Early Breakfast at the End of Winter & a Persian Kheer Recipe (Firni)

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
Persian Kheer Recipe (Firni) | Budino Dolce di Riso (Kheer) alla Persiana | Lab Noon
The alarm rings at 5.30 am. I turn it off immediately so that it wouldn’t wake him. I look at the phone and I run my thumb up and down on the screen to make my half-open eyes get used to the light. I sit in bed, It’s still as dark as it was when I went to sleep barely 5 hours ago. Then slowly, I reach for my woolly poncho and I prepare my heavy body to drag itself to the bathroom. By the time I get the courage to splash some lukewarm water in my face, some 20 minutes have passed. I know I’m gradually coming back to life when I turn on the big computer and open Spotify. I search for my super early morning playlist, “Sounds of Nature” and I make sure a forest sound plays. I pray the ads wouldn’t start right away. 

Mission: Breakfast. 

I turn on the espresso machine and I think about what to make for breakfast. My usual routine alternates between oat porridge and something with one organic egg. Mostly it’s a simple and healthy french toast that I prepare with my home-made sourdough bread, which I always bake with wholegrain flours such as rye or spelt. When I’m out of bread, I make a small oat pancake-thing (I love oats for breakfast). Then I’m distracted by the jiggles of my phone. It’s my to-do-list app saying I must prepare the files for MAXXI museum’s speciale event for Norouz. “Yeah, I know, I know” I mumble, and I open the whole list, which is synced to another calendar app, which is synced to the notes app and iCal. 

It’s a little overwhelming to say the least. It’s a loooong list of projects I need to finish, tasks that ought to be done, researches, meetings etc. Most of them are related to my final thesis project, which is due by the end of March. I am officially finishing my long university studies (two bachelors and one master) at Rome’s Fine Art Academy in Graphic Design & Photography. The project is very close to my heart as I told you, because I get to combine my passion for food & photography with my love for graphic & editorial design. Now I can finally reveal you what I’m working on. I’m creating a cookbook! A single, unique copy with my own recipes and photos (which have either already shown up on this blog or will soon). I think it would be a dream for a designer foodie to make their own cookbooks all from scratch. It also tickles that not-so-secret desire of getting published that lurks at the back of the brain of any food-blogger. So you get the picture. It’s a period of hard work and barely any rest.

Persian Kheer Recipe (Firni) | Budino Dolce di Riso (Kheer) alla Persiana | Lab Noon

That’s when I decide I want something more than my oaty breakfast routine. Something special, cozy and sweet. After all, my early breakfast is the only moment during the day that I can dedicate completely to myself. Enjoying the quiet, taking my time, listening to the cheep cheep that comes from the speakers, sipping my coffee and getting mentally ready for the long, busy day. I opt for a homey comfort food. Firni (or Fereny) is a porridge that my mom used to make me either on Friday mornings (weekend in Iran), or when I had a soar throat. It’s the closest thing that comes to Kheer, the famous Indian rice porridge. Actually similar porridges are common in many countries in the region, specially in central Asia. I even discovered it’s called by the same name in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Firni: aromatic, silky warmness in bowl

Now that mind is made up, with a lively sprint I search in the pantry and reach for the rice flour. Some cardamom pods, and the most significant ingredient, rose water. This combination of aromas would pour the essence of childhood into my bowl of porridge. Rose water is the smell of middle east captured in a bottle. You need to take it in little doses, like a powerful potion, or you’d kill the dish with too much aroma. Just the way too much potion would ruin the magic. A teaspoon is more than enough for two portions. 

Persian Kheer Recipe (Firni) | Budino Dolce di Riso (Kheer) alla Persiana | Lab Noon
Persian Kheer Recipe (Firni) | Budino Dolce di Riso (Kheer) alla Persiana | Lab Noon

I dissolve the rice flour in some water, heat up the milk with the cardamom pods and then mix them. I keep stirring, while looking outside the window, watching the first rays of sunshine rising from behind the buildings. I almost lose track of time, it’s like meditation. I know it’s ready when I feel the liquid has thickened. Then I sit against my hot Firni, white as marble, soft and smooth as silk, smelling like a garden of roses in Spring. I hold the bowl with both hands to warm them up. Each spoonful wraps my mouth in a gentle and warm velvet and I feel it’s milky path all the way from my throat to my belly.

The light is still grey and blue but now I’m fully awake, warmed up and fresh as the roses. Despite the chilly dark morning, I know Winter is over. The new season is at the gates. I smile and I think to myself… Buon giorno! Continue reading

The “World Vegan Month”, A Movie (again) and a Vegan Bean Stew

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon

 I have made many discoveries thanks to this blog, most of which are about the world of food. I’ve had the chance to cook many new recipes and I’ve got to know better some alternative diets. one of these discoveries is that the November of each year is called “The World Vegan Month” to celebrate a vegan diet. I am (almost) happily omnivore but recently I have tried to eat less and less meat and use more and more seasonal vegetables, legumes and grains in my cooking. That’s why my instant reaction to a vegan month was “Challenge Accepted!”. I’ve prepared many simple vegan dishes and I’ve posted most of them on Instagram. I have also made a collection of them on Steller

I admit it was difficult to omit all animal products. For example I found out that my Achilles’ heel is cheese and sometimes even eggs. But the nice thing is that as soon as you try to approach a new world almost immediately you find new ways and methods to use new ingredient to make whole plant-based dishes that are both tasty and nutritious. 

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon Then in the middle of November (which felt much more like September/October here in Rome), came along once more ChckenBroccoli, the cool Italian blog about cinema, and asked me to watch the preview of a movie and come up with a recipe about it. Naturally I accepted with a big grin on my face. 

It’s called Trash, based on a young adults’ best-seller by the same name. The story evolves in Rio de Janeiro, where the three main characters work in a huge garbage dump. It’s a story about the good and the evil. (Speaking of the good and the evil, make sure you check out these fantastic illustrated magazines by ChickenBroccoli, even if they’re in Italian they’re still worth the look.) Surrounded by massive filth and trash, unmerciful poverty and immense corruption, these kids decide to do “the right thing” and that makes them a voice for hope. 

“Trash”, Coming to Italian theaters on November 27th.

It’s a nice little film, especially young adults can be inspired by the courage of these kids. There’s that right amount of Adrenaline without an excess of violence. And one can’t help but being reminded of The Slumdog Millionaire, where other poor and filthy kids tried to survive the injustice and beat the evil guys. Of course they’re not quite comparable when it comes to the soundtrack, the script and the editing as The Slumdog Millionaire was many steps forward. (And that’s how I replaced checkBroccoli as a movie critic!) 

Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon
Vegan Rice and Beans Stew | Rico e Stufato Vegano di Fagioli | Lab Noon

During the movie I was constantly looking for the slightest trace of food, or a dish that would inspire me to come up with a recipe. The sad thing was that, not by chance, (and on the contrary of the other movie) there’s no sign of food at all. Actually, the thing that is most noted is the absence of food. As a matter of fact the only scene in which someone wants to get some food is when one a boy looks for something to eat in a trash can and finds a half-bitten apple and some other dirty garbage. The parents of these kids are never shown, neither are any other parental figures who would take care of them (except from the American missionaries). It made me think about how important it would be for a kid like Rafael to find a nice, warm and nutritious dish when comes back home. A meal that would give him the energy and the necessary substances to grow up well and in health. Maybe a nice simple dish of rice and beans, with simple and cheap ingredients, that also contains the right amount of proteins, fibers and minerals. Continue reading

The Hundred-Foot Journey & the Recipe of Socca “Alla Hassan”

Amore, Cucina, Curry Ricetta Socca

This post is a particular one. It’s about something really cool that I’ve had the chance to experiment thanks to Lab Noon. There’s an unusual element too, –unusual meaning it’s a little outside the zone of things I imagine to publish here on the blog– it’s one fantastic unusual element.

It’s a movie. Lasse Hallstrom‘s new movie. I’m talking about the director of Chocolat (that marvelous piece of movie full of cocoa, passion, Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp). Among the the producers there are Steven Spielberg and Oprah Winfrey e the main actress is Helen Mirren. Hell, talk about expectations! It’s called The Hundred-Foot Journey but in Italian it has been translated (as often happens) to Love, Cooking and Curry! Now it’s easier to imagine it’s got something to do with me.

Amore, Cucina, Curry Ricetta SoccaI’ve been invited by ChickenBroccoli, a very cool Italian blog about movies to the exclusive premiere with the director; in order to create a recipe based on the food shown in the movie. As passionate as I am about food, interculturality, France and India, all it took for me to fall in love with the movie was watching the trailer.
Actually, the plot of The Hundred-Foot Journey is quite simple; An Indian family of restaurateurs seeks asylum in France after a series of dramatic events and open a new restaurant in front of an old, classic, starred French restaurant which is only 100 feet distant. Now imagine that clash of traditions, cultures and people. And as it often happens, clashes help smooth the sharp angles.
Even though the movie serves the colorful, joyous India that is full of sounds, loud music and hot spices side by side of the well-measured, classic western France in an arrogant fashion, I found that The Hundred-Foot Journey is all about similarities rather than the differences. Not only between the two contestant sides of the story, but also between us and the characters of the film.french indian socca (7 of 8)The story is about finding a home. About feeling at home. And how it doesn’t really have to do much with the physical and geographical home at the end of the day. And to help you search it, recreate it, remember it, there’s food. “Food is memories.” says somebody in the movie. Beautiful, fresh, picturesque food. The excellent French one that’s narrated through some antique and classic cooking books and in the kitchen of the restaurant. And the Indian food; just as beautiful, with more colors, much more spices and much less discipline.
There’s something fairy-tale about this movie. Not only in the story but also in the photography; the warm light of the southern French country side, the happily-ever-after love stories and the view of the village which reminds you of the famous view of the Disney castle.
If you’re a romantic deep inside (like me), and you enjoy some good laughs while being touched by some deep and wise words that make you reflect, this is the movie for you. It’s definitely worth a cool Autumn evening.french indian socca (1 of 8)Socca, or Farinata as Italians call it, is a thin layered crepe made of chickpea flour. they say it originally comes from the Ligurian coast but I have come to know about it as a street food from the south of France.
This version is inspired by a recipe I read in the May issue of the Italian edition of Jamie Magazine. It lingered on my mind because it seemed easy and absolutely delicious and most especially because it didn’t really look too French to me. I imagined that adding some spices and replacing anchovies and olives with something else would easily turn it into something Indian. Later I discovered that socca-look-alike Indian chickpea pancakes actually do exist and they’re called Pudla. Continue reading