A Simple Persian Pumpkin Dessert, Fading Borders & The Travel to Iran

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I. On Home & Borders

I always have contrasting feelings whenever I travel to Iran. When I am about to leave, when I just get there, in the middle of the trip and by the time I am back in Rome I always experience very intense, and diverse emotions. No matter how many years have past since I left my country —eight, to be precise— each time, I fail at the vain attempt of keeping a sort of neutrality.  It’s that very simple word, with its captivating sound, that causes all the confusion. Home. The more time passes, the more I am convinced that I can no longer attribuite that word to one physical place, but more to a sensation, as it also said here long ago.  #BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-57

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I firmly believe that our times will be later named as the era where borders began to disappear. Those borders, are more than the imaginary lines between territories that decide who can get to a certain fortune/misery and who can’t. The borders between our cultures, our lives, our food, are fading away. And I am one hundred percent for it. 

Whenever people hear about my cooking stories and the supper club (more on that soon!), usually they first thing they ask is “Do you cook Iranian food, or Italian food?“. My answer to that question is always none. As an Iranian who has lived in Italy for more than eight years now, I can never say the food I cook a hundred percent Italian or Iranian. I have been contaminated —in the best way possible— by the culture of totally different country, that happens to have one of the best cuisine of the world, I have inherited an incredibly sophisticated and refined culinary tradition; and in between, I have tasted the world! I have met a lot of people from different countries. “Who cares what your passport say, or even if you’ve got one. Let’s eat!“. Show me what you got, I wanna try it all.

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We are not all that different after all. Not just food wise (you might find it surprising how some Italian and Iranian dishes are similar, like I said here), we human beings, at the end of the day like and dislike the same things. No matter where we come from, what spices we use more in our food, and who we worship, we like to be happy and safe. We hate to know that our family is danger. We all aspire to live a better life. We want to put some pieces together to make prospect. Some of us, like me, are much luckier than others. I wanted to attend a conference for food bloggers in London. I wanted to learn more, to make this blog —therefore my business, my life— better. But because of those imaginary lines, borders, I couldn’t. Despite the time, money and energy I had put in it to make it happen.

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Those who don’t have the our privilege of living in safety and peace, spend much more of time, energy and money, to try to aspire to live better. They risk their lives, just for having a mere chance at that. Can —and should— those imaginary lines really determine who can, and who can’t get a chance to aspire for a better life?

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II. Seasons Change, Everlastingly. So Bring a Pumpkin Dessert.

Nature is the best example when it comes to show how really similar we all are, in spite of our names and documents. All human beings celebrate the change of seasons and natural changes of the nature. We might’ve interpret it in different ways through history due to our different geography and history, but we are all talking about the same fact.

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By now that October is already here, we all have tuned into Fall. Shorter days and cooler breeze. The comeback of the blankets on sofas and soups on the stove tops. The return of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cacao. It’s time for the last harvest of the year and to get ready for the cold season. Dry fruit is more popular. Walnuts and hazlenuts. And of course, the glorious, orange presence of pumpkins, butternuts and kabochas. All types.

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In ancient Iran, at these times of the year, they celebrated Mehregan. It’s a festivity of harvest, they say. They brought red fruit and many legumes. They celebrated all together.  It was exactly last year at this time when I had the honor of joining of other Persian food bloggers for a recipe round-up. Last year, I shared the recipe for a perfect matrimony between Persian and Italian cooking, —Lentil Risotto. This year, I am sharing a recipe so simple it could be from anywhere. At the bottom of this post you can find the links to all the other Persian food blogs sharing seasonal recipes for the occasion of Mehregan. Remember to check them out! My mom used to make this simple Persian pumpkin dessert during school days, —because it’s so simple and healthy that it doesn’t count as a treat. (and I absolutely hated it! That’s because back at my school days I hated pretty much every vegetable.)

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The pan roasted pumpkin heats you up from within and the sweetness, combined with cinnamon and crushed walnuts make you feel like your are having the most luscious, mischievous of all desserts; but it’s actually very healthy. The fiber-and-mineral-rich pumpkin, plus walnuts and little bit of whole brown sugar (or maple syrup, if your prefer. But I like the grainy feel of the sugar). You could use just a nub of butter when you pan roast the pumpkin, it certainly gives the dessert a nice smell. But go ahead and use coconut oil if you please, you could even combine it with some olive oil. Don’t worry, it won’t be the end of the world. The key is to pan-roast one thin layer of pumpkin at a time so that it doesn’t get mushy. Then layer them on a plate and dust each layer with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and ground walnuts.  Tadah! You just won the game of dessert in the season of Fall. It of course tastes better while you look at the turquoise tiles of the poetic Iranian palaces from the 19th century. More photos here.

Simple Persian Pumpkin Dessert
Serves 3
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 400g/less than a pound pumpkin (better if butternut squash or kabocha since they're naturally sweeter)
  2. 1/2 tbsp butter/coconut oil
  3. 1 tbsp seeds oil/olive oil
  4. 2 tbsp of raw brown sugar* (depends on how sweet you like it)
  5. 2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  6. 40g walnuts
Instructions
  1. Cut the pumpkin into pieces not thicker than 0.5 cm/ 0.2 inch.
  2. Slightly toast the walnuts for a minute or two.
  3. Chop the toasted walnuts, some more coarsely and some finely. Mix the walnut, the raw brown sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl.
  4. On a medium flame, heat the oil and the butter/coconut oil in a nonstick pan. Add the pumpkins. Do not put more than one layer of pumpkins at the a time. When golden, carefully turn each piece. Do not use a fork.
  5. When both sides are golden move to a dish and sprinkle each layer with mix of sugar, walnuts and cinnamon. Top with more layers of pumpkin and repeat for all.
Notes
  1. *You can make pumpkin dessert as sweet as you desire. You can even omit the sugar and drizzle maple syrup on top of the layers of pumpkin at the end.
Lab Noon http://www.labnoon.com/

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Saghar Setareh

Saghar Setareh

Saghar is a Rome-based visual storyteller, currently focussed on food photography and blogging, and curation and management of digital content, where puts her specializations in graphic design, and web & social media strategy to good use.
Coming from Iran, she mostly develops her recipes by combining the aromas of the middle east with the flavors of the Mediterranean, specially Italy, where she has found her second home.
Saghar Setareh

23 Comments A Simple Persian Pumpkin Dessert, Fading Borders & The Travel to Iran

  1. Noghl-e Mey

    What a beautiful pictures Saghar. Love the ones from Emarat-e Masuodieh. You made me feel missing home and not missing home at the same time! lol :) :* great job.

    Reply
  2. Natalia

    Lovely post, Saghar! I had to smile seeing this recipe as we also use to make it home, but the oven: we add honey at the end, in place of sugar. Love this dish for its simplicity!

    Reply
  3. Aysegul at www.foolproofliving.com

    Ahh what a beautifully written and photographed post. It took me back to my childhood. Those rich colors and simple (yet beautiful) props in your photos are the ones that I grew up with.
    We have a version of this recipe made with pumpkins and topped with tahini, grape molasses and walnuts (which I should share soon). But I can only imagine how delicious this version with the sweet butternut squash must have been.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful culture Saghar.
    Cheers from the sunny Caribbean islands.

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you dear Aysegul for your comment. I bet tahini and grape molasses on pumpkin is something out of this world. I hope I can open a little window towards what people know less about Iran.

      Reply
  4. Laura Bashar | Famil (@familyspice)

    Another beautiful post, Saghar! I loved seeing your pictures from Iran. I was only a child when I left Iran in 1978, but I still miss it and the family still living there. I, too, wish for the day where the borders can be open and we can visit everyone and every place imaginable. Until then, we have the internet and lovely blogs like yours.

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you dear Laura! Iran has changed incredibly since those days. I hope you can travel there again soon. And thank god for internet that connects us!

      Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Thank you very much dear! Personally, I think these sweet warm things are better not be consumed with hot drinks. It gives me acidic stomach ? But it is indeed a good afternoon treat.
      Happy Mehregan to you too!

      Reply
  5. parisaskitchen

    Saghar joon I adore your pictures! …They make me want to make this dish tonight and jump on the plane tomorrow to Iran! haha Hope you’ve had a nice Mehregan! xx

    Reply
  6. Samira

    such a beautifully written Post! I love your language very much, how you take the reader so deep with and hope you could write more like that on your Blog. Maybe you could have two blogs, one for food and one for deep thoughts! hihihih :-)) passionate people like you add more beauties to the world and I admire that! keep up the good vibes…:-*

    Reply
    1. SagharSaghar

      Wow! Dear Samira! Thank YOU for your kind words! I believe firmly that a food blog doesn’t mean only a recipe journal. There are so many food related topics one can talks about. I’m so glad you enjoy my writing. It’s one of those things I am less confident about :)
      Hope to see you back here again soon.

      Reply
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