Iranian Food Writers on Persian New Year and Norouz, & “Sabzi Polo Mahi” (Herby Pilaf & Turmeric Fried Fish)

Persian Herby Pilaf and Fish - Sabzi Polo Mahi | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-13

I used to absolutely hate fish as a child. While I was typically a good eater, I would not so much as touch fish. On ordinary days, it was not much of a problem: Not so many Iranian dishes are based on seafood, since only two small parts of the cat-shaped country at the north and south touch the sea. But on Norooz, the Iranian celebration that marks the beginning of the new year on the first day of spring, my fish-hating habit meant disaster.

On March 20th, the last day of the year, Iranians around the world will eat Sabzi Polo ba Mahi, a fragrant pilaf with herbs (like chives, parsley, dill, cilantro, fenugreek) and sometimes fresh garlic, served alongside fish. The type of fish and its exact preparation varies from region to region and among families. In the northern parts of Iran, the Caspian White Fish is a renowned favorite, while in the south, fish come from the Persian Gulf and strong flavors like tamarind are added.

Back in my childhood days, I ended up eating my herby pilaf with a sad frittata, hastily made by my fed-up mom who had lost hope of feeding me the precious fish. It wasn’t exactly the most propitious start of the new year.

This is how the story of how I recreate recipes and rituals of Norouz in Rome begins in an article commissioned for Food52. Please read the whole story here and tell me what you think. 

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This year, I am really happy that major food publishings have dedicated articles, recipes and stories to the Persian new year and Norouz. The truth is that this beautiful, ancient and rich celebration that is celebrated by some 190 million people celebrate (from north of India to Turkey, with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and other countries in the middle), has been so much in the shadow.

My post for the annual roundup of the Persian food bloggers is a homage to the Iranian food writers around the world who have taken the responsibility of talking about our beautiful Iran, that is oh so much more than a banned country. So This is not one of my long posts with the long, multi-chapter story (you can read that on Food52), but a list of links for your Norouz reading and recipes. You can also find the recipe of my Sabzi Polo Mahi, the national dish of Norouz in the bottom. So enjoy reading, Happy 1396 and Sale No Mobarak! Continue reading

Immitating ‘Kuku Sabzi’, a Persian Frittata with local Roman greens to celebrate Spring, Norouz and Easter

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-34

Sale No Mobarak (Happy New Year!)

I thought I’d started by saying that this has been un unusual Norouz; The Persian celebration of Spring and therefore the start of the new year. Year 1395, if you’re curious. But then I thought, what was quite unusual about it anyway? I have been celebrating my “Sal  Tah’vil“s (That second the Earth enters enters March equinox) here in Rome for eight years now. Sometimes alone, when it occurred in unlikely hours to celebrate –like 5.30 AM as it was this year– but mostly accompanied by good friends. Like almost all Iranians around the world, for the occasion we enjoyed a good dish of ‘Sabzi Polo ba Mahi‘; Persian style pilaf with fresh herbs such as chives and dill served with fish.

Maybe what was unusual about this year’s Norouz was that I was so caught up in other matters of life, that I failed to stop a moment and and breathe in the arrival Spring and the new year? Maybe because it is impossibile to get fully in the mood of the most significant holiday you’ve grown up with in a place where almost no one knows what you’re talking about? Or maybe because Spring arrived so early  this year to Rome that by the time we got to Norouz we were already too used to nice weather, greens and blossom on the trees. Maybe all of it. 

Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-6As for food, apart from those tiny little biscuits and pastries in one billion varieties and huge bowls of flavored nuts and pistachios, I have more and less eaten proper Spring/Norouz food accordingly to tradition. Lots and lots of greens, seasonal and local. In Persian cooking we use tons and tons of fresh aromatic herbs, that much more than mere condiments. In fact, in so many dishes these herbs are the main ingredient, used in really large quantities. Dish such as Ghormeh Sabzi (herb stew with beans), Kuku sabzi (herbs frittata), Ab Doogh Khiar (cold soup with yoghort) and many others fresh herbs such as mint, cilantro, parsley, chives, etc define the flavor of the dish. 

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Kuku Sabzi Persian Frittata with Local Greens | Frittata alla Persiana | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-31The same attitude characterizes most of the simple dishes of Easter here in Italy. On the large banquets of roasted lambs there are always simple savory pies and frittatas made with fresh asparagus, artichokes, ‘agretti’ (local Roman greens called saltwort) and broccoli e broccolini (small broccolis called broccoletti in Roman dialect).

That’s why I thought Kuku Sabzi, the Persian style frittata with fresh herbs, is the perfect dish for the occasion. Nothing extraordinary as a matter of fact; In most cities of Iran, Kuku Sabzi appears right next to herbs pilaf and fish on the Norouz menu. The original recipe contains parsley, chives, coriander, dill, spinach, lettuce, fenugreek leaves and almost each family varies the quantities regarding their culinary memories.  Continue reading

One year of Lab Noon, the Virtual Birthday Party, Friuty Birthday Cake for Summer & a GIVE-AWAY!

Lab Noon's Fruity Birthday Cake | Torta di Compleanno di Lab Noon -3Lab Noon officially turned one on June 19th. I remember how very confused, extremely tired and incredibly excited I was to launch the blog after many months of work. The blog was supposed to be written three languages, English, Italian and Persian. I decided to omit Persian after a short while. My first ever recipe quickly became an all time hit! Though now looking back I see many things that I would’ve done differently. Lab Noon's Fruity Birthday Cake | Torta di Compleanno di Lab Noon -9

It’s been an amazing year. I have said long thanks to all supporters in the invitation to this virtual birthday party. Here I want to thank all these lovely and talented food bloggers, who have accepted my invitation and prepared lovely cakes/dessert to share with you for #LabNoonsBirthdayParty. Some of these bloggers have been inspirational to me even before I started blogging and some I discovered in this one of year blogging. Some of them I have met in person or know them more personally in some way, some were pure strangers that reached me and joined the party. I am so glad I’ve known you all. Big, acclaimed ones, and new comers. I wish I could hug you one by one, and taste your cakes. Thank you everyone, really. 

Lab Noon's Fruity Birthday Cake | Torta di Compleanno di Lab Noon -11Bellow you will find a list of all the food bloggers who have taken part in Lab Noon’s vitual birthday party and their recipes. (I have tried my best to be organized and get the right link to everyone, but if you get a error please let me know and I’ll fix it). Lab Noon's (virtual) Birthday Party-1-2

Secondly, I want to thank once more Paola from Pauta Pot who generously gives these two beautiful, handmade, birdy cups as a give-away for our party. You can win these cups simply by writing a comment under this post, about the recipes and Lab Noon’s birthday. Then I will extract a name randomly and we will send you those cups! Please remember that  free shipping is available only in Europe.

The Recipes of the Guest Food Bloggers for Lab Noon’s Birthday Party (in alphabetical order)

Lab Noon’s Fruity Birthday Cake for Summer

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My idea of home made cake is something simple and rustic. Of course I would love a proper, nice & fancy cake (like many of the recipes above really put me to shame for how beautiful and perfect they are). But cakes that I like to make are simple, and very homy, filled with nutrient ingredient, so that with a sweet treat you can more than just empty calories. Recently I am always using more fruit in the batter and on topping of cakes that I make. Inspired by some natural jams and confections that use apples or apple juice as sweeteners, I have reduced the amount of sugar in my cakes dramatically and I have substitute it with apples! Both apple puree or grated apple work. Apple puree is cooked (so more time need), more smooth, but can also be much more watery. Grated apples brown easily (no matter how much lemon juice you add), some pieces could be bigger than others, but it gives a very nice texture and moistness to the cake. Continue reading