Hello friends! One of the interesting things that happened to me while I’m here in Iran is that I was approached to do a podcast series. I’ve been a podcast junkie myself for like ever (like totally! & way before Serial) and absolutely love the genre; and of course as a blogger – namely someone who is compelled to record and share observances and thoughts and stories – the concept of creating a podcast channel immediately and intensely appealed to me and hence, I jumped on the idea! So it was that the “Podcast tales of Anjir ‘o Beh” was born! (“Anjir o beh” is Persian for “fig and quince” in case you were wondering.)
I debated about doing a bilingual version – one in Persian and one in English – and I really really do want to be able to offer the podcast stories in both languages in the future so that those of you who don’t understand Persian (Farsi) can also have a listen but at least for the first season, it was not feasible. You should go have a listen anyhow!😉
I’m happy to let you know that the 1st season is in the bag: a couple of teasers about Norooz (the Persian New Year) were released (here and here) earlier in the spring and the first full episode – an introduction – finally went live a few days ago.
Going forward, there will be new episodes every Sunday and Wednesday at 4 pm (Iran time.)
The 2nd Fig and Quince podcast episode is also now up as well. And it’s a really good one! In this episode I chat with Haleh Farajollahi, a dear childhood friend (our moms were classmates and BFFs) and she tells mesmerizing tales of witnessing the sight and sound of thousands of silkworms feasting on grape leaves and the beautiful heirloom cloths her grandmother then made with this harvested silk and other impeccable housekeeping customs of her grandmother (let’s put it this way, Martha Stewart would have LOVED Haleh’s grandmother!) and the delicious food of the northern region of Iran.
The cover photo is a souvenir pic of me and Haleh just before we went down to the studio to tape our episode. (The turbaned gentleman in between us is none other than Ferdowsi, the revered Persian poet who is to Iranians what Homer is to the Greeks.)
Here are a couple of other photos related to what we talked about in this podcast:
One of the heirloom silk cloths: handmade and designed and dyed by Haleh’s grandmother with the silk harvested by the silkworms feasting on grape leaves. Isn’t that enchanting?
And this is another such priceless heirloom silk cloth. Haleh says she very carefully stores all of the cloths passed on to her by her grandmother and hopes to pass them on to her own children and that each year, just before Norooz and as an integral aspect of the “shaking the house” part of greeting the Persian New Year, she takes them out and airs them and admires them, before storing them again for another year.
What a treasure trove !
And here’s Haleh as a little girl with her little stuffed animal. I mean: how adorable is she?
Do go and have a listen to this delicious 2nd episode of Fig & Quince podcast series (even if you don’t speak Persian, haha) and if you like what you hear, please do share the link with your family and friends.
Till soon, I remain your faithful blogger
With love and affection, from Tehran Iran
As wise as making lemonade out of lemons is making sweet jam from sour cherries.
Start with a heap of fresh lovely bright red and oh so tart sour cherries. Wash and dry. Take out the pits. While you are thus occupied by this monumental yet ultimately meaningful task dangle a few double-stemmed sour cherries from your ears like earrings. A throwback to the days of yore of childhood; when even eating fruit led to simple joyful pleasures. No reason it can’t be that way still.
Fill a pot with all your pitted sour cherries. The labor of your beautiful soul, your beautiful hands. Add sugar, the equivalent of the amount of your sour cherries, on top of the heap. For example, if you have one pound of pitted sour cherries, add a pound of sugar. Allow sugar to lay restful, in intimate sojourn with the sour cherries for 3 or 4 or even let’s say 5 hours. Snow white and crimson, sweet and tart, in an embrace. Oh, what will they speak of. The tales they will tell.
After a few hours, feel free to interrupt this aforementioned liaison. By then, sugar and cherries will have concluded their tete a tete by creating a beautiful puddle of lurid pink liquid. Use a utensil or preferably your (clean) hands to nudge and gently mix well the sugar with sour cherries.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Gently boil for … how long? Well, the length of times depends on how much sour cherries you used. For example, for a pound of sour cherries, 20 minutes will suffice. Longer if you have more cherries.
Make sure to skim and discard the pale pink foam as you boil the sour cherries. Doing so will make sure that you’ll end up with jam that won’t spoil or turn sour. Heed this advise and profit.
Once you’ve boiled the sour cherries for a sufficient amount of time, remove from heat, add rosewater, and let cool. How much rosewater you ask? Again, depends on how much sour cherries you used to make your jam. For example, for one pound of cherries, add 1/4 cup of rosewater. Feel free to trust your tastebuds, your senses, your instincts.
Allow to cool. Store in sterilized jars. But before doing so, make sure you make a number of delicious bite-sized sandwiches with yummy bread and butter. I personally also love the taste of feta cheese with sour cherry jams. Yummmmmmy!
You may also want to pose with your sour cherry jam for a food blog. Ideally in a scenic yard at the foot of beautiful mountains in Tehran. A swing set is optional. But preferable. Vastly preferable I say! Essential, some may even lay claim.
Hope you liked this recipe and may you enjoy the summer and its delicious bounty my friends. Let’s not even think of fall and the mares of nights of November elections with its orange-skinned people and such things. Let’s just pick fruit off trees and eat our fill and make and eat moraba. With rosewater. With pleasure. With gusto. With love. With bread! Lots of bread. And butter.
ps I must mention (and not in passing but with much gratitude) that the wonderful moraba ‘ye albaloo (sour cherry jam) photographed here is the handiwork of a truly wonderful khanum who feeds us at work. I’ll write more about the lovely khanum and also feature her stuffed grape leaves (dolmeh ‘ye barg ‘e moh) and finally tell you all about this work I’m doing here in Tehran, Iran by and by and now truly bye bye.
Hi guys! A future blog post is about making dolmeh with grape leaves but today’s post is about loss and scholarly life in Tehran. With some fruit and food pix thrown in for good measure. To distract you from the fact that I haven’t written any recipe posts lately. Tssk tssk.
First the loss – already alluded to in the last post. That is, I lost my phone. It must have slipped out of my pocket while I was riding a “taxi khati” (the kind of taxis where you share rides with others who are going your way, a manner of transportation that has its own lore and lure and culture and tricks and charms and repulsions, and one that I should definitely write about in a later post) and I only realized it was missing once I was home. A realization that had me in a cold sweat (literal!) followed by a hot sweat (also literal) and then a few minutes of numb acknowledgement of the fact. Is it hyperbole to say that the sensation – a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach and a clenching of the heart – felt like grief? Like deep mourning? Because it kind of did. Ah well, by now I’ve come to terms with it and have learned the lesson of backing up data the very hard way. Ouch and ooy and boo hoo.
Anyhow! Let’s now change course and look at some delicious fruit as an amuse bouche topic:
The pile of herbs are “sabzi Kohee” or wild mountain herbs; and right behind it we have some loquats (azgil) and next to it we have that mythical and iconic Persian fruit of spring, that is: “gojeh sabz” aka, sour green plums.
Ok, so these are obviously not fruit, but I can’t help resist the impulse of sharing with you this yummy photo of a window display with tantalizing offerings of kooloocheh, n’oon panjareh (Persian “Window” candy) and “cake ‘eh Yazdi” (very similar to muffins.) If only calories did not count, it is quite possible that I would spend days if not weeks eating nothing but generous multiples of each of these every blessed day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I am nursing a nasty cold but no grudges; I lost my workhorse iPhone but on the bright side I have a refrigerator filled with barbari bread and sour cherries picked from a garden near Tehran; and I have lots of news and a bunch of good posts coming your way – delicious recipes and sweet and bittersweet stories and lots of snap-happy photos, but meanwhile … I woke up this morning to the wonderful surprise of an email from my Edible Manhattan editor with the news that the article I recently wrote for them about Norooz in New York is an Eddy Awards 2016 finalist in the “Best Story” category. Say what! It obviously made my day. It’s an honor to be a finalist but (needless to say) I won’t scoff at the idea of actually winning in the category either. That’s where you, wonderful gentle reader, come in. As the winner will be decided by votes.
Last week I spent a few days in Shiraz on a business trip. Remember? I saw and ate and enjoyed many many good things, and I’m going to do my best to document it all in a fashion that will be concise yet somewhat of interest to you, my lovely joon readers. Advance warning however, that I will do so in bits and pieces and fits and starts and in several posts. Thus, begging your generous understanding from the very beginning of our journey.
For today’s post, let’s go with a pictorial essay of some of the pretty things I saw.
If you must make a business trip while in Iran, it may as well be a trip to Shiraz, the city of pomegranate blossoms and roses and bahar narenj and poetry and oft: staggering beauty. And if you must go to Shiraz, it might as well be in the month of Oridbehesht — a spring month that ends with the suffix of “behesht” or paradise. And if you are fortunate indeed, you might also be hosted by people who are not just kind and lovely but who love food and feed you splendidly! And thus, it may transpire that your first breakfast in this ancient and fabled Persian city might be a simple but seductive Persian breakfast centered around a quail egg sunny side up omelette.
To recreate this scene at home, follow these easy steps.
First, crack open a dozen quail (or “belederchin” in Farsi) eggs. Heat some butter in a small skillet till it sizzles, and until it does, gaze at the golden yolks and enjoy their sunny disposition in a pleasant reverie.
Then, once the kitchen is filled with that unmistakable heavenly aroma of sizzling butter, pour the yolks in the skillet. Scramble the yolks just a teeny tiny bit and cook over medium heat till the omelette sets nicely but is still sunny side up.
Slip the omelette on a beautiful china plate and serve as the centerpiece of a very pretty and delicious Persian breakfast. (Note: breakfasts in Iran can be quite elaborate and based on my non-scientific but homegrown polling tend to be super popular in Iran. I’ve met so many people who say variations on this theme: “I go to bed dreaming of my breakfast!” ha ha.)
Let’s explore this particular enchanting culinary landscape that yours truly got to savor at further length! Starting with the plate of herbs and cucumber and tomato (the essential ingredients for making a traditional Persian “loghmeh” or bite-sized sandwich) let’s work our way clockwise left to right:
yummy creamy feta cheese; a container of khameh (thick cream) on a plate; a tall glass of frothy homemade banana milkshake (fill blender with 4 cups of milk, add 2 ripe bananas, blend till smooth and foamy and serve); a heart-shaped bowl filled with soft succulent homemade strawberry jam (so good with that thick cream on some bread); the glorious aforementioned quail egg omelette as the piece de resistance; and of course: bread.
Can you say: YUMMY? Oh boy, it was. (Thank you Farzaneh joon!)
Finish off polishing your fill of this heavenly morning repast with a cup of coffee served in manner most dainty, pretty and charming.
It will greatly enhance your experience if you could do all of the following while inhaling that je ne sais quoi springtime air of Shiraz fragrant with the smell of roses and honeysuckle; laden with the memory of centuries of poetry and bohemian pleasure-seeking flair that all of Shiraz is known for and renowned.
I want everyone I love to come and visit and experience the glory of Shiraz. You all: do it! Seriously! More on Shiraz to come. Promise.
Till then, xoxo and boos boos.
ps Have a lucky Friday the 13th
Hello hello hello! I am tempted to say: “Here’s your faithful blogger” but I have been terribly horribly shamefully remiss re both the “faithful” and the “blogger” part of that declaration and it’d be more correct to say “here’s your missing-in-action, flighty, hanging-her-head-in-shame blogger”. In my defense, gentle and oh so patient (& hopefully forgiving?) reader: I have been micro-blogging my heart out on a consistent basis. Might I suggest that if you’re inclined to get a daily fix of Fig & Quince goodness to follow along on my Instagram account? It is easy, it is quick, it is often delicious, and it has zero calories! What are you waiting for?
But yes, it has been a good few months since I’ve written here. A long enough absence where the WordPress dashboard is totally unfamiliar. Why oh why do the capricious WordPressing gods keep changing things around here? Ok, going off topic. So back on topic, here are some facts in no particular order as it pertains to yours truly:
To break the ice and the dry spell and get warmed up and started, I’ll crack the old blogging knuckles (crunch crunch) and share a quick, random story about having a fast food snack called “esnak” (ha ha) in Tehran one day.
One day back in the summer, just a few weeks into coming to Iran, I decided to hop on a random bus and leave it to faith to take me where it might. And faith, or rather the creaky “Falakeh Dovom Sadeghieyeh” bus took me to its final destination, namely: the “Haft Teer Square.”
Before disembarking, I spied with my little eyes a graffiti writing on the wall that read: “Esnak Pat va Mat” with an arrow pointing downwards. I was both hungry and nosy, so I immediately followed the arrow upon disembarking from the bus.
Ascending a few steps and then following my nose down a very narrow passage I came to halt in front of a red and yellow metal kiosk, with a small window, inside a guy taking food orders. Think of it as a stationery food truck. Something like that. After perusing the offerings, all of them were called “esnak”, I found myself ordering a single serving of “esnak” and then tried to find a corner to sit and eat.
Do you see this red metal graffiti’d wall? Do you see the yellow wall just behind it? The kiosk vendor’s window was just between these two. There were also a few chairs in the impossibly narrow space. Most of which were occupied but I did find one to sit and gaze at my lovely hot and strange “esnak” and photograph it before digging in.
It doesn’t look that great in the photo, does it? But for 2000 Toman (less than a dollar) and handed to you piping hot and filled with gooey cheesy carb-ladden stuff, I wasn’t complaining and in fact, I have to say it hit the spot. I would not have turned down another serving if someone had offered, let’s say.
I was sitting just behind this wall (where apparently Ali Elnaz also occupied on 93/9/18) and it was totally a tight and narrow spot, but, it did offer an excellent unobtrusive opportunity for both graffiti watching and people watching.
This was months ago, but I still remember feeling rather cozy and happy as I sat there, eating my “esnak” snack, enjoying the rush of that awesome carb-loading satiated contentedness, and feeling by degrees less and less a stranger in my city of birth and original homeland.
So! Gentle Reader! Here it is, my first post after months of absence. It is somewhat lame – OK, let’s not ta’rof with each other and admit that it’s decidedly lame. But think of it as a junk food post! And I hope to hop back on the blogging wagon and deliver more quality and nutritious content soon, and on a regular basis. Somehow or other I’ve got to make the time. Because I miss blogging. I miss you. And like I said: I have a trillion and one stories to tell and it’d be a shame to keep it all inside. (Don’t forget to follow along on Instagram though, for daily peek into my second epic trip to Iran, OK?)
Boos boos and till soon!