December 21, 2013

Shab-e Yalda 2013 - An Ancient Persian Celebration

On the eve of the longest night (winter solstice), family and friends gather to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness with delicious food, lively music, good conversation, and the traditional poetry reading of Hafez, the great Persian poet.

Please see the following links for previous posts on شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda:
Shab-e Yalda 2012
Celebrating Yalda 2010
Yalda Celebration 2009

چه عجب گر دل من روز ندید     زلف تو صد شب یلدا دارد            ~ فیض  کاشانی 

هنوز با همه دردم امید درمان است   که آخری بود آخر شبان یلدا را    ~ سعدی

Enjoy! Happy Shab-e Yalda!

December 17, 2013

Persian Saffron Butternut Squash Dessert and My 5 Year Blogging Anniversary

Five years ago, on a typical cold day in December, I created my little blog. The whole idea of a Persian food blog- its name and format swept over me like a Fall breeze and snowballed into a heightened sense of urgency and passion and that's when "Turmeric and Saffron" was born. I began my new blog with borani esfenaj, a favorite of mine, followed by other amazing Persian recipes such as ash reshteh, loobia polow, and ghormeh sabzi, in that month alone. All I wanted to do was write my mother's recipes and about my memories of growing up in Iran. Now, five years later, my blog has an archive of more than one hundred and seventy Persian recipes that are not only my mother's but from all over the country. I am utterly surprised and deeply grateful that I have continued blogging this far. I am grateful that through blogging I found solace and was able to hone my cooking skills in the kitchen and through this experience I have developed my own culinary style. I came to appreciate Persian cuisine more than I ever have and I have become a firm believer that the true and authentic Persian cuisine must be preserved and remain as intact as possible. Now, I am an enthusiastic cook who has discovered the joy of photography as well. Throughout this process I have also had the great pleasure of getting to know many wonderful and supportive blog readers and fellow bloggers.

I write so much about my mother and so in order to balance the attention I give to the memories of my parents on this blog I am going to share one of my favorite photos of Baba. The image below is of his bicycle license that was issued in the city of Abadan, Iran more than seventy years ago. I remember him saying that one of the tests required him to ride his bike over a large figure 8 that was drawn on the ground without getting out of line!

To celebrate my fifth year of blogging I chose to make دسر کدو حلوایی - butternut squash dessert, which is great to make while they are still in season. For this dessert you'll need to buy butternut squash with a long neck. I have grown to know this recipe as a dessert from Hamedan which is where my mother was from. However, she lived most of her adult life in Khuzestan and I am not certain which culinary experience was more dominant in her cooking or if both had influenced her equally. While I too have moved away from my birthplace, my roots remain where I was born. I traveled, moved to a different continent, went about my life and started my own family but my roots remain intact and have reached the water level in the dried lands of Khuzestan where it was planted.

For an added flavor and a southern touch you may make this dessert with شیره خرما - date syrup or for a Hamedani-style pumpkin dessert you may use شیره انگور - grape syrup as sweetener instead of using the regular sugar.

Saffron Butternut Squash Dessert

Serves 4-6

1 large butternut squash with long-neck, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick (will yield approximately 15 slices)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar (adjust to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron dissolved in 2-3 tablespoons of hot water


1 tablespoon pistachios, slivered or chopped
2 tablespoons walnut halves or crushed


  1. In a large frying pan, heat butter and oil, over medium heat. Add the butternut squash slices to the pan. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until just tender.
  2. In a small pot, over medium heat combine sugar and a cup of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. 
  3. Arrange the butternut squash slices in a large pan, pour the syrup and saffron evenly over them. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, leave lid ajar and cook 20-30 minutes or until the butternut squash is tender and all syrup is absorbed.
Serve on the platter and garnish with walnuts and pistachios.


December 05, 2013

Moraba-ye Kadoo Halvaie - Persian Pumpkin Jam

I have always wanted to make مربای کدو حلوایی - pumpkin jam but for one reason or another I never got around to it. One reason was knowing that my modified version of this recipe wouldn't turn out as good as my grandmother's. I always knew that I had big shoes to fill when it came to cooking. My paternal grandmother who we called Khanoum Ahvazi (lady from Ahvaz) was known for her delicious jams, pickles and khiar shoor (pickled cucumbers). All her food looked and tasted amazing. Khanoum's pumpkin jam was different from any other ordinary jam; the pumpkin pieces were somewhat transparent, crisp, and slightly crunchy on the outside but soft and perfectly sweet on the inside.

What made the pumpkin pieces become glass-like and crunchy was the use of  آب آهک  calcium oxide. I have been told that it's safe to use in food preparation if the directions are followed carefully. I imagine that my grandmother used her mother's recipe and that's how they all made this delicious pumpkin jam. However, since I am an advocate for non-chemical cooking I didn't want to use calcium oxide or any other kind of chemical in my cooking. Therefore, this recipe is not the exact same as my grandmother's. Not only did I not use the required calcium oxide solution, which was one of the key ingredients in this recipe, I essentially made this jam based solely on the memory that I had of its taste, texture, color and the nostalgic feelings for this childhood favorite. After making four different batches in an effort to get the pumpkin jam just right, I can finally say that I am pleased with the results and that this is also healthier version.

Moraba-ye Kadoo Halvaie - Pumpkin Jam

Yields: approximately 5 cups

2 1/2 pounds pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons lime juice
3-4 cardamom pods
2 tablespoons rosewater


  1. In a small, heavy-bottomed pan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved in water, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the syrup slightly thickens. Set aside.
  2. Put the pumpkin cubes into a large pot, pour the syrup over it and add the lime juice and cardamom.
  3. Bring to a boil for 5-7 minutes on medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, placing the lid slightly open (ajar). Cook for an hour or until they are very soft, gently stirring occasionally.
  4.  Add the rosewater in the last 10-15 minutes. You may want to remove the cardamom pods from the jam after cooking.
  5. Scoop the jam into clean and dry jars and store the jam in a cool dark place or refrigerate.