December 31, 2010

Shoorba-ye Yazdi (Lentil and Beet Soup with Tiny Dumplings)

What could be better on a cold winter day than a hot bowl of tasty, healthy and sumptuous soup? This beautiful and nutritious soup is from the region of Yazd, Iran and is called شوربا - shoorba. "Shoor" means salty and "ba" generally refers to soups/stews. This shoorba is made by combining sauteed golden brown onions, brown lentils, small cubed beets, chopped young beet greens and fresh dill simmering gently over low heat until the lentils and beets are tender and soft. To make the shoorba more tasty and to increase the thickness of the soup, small flour dumplings are added about thirty minutes before serving. This delightful recipe was given to me by my wonderful friend of many years, Sohaila khanoum, and I am very thankful and grateful to her for sharing her beloved mother's Yazdi shoorba recipe.

P.S. I would have written a post specifically for my 2nd blogging anniversary on December 4th had it not been a hectic month for me. However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you, my wonderful and super kind readers and Facebook fans, for your support and sweet comments for the past two years. It always means a lot to me! Here's to hoping that I'll be able to keep my blog running steadily and continue to share as many Iranian recipes for as long as I can! I guess I make that my New Year's resolution! Once again thanks to all my readers!!

Shoorba-ye Yazdi (Lentil and Beet Soup with Tiny Dumplings)

Serves 4-6

1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 small beetroots, trimmed off  and cubed
Use whole or chop any young and tender beetroot greens
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 bunch fresh dill, washed and chopped
1 (14-ounce) can chicken broth  or vegetable broth *optional
Vegetable oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste


1/2 cup flour
Pinch of salt
Water (lukewarm) as needed

You may substitute dumplings with small pasta shapes.

  1. Combine the flour and salt, add water little by little, one tablespoon at a time and mix well. Add more flour and water as needed until a soft dough forms. Make small size balls out of the flour dough. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Saute onions until golden brown, add turmeric and stir.
  3. Add lentils, beets, broth and 4-5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 50 minutes.
  4. Gently place the dumplings into the soup. Add the vegetables, salt and pepper. Add more water if necessary. Cook for another 30 minutes. Carefully turn the dumplings once or twice until they are well cooked.
  5. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar during the last ten minutes of simmering.
Serve the shoorba hot with warm lavash or pita bread.

Enjoy! Wish you all a very happy, healthy, prosperous and glorious New Year!
Love, Peace and Blessings!

December 17, 2010

Yalda 2010! Celebrating the Longest Night of the Year (Winter Solstice)

The sight of you each morning is a New Year
any night of your departure is the eve of Yalda


شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda refers to the longest night of the year which has been celebrated ever since the ancient times in Persian history. The word یلدا  "Yalda" means birth in Syriac and is marked as the birthday of Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light and cosmic order, also called the son of Ahura Mazda, dating back as early as 5000 B.C.    

The winter solstice occurs on Tuesday, December 21, 2010. On the eve of the longest night, Iranians celebrate the birth of the sun, Mithra or Mehr, by family and friends gathering together reading poetry, story telling, feasting on pomegranate seeds, slices of sweet watermelons, fall fruit of persimmon, grapes, dried fruits of apricots and figs, ajil, and drinking tea into late hours of the night. Reading poetry from our renowned Persian poet Hafez has become an integral part of our Yalda tradition and is my favorite part of the Yalda celebrations.

On this shab-e yalda I'll sit around the table with my family celebrating the birth of the sun and the victory of light over darkness. May the spark of light illuminate us from within and bring joy to all of our hearts.

Winter Solstice, December 21, 2010, Danilo Pivato, APOD

Solstice Celebration, December 21, 2002, APOD

Happy Yalda! Yalda Mobarak!

December 12, 2010

Naan Berenji - Persian Rice Flour Cookies

نان برنجی Naan Berenji Kermanshahi is one of my favorite Persian sweets which is traditionally made for Nowruz (Persian New Year). Naan berenji cookies are rich with flavor and not too sweet. They are great to eat all year around and are most delicious when served with a freshly brewed cup of hot tea or coffee, especially on a cold day.

 I have wanted to write about naan berenji in the past but I must say that having bought them from different bakeries and trying several recipes myself over the years, the results were always kind of disappointing and never tasted quite like the authentic naan berenji from Kermanshah. I don't know if I'll ever get to make these cookies taste and smell like how they tasted and smelled the first time I ate them when I visited the city of Kermanshah with my family years ago. I remember our summer trip to that region vividly. I recall the day that we approached the Bisotoon  mountain area as the sun was setting and my father was exhausted from driving for such a long time. We stopped by a قهوه خانه ghaveh-khaneh (coffee shop), a rest area in the middle of nowhere. My father inquired about the nearest hotels or anywhere that we could spend the night and get some rest. But the given address seemed too far to to get to so the owner offered us the roof top of the ghahveh-khaneh and that's where we spent the night. The memory of us six kids going up an old and flimsy ladder one by one, laying down on just a blanket with no pillows or any sheets, staring at the sky, the moon and stars until I fell asleep is still etched in my mind. Not to mention, glancing at the nearby بیستون Bisotoon, which seemed so close towering over our heads as if it was going to fall down on us at any moment!  As a child, those family summer trips zigzagging across the country seemed exhausting, dreadful and pointless. Now, however, I am most grateful for having visited many parts of my beautiful country.

In my recent attempt,  I gave Najmieh Batmangelij's naan berenji recipe, in her A Taste of Persia cookbook, a try and I was pleased with the results. Let's just say that when I went to do a count the next day to see how many cookies the batch of dough makes and also take some photos, there were only a few left on the plate!

Naan Berenji - Persian Rice Flour Cookies

Makes about 25 cookies

3 cups rice flour
3 egg yolks
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fine sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract *optional

For Topping:

2 tablespoons poppy seeds or crushed pistachios

For Syrup:

1 1/2  cup white sugar
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon rose water

  1. Combine the sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat, bring to a boil, stir well to dissolve the sugar for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for another 7-10 minutes or until the mixture thickens to one cup . Remove from heat, add the rose water and set aside to cool.
  2. In a bowl mix rice flour with powdered cardamom. Set aside.
  3. In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs with fine sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the butter and oil and beat well until fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and the flour. Gradually add in one cup of the sugar syrup and beat well with an electric mixer/hand mixer.
  5. Place the dough in a container, cover with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for about six hours.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment papers.
  7. Take a tablespoon of the dough, flatten into round shapes into palm of your hand and shape the surface with a cookie stamp or a teaspoon. Sprinkle some poppy seeds on top of each cookie. Place on the cookie sheet and put it in the middle rack of the oven.
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently place on the cooling racks.
Transfer the cookies on a serving platter and serve with tea or coffee.


December 04, 2010

Torshi Anbeh - Pickled Mango

This is a quick, simple and sumptuous torshi (pickle) that is served as a side for any rice and stew dishes. Serving a variety of pickles and relishes with main courses is a major part of the Iranian cuisine. In our home torshi making was an annual summer ritual for my mother and our hayat (yard) would be filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, tomatoes, limes and unripe sour grapes to juice. Years later, when I met my husband, I was happy to find out that in their home his father was in charge of making torshi and that he had designated a special place in the basement of his home to place the large clay jars used to preserve the pickles!  I knew then that I'd met someone who also has the love of torshi in his genes! There's nothing like homemade pickles where you use fresh ingredients and favorite spices and adjust the seasonings to your liking. There are the common and popular pickles such as the eggplant pickle, mixed vegetable pickle and the garlic pickle, not to mention my favorite fruit pickle that I have written about in the past.

Today's recipe is ترشی انبه  torshi anbeh (pickled mango) which I've grown to adore mostly in recent years. Mangoes make great pickles. They are soft, smooth, juicy and quite tasty. I like to maintain the color and the texture of mango while it gently simmers in tamarind infused sauce, spices, dried red pepper and garlic cloves and vinegar, until all the complex and different flavors come together nicely. I didn't chop the garlic and the peppers into pieces and chose to leave them whole. We don't want them to overpower the taste and also this way they would be easier to take out when serving.

Torshi Anbeh - Pickled Mango


4 firm ripe mangoes, peeled and cubed
4-5 whole garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of a lemon/lime
3 tablespoons tamarind sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon golpar (angelica), crushed
1/2 teaspoon siah daneh (nigella seeds)
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1-2 dried red peppers
2 cups white vinegar
Salt to taste

  1. Place the mangoes in a bowl, sprinkle with fresh lemon juice and set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized heavy pot bring vinegar to a gentle boil over medium-low heat. Add the tomato paste and the tamarind sauce. Stir well.
  3. Add the garlic, red pepper and the spices, simmer for 5 minutes over low heat for the flavors to come together. 
  4. Add the mangoes to the pot, add salt and cook for 5-7 minutes over medium-low heat, taste and adjust the seasoning if needed, turn off the heat.
  5. When cool, place the torshi in a washed and clean glass jar. Make sure all ingredients are covered by vinegar. Add more vinegar if needed. Refrigerate or keep in a cool and dry place. This pickle is ready to serve the next day.
 This is a delicious side to serve with your favorite food.