December 20, 2015

Yalda Night (Winter Solstice) 2015 and Shami Haveej - Carrot Shami Kabab with Sweet & Sour Tomato Sauce

شب چله/شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda/Shab-e Chelleh, the ancient Persian celebration of the longest night, dates back thousands of years ago to the birth of میترا Mithra the god of light who was born on the eve of yalda (winter solstice). After the longest night of the year, the days will gradually become longer symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. The word یلدا yalda means birth in سریانی Syriac language and for Iranians, the eve of yalda is a time for the joyful celebration filled with poetry, music, and delicious food.  For me, celebrating the Iranian festival of light is a meaningful جشن jashn (festivity) perhaps because it was always celebrated in our home growing up in Iran. The night of yalda is a time to reflect and appreciate how our ancestors kept this tradition alive for several millennia. Looking at our history, I can only imagine how many of those shab-e yalda gatherings took place amid uncertainties, unrest, battles and frightening dark times. However, they did not succumb to the madness of their times and held on to the belief that light will prevail over darkness. It inspires us to light the candles on this night, serve the traditional winter fruits, nuts and sweets, read poetry, share happy memories and pass on the tradition to future generations.

Almost all of the dried autumn leaves in my yard have been raked and the grill cleaned and put away for the season. I'm going to miss the whole experience of outdoor cooking -- the taste and the smell of food cooked on an open fire outside. Perhaps on one or two occasions I'll brave the cold and pull out the grill from under the plastic covers and make some koobideh. kotlet, shami and kabab deegi are stove-top alternatives to grilled kababs although they can be cooked any time of year regardless of the season.

 شامی هویج (Carrot shami) is a favorite in our home. This shami kabab is made with chickpea flour or you can use mashed cooked chickpeas as well. Chickpea flour adds a nutty flavor to these meat patties and the shredded carrots add a little sweetness. This recipe can also be made with زردک zardak (parsnip) instead of carrots. Carrot shami may be simmered in a sweet and sour tomato sauce dressing and it's best served with rice. You can also add a handful of finely chopped herbs to the meat mixture for extra flavor and aroma.

Shami Haveej- Carrot Shami

Makes about 16 patties

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, lamb, or turkey
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 large yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Oil for frying

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste


  • In a large bowl combine meat, carrots, chickpea flour, onion, garlic, eggs, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly until well blended. 
  • In a non-stick skillet or a cast-iron skillet heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
  • Take a handful of the meat mixture, shape it into a small ball, flatten it as the size of your palm and make a hole in the center with your finger. You can also make oval-shaped patties. 
  • Fry the patties until the meat is nicely browned on both sides.
  • In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, saute until soft and golden. 
  • Add the tomato paste and saute for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add 2 cups of water, pomegranate molasses, sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.  Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, layer the shami kababs in the skillet. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, 
Serve warm or at room temperature with sabzi khordan, torshi, mast o khiar, and polow.

P.S. I'd like to take a moment here to say it's my seven-year blog anniversary and I would like to express many thanks and my deepest gratitude to my faithful readers and welcome to the new readers!

A collage of  past Yalda nights

Happy Shab-e Yalda! Happy Winter Solstice!


  1. Great recipe and lovely pictures as usual. Thank you :)

  2. I am new here on the blog so have to check out older posts, because I find it awesome :D
    Lovely photos :-)

  3. Happy Yalda night to you, Azita. We celebrate with our friends at home today, I make barley soup from your recipe , and still in the pot .. :)

  4. Absolutely beautiful Yalda decoration... beautiful styling and photography! Wow!
    I did not know about Yalda until just 14 years ago, way into my middle age. I found it to be a cool festivity and perfect time of the year when the rest of the world is also in a festive.
    This Shami Haveej looks so delectable. I do incorporate carrots in kotlet but never had shami with both chick-peas and carrots. It sounds so fabulous! I shall make your recipe soon. Yum! :)

  5. Thanking you once again for sharing your wonderful recipes and knowledge with us. Wishing you and yours a very bright and cozy Shabe Yalda.

  6. Happy Shabe Yalda! (Or I might be late with that greeting!) I found a recipe on pinterest that took me to your blog. I've become interesting in Persian cooking since my family had the pleasure of dining in a restaurant in Houston. I ate koubedeh (or something like that.) I will definitely bookmark this page as you explain the culture and traditions of Iran so beautifully. Blessings from a Christian, and peace to your household!

  7. I'm so happy to have found your site, Azita Khanoom!
    Your recipes are very close to my mother-in-law's delicious cooking.
    It makes my husband very happy :)
    I only wish my dear father was still alive so I could cook for him, too...
    Khaylee mamnoon and Daste-Shoma dard nakoneh :)

  8. I LOVE Shami but I've never been brave enough to make it myself. You make it look so easy. I'll come back to this recipe on Shabe Yalda and give it a try. Your whole Sofreh is magnificent.