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December 21, 2017: Winter Solstice at Yule Woods, Montreal, at 4:15 pm.

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.


Roast Chicken & Saffron Rice

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 some of my previous Yalda-related blog entries, please see here, and here.

And here I am with yet another Yalda recipe. The roast chicken I am about to describe is called Akbar joojeh in Persian. Akbar is a male’s name and joojeh means baby chicken. Originated in the northern province of Mazandaran, Akbar joojeh is named after a restaurant on the road to the Caspian sea  whose owner served his then exclusive dish. The dish soon grew so popular the locals took it in to their own hands and made it on the long list of delicious Northern foods. Akbar joojeh is one of a few Persian foods made/served with the very Iranian pomegranate syrup [See below];  it has a rich sweet and sour taste, very simple to prepare and is served with either plain or saffron rice – again made in the simple kateh style, as opposed to the more complicated style of soaking and draining the rice.

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

  • Half a baby chicken or a small chicken, cut in 2 or 3 pieces
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely sliced lengthwise
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime
  • 2 tbs. oil
  • ½ cup pomegranate molasses
  • Salt to taste
  • For kateh rice: 2 cups Basmati rice, 1 teaspoon good quality ground saffron, 1 tbsp. oil, salt to taste.

Pomegranate syrup, also referred to as pomegranate “paste” and pomegranate “molasses” is basically pomegranate juice that has been thickened ideally without adding sugar. It has a dark mahogany color and should be thick but runny and intensely flavorful. It can be purchased from Iranian and some Middle Eastern supermarkets.

Method:

After skinning and washing the chicken’s parts, sprinkle enough salt and marinate them in lime juice in a closed container in the fridge for at least 4 hours (ideally overnight). Make sure all sides are well exposed to the marinate mixture.

In a medium size thick-bottomed pot, heat oil and sauté onions for a couple of minutes. Transfer chicken’s pars to the pot and fry all sides over high heat until the meat changes color.  Turn the heat to minimum, cover with a tight lid and slow cook for at least one hour. This is a pot roast style so you will not need to add any water. The chicken will cook itself at the core in the juice produced by onions and the chicken itself.  At the end of the cooking process you should have an all-side browned, tender and savory chicken with little juice left in the pot. When serving your chicken (either in a separate dish or on the side of your saffron rice), leave the cooked onions inside the pot. Pour about 2 tbsp. pomegranate syrup on top of the chicken just before taking it to the table.

For the rice, in this case saffron kateh.

First off, prepare your saffron by mixing the saffron and 2 tbsp. warm water in a small teapot and placing it on the top of a steaming kettle for 15 minutes. The idea is to bring the aroma, taste and color out by brewing the saffron, just as we do with Iranian tea.

You already know how to make “the unbeatable Rice, Iranian style” : by soaking the rice in advance boiling it in plenty of water before draining it and so on and so forth. Well, there is a much easier way of making Iranian style rice called kateh, which is by the way very popular in the northern provinces in the Caspian where rice is cultivated.  Here is how to do it:

Wash your rice in a pot thoroughly with lukewarm water by raking with fingers and rinsing a few times until the water runs clear.

Top the two cups of washed rice with two cups of lukewarm water.  (Equal rice/water ratio is good for most types of Basmati).  Add one tbsp. oil and about 1 teaspoon salt and gently stir. Cover the pot with the lid and turn the heat to its highest setting.  Once the mix is brought to a boil, tilt the lid half open, turn the heat down to medium and wait till almost all the water is absorbed and/or evaporated and you can see bubbles on the surface of the rice. Add 2 tbsp. brewed saffron and stir gently.  With a fork, mound the rice in the middle into a pyramid and make a big hole in the center.  Cover the lid in a clean kitchen towel and put it back on tightly while you still have plenty of steam inside.  Turn the heat to minimum and let the aromatic rice steam cook for 45 minutes.

You can serve akbar joojeh either in a separate dish or on the side of your saffron rice, –  or plain rice for that matter, as dinner or lunch. You would pour some pomegranate syrup on the chicken and take a small bowel of the syrup to the table just in case. Serve hot along with fresh herbs, salad or yogurt.

Other blog entries you will love from my fellow Persian food blogger friends:

  1. Saffron Rice with Morello CCherries- albaloo polo

2. Yalda Night Celebration – 2017


Peru Trip

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 »


Off-season smoked fish with rice

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 »


Water


Zucchini Fritters

As promised last week and without further ado, here is my recipe for zucchini fritters when you have too many homegrown zucchinis on your hand and no one in particular to offer it to them!  You could make this with yellow or green zucchinis as a side, snack or light meal.

Ingredients: Read the rest of this entry »


What to do with extra homegrown zucchini

It is said that two zucchini plants produce enough zucchinis for a family of four to eat as much as they can for the entire summer. This year I grew three zucchini plants for the two of us, which meant way too much of it if we were to stick only to our traditional Persian style zucchini stew.

Almost every single morning I checked on my vegetable garden I found a new baby zucchini turned into a huge heavy one almost before my eyes. So, even with all I gave away to family and friends I still had to come up with new creative ways to consume this delicious vegetable. Read the rest of this entry »