Nowruz Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

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The Persian New Year (Nowruz) is one week away and the lead up to the holiday is a very exciting time for Iranians living in Iran and abroad. This year I’m thrilled to be participating in a Nowruz Recipe Round-up with my fellow Persian food bloggers around the world. Community is a very important foundation for Iranians and I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful community of Persian food enthusiasts. Each blogger has contributed a recipe for the upcoming New Year season. You will find the list at the end of this post and I encourage you to click on the links and discover delicious recipes from these amazing ladies.

This year my mother wanted to start a new tradition for Nowruz. In the past, my parents generally served store-bought traditional New Year cookies. Inspired by my Canadian side’s Christmas baking tradition, my mother suggested we all contribute one home-baked cookie or treat to be served to visiting Nowruz guests . My mother is going to make traditional Shirni-Kishmishi.  My sister-in-law will be making her delicious chocolate truffles. My five-year old daughter (with my help) will make her favourite soft sugar cookies with red, green and white sprinkles to symbolize the Iranian flag and I will be making these Persian Inspired Pistachio, Rosewater and Cardamom Shortbread Cookies.

These fragrant, buttery yet light shortbread cookies are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. These cookies are very simple to prepare and the best part is that the dough can be made ahead of time and frozen. All you have to do is defrost overnight, slice and bake.  I highly suggest using Iranian pistachios for this recipe. I personally prefer them to their California counterpart and find that they have a very distinctive flavour.

These shortbread cookies are so delicious that I think they might join our Christmas cookie lineup as well!

Pistachio, Rosewater & Cardamom Shortbread Cookies
(approximately 48 cookies)

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp rosewater
1 tsp ground cardamom
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shelled salted pistachios (preferably Iranian), coarsely chopped

Using a stand or electric mixer, beat the butter for about one minute on medium speed.

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Turn the mixer off and add the powdered sugar, rosewater and cardamom. Turn the mixer to low so the sugar doesn’t spray everywhere. When the sugar begins to incorporate, turn the mixer to medium and beat for 3 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.

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Turn off the mixer and add the flour. Mix on low-speed until just incorporated. The mixture will be slightly crumbly. Do not overmix or it will result in a tough cookie.

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Add the pistachios and turn the mixer on to low and mix until the pistachios are distributed.  Again, do not overmix.

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Divide the dough in half and roll into a log approximately 12 inches long on top of a large rectangular piece of wax paper. Roll the cookie dough log in the wax paper and twist the ends.

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Refrigerate for 1-2 hours until completely firm. You may also freeze the dough by putting the log into an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to 3 weeks. Defrost overnight in the fridge before using.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a sharp knife, slice the log into 1/4 inch pieces.

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Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat and arrange cookies spaced out one inch apart. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the edges are starting to very slightly brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

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Enjoy with a nice cup of tea!

Nowruz Recipe Roundup

 
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Sabzi Polo va Mahi (Herbed Persian Rice and Pan-fried White Fish)

Persian New Year (Nowruz) is celebrated every year to signify the beginning of spring. In our home, nothing says spring like Sabzi Polo va Mahi. This delicious traditional New Year dish is supposed to bring luck – the herbs in the rice represent rebirth and the fish represents life.

Like all Persian dishes everyone has their own version but I share with you my mother’s recipe. Fluffy rice perfumed with fragrant herbs and spices and delicious crispy golden fish. Spring is in the air!

Sabzi Polo va Mahi
(Serves 6)

3 cups basmati rice
1 cup dill, chopped
1 cup chives (or you have use the greens part of green onions), chopped
1 1/2  cup cilantro, chopped
1 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh fenugreek (optional)
4 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground saffron
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp chopped dill stems (optional)
4 tbsp butter
salt & pepper
canola oil
Fried Fish (recipe to follow)

Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate it with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear.

After the rice is washed cover with 8 cups lukewarm water and 1 1/2  tbsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes. The longer it soaks, the more flavourful and fluffy the rice will be.

Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water with 1 tbsp salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaking rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 6 minutes stirring occasionally.

Add the dill, chives, cilantro, flat leaf parsley and the fenugreek to the water and simmer for about 2 minutes and then drain in a wire sieve.

In a small bowl combine the cumin, cinnamon and the ground saffron.

Clean out and dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil in your pot to just cover the bottom. Add two tablespoons of water and the dill stems (optional).

Using a spatula add a layer of rice to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle 1 tsp of garlic and 1/4 of the spice mixture.

Add the rice in layers forming sort of a pyramid (about 4 layers total). In between each layer sprinkle some of the garlic and the spice mixture. You can also add an extra dash of ground saffron on the top if you desire. Pour 1/3 cup water over the top of the rice and the butter.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, poke three holes in the rice. Cover and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel (or a double layer of paper towel)  and cover the lid of the pot  Let the rice steam for 30-40 minutes.

When the rice is done, use a spatula to gently sprinkle the rice onto a serving dish. Invert the pot onto a plate to loosen the ta-dig.

Mahi (Pan-Fried White Fish)

3 large fillets of white fish cut into 12 pieces (skin on or off depending on your preference)
2 eggs
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
salt and pepper

Season the fish with salt and pepper. Beat the eggs with the saffron water. Marinate the fish pieces in the egg mixture for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

Pour enough canola oil into a large frying pan so that there is a 1/4 inch of oil at the bottom.  Heat the pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot (to check heat add a tiny splash  the egg marinade to the pan, it should sizzle right away). Add the fish pieces in batches (do not crowd the pan).

Cook the first side until golden and crispy (about 5-6 minutes). Flip over and cook the second side until golden (about 4 minutes). Drain on paper towel.

This fish is traditionally served with wedges of Seville Orange (use lemons or limes if you can’t find any)- squeeze some of the juice over the fish just before eating. Enjoy!

Kuku Sabzi (Fried Herb Omelette)

Persian New Year is just around the corner and I thought I would post a few traditional and not-so-traditional New Year’s dishes. Persian New Year (Nowruz) is an exciting time of year for us – a time of good fortune and new beginnings.  Growing up, my Canadian friends were always jealous of this holiday – who wouldn’t be? It was mandatory that I buy new clothes and I was showered with money (crisp new bills at that) by older relatives and family friends.

Food is also a very significant aspect of Nowruz. On New Years Eve, the traditional dinner is Sabzi Polo va Mahi (Herbed Rice and Fish) and Kuku Sabzi (Fried Herb Omelette). I always look forward to this meal, especially the Kuku. Food for Nowruz is very symbolic and it represents what we wish for in the coming year. The Kuku represents fertility (the eggs) and rebirth (the herbs). There are different ways of making Kuku Sabzi – some people bake it in the oven, some add zereshk (dried barbarries), but I love my mother’s version, made with walnuts. It was passed down to her from her mother and now I am passing it on to you.

Kuku Sabzi
(Serves 6)

5 large eggs
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup dill chopped
1 cup chives (or you have use the greens of green onion), chopped
3 leaves of romaine lettuce
1 tbsp chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
canola oil

Put all the ingredients, except the walnuts, in a blender (or you can use a food processor) and blend until smooth.

Add the walnuts and stir with a spoon.

Pour enough canola oil into a large non-stick frying pan so it’s about 1/4 inch high with oil (about 1/2 cup of oil). Heat oil over medium-high heat. When it is hot pour the kuku mixture in pan. In order to check to see if the oil is hot, add a tiny bit of the mixture in and if it sizzles it’s hot enough.

Turn down the heat to medium and cover for about 15-20 minutes. It is ready to flip when the edges have browned.

Flip the kuku. You can flip it whole or you can cut it into wedges and individually flip them. Fry the second side for about 6 minutes.

Drain oil on paper towel and Serve!