Only five days left till the Persian new year, Norooz, celebrated by some 187 million people across the globe on the first day of spring, this year on March 20th. And right now, in every Iranian’s household at least one person is quite busy (you know who that person is, right) – from shopping new cloths, to cleaning house to preparing haftsin table, tending to sabzeh and of course painting hard boiled eggs. Watch my brief video clips here here for a colorful introduction of Norooz celebration and here for a “very fast” preparation of Norooz table! Don’t forget to check out the links below for Norooz-special blogs by my friends at #PersianFoodBloggers.
From ancient time, dyeing and decorating eggs has been a significant symbol in many cultures around the world – from the Zoroastrian Norooz dating back to over 3000 years ago, to the Jewish Passover to the Christian Easter, eggs are painted in solid or multicolored often to symbolize rebirth. In my youth time, my older sisters used to dye Norooz eggs by wrapping them in color bleeding pieces of brightly colored cloths, tightly sewing them in and hard boiling them in salted water. The cooled eggs would then emerge from the wet cloths delicately colored and patterned. In my household too, we usually take the egg painting quite seriously, often going to some length to actually paint the eggs in detailed and complicated designs. Watch some of those here.
For the first time this year, and after doing a bit of research, I decided to use all natural colors and “painting” material to create colors and patterns on my Norooz eggs. And by natural I mean using vegetables, fruits, spice, leaves and flowers. The process described below proved to be a bit long and messy, but quite amusing and fun nonetheless. I was definitely astonished at the array of colors we have at our disposal in our kitchens without even realizing it. So, without further ado, here are the steps I took. You could perhaps use these as a guideline to work on and enjoy your own creation.
- Dyeing sources: Depending on the colors you like, you would need different dying agents: I went with: Red Cabbage, for Royal and light blue. Red grapes and blueberries, for lavender. Beets for pale red. Turmeric for deep and pale yellow. Saffron tea for brownish orange!
- Note: Despite what I read on several sites, I was not able to produce naturally green eggs using spinach or deep red using beets.
- Design sources: Basically there is no limit to the pattern you can borrow from mother nature – plants, leaves, flower petals, and herbs such as coriander, parsley and dills for creating patters on eggs. The trick, I learned, is to choose very small flowers, and defined leaves.
- Eggs: As many as wish you have in a bowl at the Norooz table + 2 or 3 extra for possible causalities!
- Nylons and elastics (for wrapping the eggs in)
- With vinegar, salt, few containers, and plenty of water.
Take eggs outside the fridge for at least half an hour. Place them in a pot and cover with room temperature water. Mix in 2 tbsp. salt and very slowly bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then using a spoon take the eggs out, cool and dry.
To produce your desired dyeing agent for, let’s say dyeing 2 eggs, you need 3 cups of chopped vegetable or fruit, (OR 2 tbsp. if it’s a spice such as turmeric), 2 cups of water, and 2 tbsp. white vinegar.
Place your chopped vegetable/fruit or spice in a pot. Add 2 cups of water plus 2 tbsp. vinegar to the pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for half an hour before Straining the liquid into a container. Repeat this process for each and every dye you like to make and place them all in separate containers or bowls.
From your pool of selected leaves, petals, flowers, and herbs, take one or two and press them against an egg with one hand. With your hand cover the egg in a piece of nylon that you have already cut and wrap the egg in tightly.
Place the wrapped boiled eggs in your dye container, as you wish. To get pale colors remove after a few hours, but for deeper colors soak overnight. In my experience red cabbage gave a very nice intense royal blue, all the rest range between mild to pale colors. Remove from your dyeing agent and unwrap eggs one at the time, gently removing any leaf or petal sticking to it. Place on a rack and let dry.You should get a nice white(ish) pattern underneath. In some cases my nylon wrapping was not tight enough so the dye had penetrated under the leaf and the design was sort of abstract! But I did not mind them at all. I’ve made two patches so far and each time I have 2-3 favorites.
Below is more recipes and ideas from my talented friends at PersianFoodBloggers group. PFB_Norooz2018
Persian Herb and Feta Platter (Sabzi Khordan), Family Spice
Nabat or Saffron Rock Candy, Parisa’s Kitchen
Sour orange نارنج also referred to as bitter orange is a variety of citrus tree native of Southeast Asia but widely used in the Middle East, parts of Europe and US. In my hometown Shiraz, almost every house with a backyard used to have a couple of sour orange trees which wore perfumed, white robe of blossoms in the spring and orange robe of fruit in early summer. The blossoms of sour orange, bahaar-e naaranj, were used to make sherbet and jams, or sundried to be mixed with loose, black tea. The fruit itself, too, has many culinary usages including for seasoning.
Here in Montreal, Iranian supermarkets carry sour orange right on time before the official spring season starts. Right on time I said because sour orange has a special spot both on our Norooz table as well as with the herbed-rice and fish that we serve on the first day of the Persian New Year, Norooz. Read the rest of this entry »
At any full and happy Persian sofreh or table, several side dishes should be present to complement the main dish, especially at supper time and most certainly with specific types of meals such as kotlet and any kind of mixed rice dishes. The most crucial and common sides to go with these dishes are small bowls of torshi, assortment of seasonal fresh herbs, radishes and scallions, and Shirazi salad.
Now, Torshi, ترشی, or torsu as it is called in Balkan and Middle Eastern cuisine, is basically diced fruits, vegetables and herbs marinated in vinegar and spices to be eaten with food in small portions as an appetizer and counterbalance to the greasy components of a meal. Read the rest of this entry »
Today is (almost) the shortest day of the year, which was followed by the longest night of the year, last night, Yalda. In term of daylight, today was 5 hours, 50 minutes shorter than June Solstice.
PS. To those of you who are following my blog through email notification, my apologies for the “Norooz” this week!! It was my mistake while fixing/ shoveling around broken old links and pictures.
Yalda, the Persian celebration of winter solstice, is around the corner. Hence the occasion for a special food blog entry – something representing red and orange colors of Yalda, something made with passion, and maybe pomegranate, to serve along with sweet-nuts mix, watermelon and persimmon as we get together with friends and family to bring to dawn the longest night of the year – the night before the beginning of winter, or the Yalda night.
For the first two weeks of October, my husband and I had a blast visiting Andes and remains of the ancient Inca civilization in and around Cusco, Peru: Stunning landscapes, magical lush valleys and foggy mountains, mind blowing stone work and engineering, delicious fresh food, colourful handicrafts, soothing music and of course a lot of history! A history almost too painful to hear of Spanish colonization demolishing the Inca Empire, looting their treasures, enslaving them and brutally suppressing resistance movements up to the 18th century!
Cusco, once Incas’ capital, has half a million population today and according to one of our tour guides 80% of the city’s economy depends on tourism. This includes not only food, lodging, entertainment, heritage businesses small and large, but also native women who make a living by knitting sweaters and hats out of Alpaca wool, and by dressing up in colorful clothes along with their Alpacas and baby goats to take pictures with tourists. Read the rest of this entry »
For most Iranians, smoked white fish resonates with the Persian new year, Norooz, especially when it is prepared long with mixed herb rice. And of course, as an Iranian food blogger I have already posted the full recipe for this delicious Norooz related meal right here.
However, first off, in the mentioned blog entry I did not devote enough attention to preparing smoked fish component of the meal. Secondly, I absolutely feel the need to share with you my new discovery: Smoked fish can be found in most supermarkets in my city (and am pretty sure in many others) ALL YEAR Long!! So, why wait till the New Year? Why have it only once a year? In fact, the type of smoked fish I find here is quite moderate in terms of taste intensity (not too salty, not too smoky) and can be served on its own along with either plain white or herb mixed rice. Read the rest of this entry »