Nowruz – Persian new year – 21st March
Today is Persian New Year.
‘Nowruz’ is celebrated across cultures, religions and national borders. Nowruz bring all Persians together. It unites them.
Norooz marks both the beginning of a new year and the beginning of spring for Iranian families. Thirteen days of celebrations follow, filled with visiting family and friends, spring cleaning, good luck-wishing and the sharing of food.
My food is heavily influenced by the flavours of the East. I am excited and confident using Eastern ingredients. These flavours and dishes make up a huge part of the classes we offer back at Relish Mama. I get a great kick out of bold and punchy flavours. Flavours that make your mouth shout “WOW”. Equally wonderful is balancing subtle and delicate flavours. The subtle use of orange blossom water, cinnamon, za’atar or sumac for instance. It is a lovely feeling to use these store cupboard ingredients to make your every day meals really sing.
This is a salad I created for our “At home with Nellie” cooking class as well as our ‘Nourishing salads’ classes last week. It has fast risen up my list as a favourite. It is a hit with my family and is incredibly nourishing (double tick).
I use camargue organic red rice for this recipe which is actually a French rice. It has an outstanding nutty flavour, a good dry consistency and a wonderful vibrant colour which I find really appealing in my salad bowl. It is also packed full of essential antioxidants and fibres and a great choice for this Middle Eastern inspired salad.
Wishing all Iranian families and others all around the world a very special day of unity, celebration and the sharing of a table and special meal.
Serves 6-8 as a side dish or 4 as a main
200g red rice
Extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin
1 teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
4 tablespoons barberries or cranberries
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ orange
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Freshly cracked black pepper
2 Lebanese cucumbers, thinly sliced on the diagonal or shaved vertically
Baby carrots, trimmed and cleaned (slice lengthways if too large)
100g almonds, toasted *
30g sunflower seeds, toasted *
30g pumpkin seeds, toasted *
250g natural yoghurt
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
1 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tahini
Bring a saucepan filled with salted water to the boil. Add the rice and simmer for 22 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold water. Leave in sieve to drain.
Drizzle the olive oil into a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes over a low-med heat. Crush the garlic straight into the pan. Add the spices and barberries and sauté for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the garlic and barberries burn – lower the heat if necessary. Remove from heat & stir through the juice of the lemon. Set aside.
Place the rice as well as the warm onion spiced mixture in a large mixing bowl and add enough olive oil to coat the rice well and season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add the orange juice, honey and vinegar and gently combine. Set aside and give the rice time to take on all these lovely flavours.
Preheat the oven to 200oC and cook the baby carrots in a small ceramic dish with a little olive oil and sea salt as well as a sprinkling of sumac and bake for approximately 15 mins.
Add vegetables to the rice along with the herbs and toasted seeds and nuts. Give a good stir before serving.
Make yoghurt dressing & either serve to the side or dolloped on top of salad.
Sprinkle with za’atar to serve.
*To toast seeds and nuts, cook in a dry frying pan until toasted and fragrant. No oil is required and you will need to toss the pan often.