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

persian pumpkin dessert-8

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

persian pumpkin dessert-4
#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-39

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.

#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-23#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-50

#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-28
#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-59

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.

persian pumpkin dessert-2#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-27

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?

#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-37
#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-34

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.

persian pumpkin dessert-12

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.

#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-16
#BeautifulIran Visit Iran Pt.1 | Lab Noon by Saghar Setareh-41

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.) 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