Rob’ eh anar, or pomegrante syrup (also referred to as pomegranate molasses or concentrate or paste) is a staple ingredient in Persian cooking. My mother has never made it herself from scratch and since her mother’s time, she tells me, the custom has been to just buy store-bought. I geeked out therefore when I found out that friend and intrepid cook Suzanne makes her own and got her recipe, which I’m delighted to share with you – as you see above – in her very own words. Thank you Suzanne!
Homemade is best but there’s something to be said about the convenience of store-bought as well. Caveat emptor: the flavor and color of roe’beh anâr varies somewhat significantly from brand to brand.
After experimentation with various labels, my mother swears by the Golchin brand which she finds to have just the right balance of sweet and tangy flavor. She also likes its rich dark color, specially for making fesenjoon.
Myself, I use the Cortas brand, and, whoa Nelly, it is super tangy, but I don’t mind, and I like the fact that it is made without sugar. I just use it sparingly, and if I lose my head and go overboard, compensate with adding some sugar to balance the flavor. The color is alright. No complaints.
Point being: try a few till you find a brand you can see yourself growing old with.
The famous khoresh ‘eh fessenjoon, made with crushed walnuts and pomegranate syrup, will be posted next and that will (finally!) conclude our all-pomegranates-all-the-time programming around here and instead will switch to barraging you with all-Norooz-all-the-time coverage.
If all goes well, I hope to have some special recipes for you (maybe sholeh zard) and to also share things like “shaking your house”, “fire-jumping”, growing grass and then callously throwing it out in a fortnight, getting gold and giving respect, and of course, making a spread of the Seven Persian Seen’s, and the food, oh all the glorious food. All part and parcel and among the threads that together, since ancient times of ‘yore, have made up the traditions and celebration of the first day of spring and seeing in a new year in Iran.
Until then, zubizubizou
Some people are prickly lots and a trial to deal with. In Farsi we have a saying for challenging beings like that: “bah yek man asal ham nemish’eh khord’esh” which translates to: “you can’t eat ’em with even a bushel of honey.” That’s unpalatable personality for you. In pleasant contrast, some people are unassuming rays of sunshine who effortlessly brighten up anything and everything by the virtue of their mere presence.
Now if this type of person (the delightful one) was a Persian food, it’d be mast’o khiar: a cool, simple and healthy side dish that is particularly perfect during the dog days of summer and remains a welcome addition to the dinner table year-round as well even in the dead of winter; a dish that goes well with meat, rice, bread, and almost all Persian food (except let’s say fesenjoon!) and enhances whatever you serve it with. I personally am a devotee of the Iranian custom of enjoying a side of yogurt with most dishes and this classic cucumber & mint yogurt concoction, fragrant and crunchy and still creamy, takes it to the next level. So simple, so good. You won’t need honey to force this honey down your throat.
There are minor variations on making mast’o khiar but for our bare-bones basic version you just need: yogurt, dried mint, good firm cucumbers, and mad dicing skills. That’s it. (Some people also like add a couple of cloves of minced garlic into the mix. We heart garlic but … no, not with mast’o khiar.) This foundational formula can be easily amped-up by adding fresh mint sprigs, roasted walnuts and raisins; and traditionally, particularly if it is to be served at a dinner party, one sprinkles mast’o khiar with a Jackson Pollock flourish of dried rose petals (pretty!) for enhanced sensory charm.
So simple. So good.
Hello lovely reader! Welcome to Fig & Quince! My cozy little Iranian-American corner of the Internet where I tell stories and wax poetic about Persian food and the people and culture of Iran.
I share my family recipes and all the tools and tricks of Iranian cooking with you here because it’s my passionate mission to show you how to make good and authentic Persian food — with a modern spin and with creative twists. I’m equally driven by the fondest desire to do what I can to balance the myopic portrayal of my homeland and to promote a better understanding of Iran and Iranians.
Most recent and major bragging right is cooking fesenjan for the New York Times for a Sunday Magazine cover article about Diverse Holiday Feasts From Five New York Families. Fig & Quince’s fesenjan recipe then went on to make it on New York Times food editor Sam Sifton’s Most Popular Recipes, 2014! Thank you Maman joon for teaching me how to cook and passing on your stellar khoresh ‘e fesenjoon recipe. Persian food rules!
Food is the indelible vehicle of memory. I write about food with nostalgia and longing and yearnings … with words that have meanings beyond their names and evoke images of snow-capped mountains, cypress trees, and samavars gurgling brewing tea. Words that breeze with the smell of honeysuckles, orange blossoms and ghormeh sabzi; bringing back memories of climbing mulberry trees, swimming in the Caspian sea, and sitting impatiently around the haft seen table with the gold fish and hyacinth and gold coins and green sprouts, counting down the slow moving minutes till winter ended and Norooz began — finally! Culinary tales that sometimes make me feel the touch of my grandmother’s hand caressing my head in her lap while patiently reciting for me, once again, the fairy tales of the Girl with the Silvery Moon Forehead and the Daughters of Narenj and Toranj.
Food is the edible expression of a culture! And Iranian food is poetic, captivating, and enchantingly delicious! Let’s dig in!
About Me: Your Faithful Blogger
I am an Iranian-American and a (self-diagnosed) late-bloomer with eclectic interests: art, literature, design, law and technology chief among them. I have 2 law degrees. I have passed 3 bar exams. I am nearly trilingual. I love toy robots and graffiti. I enjoy books and words and language and wordplay. I’m addicted to podcasts. I’m ardent, earnest, flawed and full of ideas. I illustrate. I write. I Blurb. I lecture about Persian food and I give cooking classes. I once gave a talk about why Jane Eyre would have loved social media! I am a story teller. I love food. I love to eat. I cook. I blog: therefore, I am!
I recently went back to Iran for the first time after nearly 3 decades because I was so homesick I thought I was going to burst and die. I stayed for nearly 3 months. I feasted my eyes on the snow-capped mountains of Alborz, I stayed in Tehran, the city of my birth and childhood and I traveled to Yazd, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Isfahan and the Caspian sea; I visited old friends and family and made new friends; I went to chic art galleries and cafes and ancient mosques and bazaars and palaces; I went and cried at the graves of my grandparents; and I ate and ate and ate! It was a significant and sentimental journey poignant in more ways that I can articulate, and I call it: #My Epic Trip To Iran! I have given a couple of “show and tell” talks about this homesick trip to Iran (here and here) and I plan to take this show on the road! So: stay tuned!
Ultimately, what I’m all about is this: Persian food is amazing and Iranian culture is rich and I’m brimming over with passion about sharing my recipes and stories with you.
Let’s Keep in Touch!
If you want to just say hi, or, if you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or lucrative proposals to turn me into an overnight sensation, please do not hesitate to contact me! I am also available for freelance writing and graphic design & illustration assignments. Whatever the reason may be, I would be delighted to hear from you! Here’s my contact info:
Now, Let’s Meet the Other Cooks!
When my mother was a university student as well as a bright-eyed bride all of 21, she bought a cookbook to fill in the gaps of her cooking. When she left Iran, this cookbook (a tattered copy of which exists to this day – someone alert The Smithsonian!) was among the few things she brought to her new home in the U.S. Lucky for all those destined to eat at her table, my mother turned out to be a wonderful cook. As we say in Farsi: dastesh namak dareh – which literally translates to “her hands have salt.” I learned how to cook from my mom and all the recipes that I share here, unless otherwise specified, are ones that she taught me. She continues to teach and inspire me about food and food styling.
My maman joon is also a self-taught artist. If you’d like, you can check out her collage cutout Blurb Books.
A charming little fellow, let’s call him Felfeli, has also agreed to grace Fig & Quince with select if rather rare guest appearances. We are honored and could not be more delighted! (See him seeding a pomegranate Persian style, like a champ! Juicing a pomegranate in the nifty Persian “ablamboo” style. And here: soaking and washing rice grains to make Persian rice.)
A keen connoisseur of Persian cooking, Felfeli is particularly partial to āsh (thick soups), and also counts lobiya polo (green bean mixed rice), khoresh gheimeh (French fries stew as he calls it), khoresh fesenjoon (walnut and pomegranate stew) and of course tahdigh (crispy bottom-of-rice) among his favorites. He will eat sabzi khordan (mixed fresh herbs which is a permanent side dish of all Persian lunches and dinners) when he is 5 years old and not a day earlier -so please- do not offer him some until that momentous day is upon us.
Felfeli is way into dinosaurs, helicopters, numbers, bunnies, and rainbows.
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