it almost foolproof. So, let me show you how it’s done.
In a large saucepan (I like to use my large Le Creuset Dutch Oven for this recipe) add 1 tablespoon of salt to 2 quarts of water and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 3 cups of Long Grain Basmati or Jasmine Rice (which has first been thoroughly rinsed ) and 3 tablespoons of Dried Barberries (optional). Barberries are a traditional item often used in Persian cooking and will bring a burst of color and a delicious tart flavor to the rice. I love them and actually buy them at my local Farmer’s Market. You can purchase dried Barberries online here.
Boil the rice for about 10 minutes or until it is al-dente, and about half cooked. Drain the rice into a small-mesh strainer, reserving the liquid. Sorry, I failed to take photos of this process. Return to your large non-stick dutch oven or saucepan from which you boiled the rice, and melt one cube of butter over low heat.
Once the butter is melted, return the half-cooked rice to the Dutch Oven, spreading it out evenly over the melted butter. Using the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes evenly around the rice in about 6 or 8 places.
Now, drizzle 1 cup of the reserved cooking water into the holes made in the rice.
Drape an absorbent dish towel tightly over the top of the Dutch Oven and secure the lid in place. The towel will absorb the steam coming from the rice as it continues to cook over low heat. Fold the towel up over the lid so it doesn’t catch on fire. Check on the rice after about 15 minutes and add a little more of the reserved water if necessary. Cook the rice over moderately low heat until it is tender, about 30 minutes or until a nice golden brown crust develops on the bottom of the rice. You can check for the crust by lifting the rice with a spatula.
Once you have achieved the perfect doneness, invert the rice onto a serving platter. You may have to use a metal spatula to remove all of the crispy Tah-dig crust from the pan.
I like to serve the rice with the wonderful tart spice called Sumac. You can purchase Sumac online here. It is made by grinding sour Sumac berries. Sumac will also be used in the preparation of the Kebabs.
So, stay tuned and, in my next post, I will show you how to prepare the rest of this Nowruz feast. We will prepare the Kebab Koobideh and Cucumber-Mint Yogurt Sauce. In the meantime, HAPPY SPRING & HAPPY NOWRUZ !
- 2 Quarts Water
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 3 Tablespoons Barberries
- 3 Cups Long-Grain Basmati or Jasmine Rice
- 1 Cube Butter
- Place rice in a strainer and wash under running water until water runs clear.
- In a large, nonstick saucepan or Dutch Oven bring 2 quarts water to a boil.
- Add salt, barberries and rice to boiling water.
- Boil for approximately 10 minutes or until rice is half cooked and al dente.
- Drain rice through a strainer, reserving the cooking water.
- Melt butter in the nonstick Dutch Oven used to boil the rice.
- Spoon the half cooked rice evenly over the melted butter.
- Using the end of a wooden spoon, make 6 to 8 holes in the rice.
- Carefully pour 1 cup of the reserved cooking water into the holes.
- Place a dish towel tightly across the top of the Dutch Oven and replace the lid.
- Fold up the edges of the dish towel over the lid and continue cooking on low heat.
- After 15 minutes check rice. If needed, add a small amount of the reserved water.
- Continue cooking on moderately low heat for about 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and a golden crust forms on the bottom of the rice.
- Check the crust using a metal spatula.
- Invert rice onto a serving platter, taking care to include all of the golden crust.
If you enjoyed this post, please help me spread the word by sharing it on your Facebook Page. You can “Like” my Facebook Page here.
If you enjoyed the photos, please “Pin Them” on your Pinterest page. You can follow my Pinterest Page here.
If you’d like to read After Orange County every time a new article is posted, please “Subscribe” to the blog using the Subscription Box above.
Do you Tweet? Please Tweet the word and follow my Twitter Page here.
All opinions expressed in this post are my own. All photos are the original property of Celia Becker @ www.AfterOrangeCounty.com and may not be reproduced without specific permission.
Thank you for visiting!