Hi everyone! Happy New Year!!! Can I tell you something? I had grand plans for a couple of very special posts to say fare well to 2014 and properly greet 2015. But I confess that I zonked out good and well for nearly a week and indulged in some luxurious and sorely needed off-the-grid time off and oh so sweet slumber instead and now I’m off to a family reunion in La La Land (aka the city of angels = Los Angeles) with no time to cobble together a meaningful post. What is a blogger to do? Luckily, I have a glorious ace up my sleeves. A fluffy and decadent guest blog post about a layered cake that is the stuff of dreams. The cake has rosewater, cardamom, pistachio and saffron, which more than qualifies it for the Persianizing round of things and it also has white chocolate mousse and butter cream. Pinch me please! A great way to kick start a food blog’s new year, wouldn’t you say? The recipe and photographs are the handiwork of the impressive culinary talent that is Helen, aka @caramelflahn, whose foodgasmic interview was featured earlier you may recall and whose Instagram account I recommend you all to follow if you’re even a little bit interested in culinary matters of tummy and heart and art. And now without further ado, let’s go read Helen’s delightful ruminations and superb directions on creating a flawless cake.
One of my absolute favorite flavor combinations is rosewater paired with cardamom and pistachio. It’s impossible for me to pass up anything that has those ingredients together. The delicate yet redolent floral rosewater with the mysterious, almost sultry cardamom is absolutely intoxicating. Throw in the sweet, buttery flavor of pistachios, and you’ve basically described a dream come true to me.
Something else I absolutely love is cake. Baking it, filling it, frosting it, eating it, imagining different flavors and textures of it. Everything. So why not combine cake with rosewater, cardamom, and pistachio? I actually dreamt up this cake in my head years ago and filed it away in my list of “Things That I Think Would Be Good To Make,” but I never got around to creating it until now. Why? I have no idea. Because this is obnoxiously good.
It’s a cottony soft yellow butter cake that I decided to gild the lily with saffron. Because, hey, why not, this is my dream cake, after all. It’s based off of cake guru Rose Levy Beranbaum’s “All-Occasion Yellow Butter Cake”, found in her cookbook classic, The Cake Bible. It has a wonderfully tender, moist crumb that’s delicate, yet holds up well to stacking, filling, and frosting. The yolks make it rich and moist, which is often lacking in white cake, and the butter gives it a delicious flavor. The saffron is steeped in the milk, which is heated ever so slightly to break down the threads. The result is a subtle yet pervasive saffron flavor and lovely golden hue.
The cake layers are split and filled with alternating layers of a creamy rosewater-cardamom white chocolate mousse and a silky pistachio Swiss meringue buttercream, then it’s frosted on the outside with the pistachio buttercream. Seriously? Seriously? Yeah, seriously. Cake is supposed to taste good, so let’s make this taste good! I think white chocolate partners beautifully with rosewater, cardamom, pistachio, and saffron; it’s the element that ties everything together. Since the white chocolate is so rich and rosewater is delicate, I decided to pair them together in a light-textured mousse. The buttercream is a classic Swiss meringue buttercream: super silky with some texture punctuated throughout from the ground pistachios, and not too sweet. I despise the cloyingly sweet and gritty American “buttercream” made with powdered sugar and almost never ever make it. Real buttercream, on the other hand, is an absolute treat to prepare and eat. If you’ve never made it before, it might look a little intimidating, but I guarantee you it’s a snap to make and absolutely worth it.
I hope you enjoy this cake as much as I did!
Hi everyone! This post is not related to food except insofar as it relates to what I do to put the bread (and sometimes the yummy polo khoresh) on the table. Have I ever told you? No? Well, don’t be mad, it’s not like you ever asked! Some other time I’ll tell you all about “Azita version 1.0” and what (shenanigans) she was up to but as far as the current model “Azita version 2.0” goes, what I do is: I write, design and illustrate.
Gentle Reader! Do I have a special treat in store for you! It is my pleasure to introduce you to the utterly talented culinary enthusiast Caramelflahn (Helen!) who is my new Instagram friend and cooking inspiration and obsession. I found Helen after stumbling on the sensuously fluffy and gorgeous rainbow-colored Korean ricecake creation of hers you see above, called ‘mujigae ddeok.’ Needless to say I gaped and gasped and oooh’d an aaaah’d upon spotting this beauty. Once I resumed my powers of reason and speech, Helen and I conversed and bonded over our mutual frustration with the 1001 ways one can spell Persian or Korean nouns in English. Words like ‘mujigae’ which means rainbow in Korean.
I begged Helen for a guest post and she complied by writing not one but two truly stellar guest posts for Fig & Quince. One is savory, a classic Korean dish imbued with intriguing inspirations from the Persian cuisine; the other is sweet and seductive as a nightingale’s song in a Persian garden. I’m entirely flummoxed and spoiled for choice as to which guest recipe post to present to you first, but either way, that’s a dilemma for another day, since I have a foodgasmic wealth of material to present first that deserves your uninterrupted attention and requires a tissue or two to wipe off the drool as your mouth waters. You see, Helen prefers to remain alluringly mysterious and mostly anonymous, however, I managed to coax an interview as well as a priceless photo out of her, and today, I share this earnest, thoughtful and fun interview with Helen about food, cooking, eating. I also quizzed her about some of her impressive culinary creations, including her sky scraper 100 layer lasagne and an awesome half beer half chicken Korean dish, and I will torment you by posting photos of a few of her mouthwatering dishes as well.
But first, a fun self-captioned photo of our most honored culinary sensation captured doing what she does naturally, beautifully and with gusto and passion: enjoying food!
“My friend Matt and me at Eleven Madison Park losing our minds when we found out the amuse bouche was a bakery box of savory mini black-and-white cookies with black truffle and parmesan. We are obsessed with black-and-whites and truffles, and that amuse bouche was quintessential NYC perfection. Our reaction was completely unscripted. That’s just how we are around food all the time.”
I recently had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Fred Parvaneh, the wonderful creator of Fred’s Dog House — a creative, quirky and entirely fun foodie page on Facebook devoted to making hot dogs every which way.
I asked Fred to gift Fig & Quince with a guest post and he obliged with a very interesting and super appetizing Persianized hot dog recipe, dubbed The Arianne — as Fred is wont to name his recipes after his friends. (I’ll have to boast of getting a recipe named after yours truly as well — an intriguing melange of sausages, quince, anise pods, ginger, granny smith apples, clove and golden raisins — which, let me tell you, may have occasioned a delighted squeal.)
There’s a saying in Farsi when someone goes to visit someone and doesn’t leave that they have eaten kangar (cardoon) and they have put down langar (anchor.)
What is kangar (cardoon)? Picture a celery with attitude and thorns! The Heatcliff of edible vegetables! Kangar is not found in the U.S., so I’ve certainly not had any, but, it appears that I’ve most certainly put down a langar here in the DC area while visiting my folks.
I have a treasure trove of pictures and stories to share from my recent epic trip to Iran and while I’ve been remiss in diligently posting those, I’m getting the wheels spinning by starting this series of “Iranian People” — where I’ll share pictures of the everyday average ordinary Iranians that I hung out with, met, befriended, or otherwise engaged with during my trip. Just ordinary Iranians, doing ordinary things. Such as, for example: laughing, smiling, or otherwise displaying a glimmer of a sense of humor! Ah: those tricky tricky Persians! I tell ya!
I can’t help but smile every time I look at this cover photograph. I love this little girl so much! Her name is Arezoo and she is smart, funny, cute, brainy, girly-girly to the max, opinionated, charming, fierce and sweet; and she’s part of a family that’s dear and close to mine and I got to finally meet her when I was in Tehran during my Iranian Odyssey.
One time, my friends Haleh and Laila (Arezoo’s auntie and mommy, respectively) picked me up, took me to their home (after we’d first gone for an early morning hike and breakfast up in the mountains with their entire family, but that’s another story altogether) and they cooked up a storm — making some of their specialties, so that I could photograph it and share the recipes with you. A few times, yours truly got up on a chair to take overhead shots of the food (which as many of you know, is par for course in food blogging territory.) Mimicking my actions, Arezoo also got up on a chair and started taking photos – proving that sometimes, imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery. I was charmed!
And I’ve heard – to my delighted amusement – that these days she still does this when mommy or auntie or grandma cook. Ha ha, a food blogger in the making! (Note to Arezoo joon: email me the pictures! I’ll post them! ps: You are the cutest! Love you!)
This is my friend Haleh, and here are two pix I snapped of her when we met up one sunny spring day at the Seyhoun Art Gallery in Tehran — where I was interviewing the owner of the gallery. (At the time, Seyhoun gallery had Reza Afasari‘s solo “Sealed Letters to Myself” painting exhibition.) Afterwards, Haleh took me to the House of the Artists (an art hub in the middle of a beautiful Persian garden) where we checked out lots of artwork; had a very nice lunch where I tried a tamarind drink for the first and probably last time in my life, and we almost went to see a rooftop staging of a play as well but left that for another day. Later on, Haleh and I also ended up taking a short memorable trip to Yazd together that was a blast. Getting a chance to finally see and hang out with this lovely childhood friend was one of the immense pleasures and rewards of this trip.
Mind you, I’m touching lightly on all these various topics (Iranian artists, the interview, art galleries in Tehran, trip to Yazd, rekindled friendships, etc.) but definitely hope to write at length about each.
Before moving on to the next photo, please do observe how my friend’s scarf is perfectly kept in place. Seemingly held by invisible fairies? The women in Iran had techniques — defying the laws of physics and gravity and slipperiness — which enabled them to wear their headscarf just so and have it remain in place. Meanwhile, yours truly had to fuss and muss and ineptly do and re-do my scarf’s knot or else pull it forward as it slipped at every opportune and inopportune moment.
Now I have a few more stories and pix from my Iranian odyssey coming up in just a bit and right below, but first, I’m going to go on a tangent and get on a soap box. TLDR? (No, no, please stay and do read!) Here, have some yummy Persian food served by this poised and friendly Iranian chef at a popular self-service restaurant in Tehran to fortify you while I take a teeny tiny detour and rant a bit.
The Tangent and the Soapbox
Even though I go on and on around here chirping about the beauty and glory of the Persian food and culture and people like a naively oblivious Disney cartoon character, I’m keenly aware that for an awful lot of folks their mental image of Iran and Iranians comes from the mass media and if so, they probably harbor extremely negative ideas about the country and its people. Aside from a desire to preserve my lovely mom’s recipes, the main reason I started this blog and have had the motivation to merrily chug along is an attempt to do my bit in helping balance a frustratingly tilted perception that at best is myopic, and at worst, is dangerously unfair to a culture that is ancient and remains a rich and beautiful one and to a people that are friendly, hospitable, and nice (just ask Anthony Bourdain!) thus leading to (excuse my language) ignorant yet sadly prevalent prejudice. Ignorance such as some people even actually wondering: Do Iranians have a sense of humor? Do Iranians laugh?
If you think those are absurd questions I can only say that I wish it were so. A year or so ago, I was listening to a podcast Dinner Party Download (one of my very favorite radio programs – you should totally check out their episodes) interview with Marjan Satrapi — the artist and filmmaker behind Persepolis — the groundbreaking autobiograhical graphic novel series and the Oscar-nominated animated film — where she mentioned how someone once came up to her and said that before reading her books she didn’t think that Iranians had a sense of humor or laughed. Here’s a transcript of that part of the segment:
Dinner Party Download: Turning to Iran and the way it’s perceived by people, Westerners, me included, we typically hear very little about Iran. What do you find about Iran that people are surprised by?
Marjan Satrapi: In a book tour an old lady who read one of my books came up to me and said: ‘oh, you know, I’m no longer scared of the Iranian people,’ and I said “how come?” and she said: “because I didn’t know that you could laugh that you had any sense of humor.” … You know, they’ve made it that we are these people that … when we’re talking about Iran it’s either beard, veil, or it’s nuclear weapon. And that reduces us to abstract notions and we stop being human being and if you’re not a human being then of course you don’t laugh and of course you don’t fall in love and of course you don’t like to eat ice cream and … which is dangerous because from the second that people become abstract notions then they are not human beings anymore and we can go and bomb them so I don’t try to change the world with my film but if they can say this country that you are so scared of is the same country a man died because of the love of a woman I think that I’ve done what I had to do …. I don’t want more than that.
I love how she answered this question with emotion, intelligence, and understated passion. It honestly gives me goosebumps! I am of the same school who believes change and progress comes with art and artists and the banding together and communication between us civilian normal people. Do go and give Episode #164 of The Dinner Party a listen. It’s quite fun and funny actually and totally worth it. (The Satrapi interview segment starts at the 13:25 mark. There’s also a priceless interview with the delightfully grumpy Fran Lebowitz in this same podcast which you truly do not want to miss.)
And with that, end of tangent. Stepping down the soap box. Back to our regular programming! With pretty pictures and me chirping per usual! 🙂
So, this is a photo of the artist Rasoul Akbarlou posing in front on one of his beautiful calligraphy artworks – at the opening reception of his exhibit at Mah Art Gallery where he graciously allowed me to take his picture. This photo does not do justice to his artwork, which I was not alone in my group in finding stunningly beautiful.
There are lots of art galleries in Tehran and every other Friday, many have their “eftetahi” – that is art opening receptions. Some Tehroonies have a fun ritual of making the rounds of these art opening shindigs: for the art, for the social factor, and for the free yummies served. Oooh, the pix and tales I have and plan to share with you – including the interesting story of how and in whose company I ended up in this gallery! Meanwhile, borrow two legs (remember that Persian proverb) and run and go read this wonderful article about the art scene in Tehran, by the editor of Reorient Online Magazine.
And let’s finally conclude this LONG post with these two awesome and wonderful smiley Persian dudes:
So one day a friend and I headed all the way to a far-flung neighborhood on a rather intriguing fact-finding mission that ultimately led to a heartbreaking discovery. In contrast to the rather depressing conclusion, the neighborhood itself was quite lively and interesting and I was loathe to leave and would have loved to explore its nooks and crannies but my friend and I had to go to another far-flung corner of Tehran.
Just before we were to get into a cab, I noticed this kaleh pacheh food establishment and the very friendly owner and his assistant and asked if I could their picture. They readily and gamely agreed with enthusiasm. Let’s face it: they were hams! I believe we may have all indulged in a fit of giggles as well, as though we were experiencing something hilarious! It was a fun moment in time.
And with that, doostaneh khob, lovely people, thus concludes the first part of this series – my travel pictorial of “Iranian People” — which I hope helps answer questions such as: who the heck are these Eyeraynians and do they even know how to crack a smile? Answer: Some do!
Boos Boos & Have a lovely weekend!
Hi everyone! As part of the continuing series of guest posts scheduled while I’m off on my excellent adventures in Iran, this post is by the lovely Tortore, aka Darya, is a most fascinating and versatile blogger. As if food blogging is not hard enough (hello, writing recipes, quelle paine) she writes her posts in both French and English. Darya’s studies have taken her on travels to Syria and Iraq and she often shares very interesting recipes either hailing from or inspired by the cuisine of these regions but she also shares Russian, Italian, American, French and Asian cuisine as well. Darya’s blog is beautiful and clearly a labor of love of passion and one that you will make a habit of frequenting once you visit. Now let’s go devour this refreshing and pretty salad recipe!
The first weekend of September, I helped my friends out in their kitchen, peeling onions, chopping celery, frying fries, and cooking mussels for the Lille Braderie (the biggest “garage-sale-street-fair-mussel-eating-and-beer-drinking-event” in Europe). In the midst of a celery-chopping session, two of my friends asked me what one could use celery for… apart from Moules Marinières. At that moment, the only thing I could think of was Waldorf Salad (yum), but I thought it would be nice to come up with some other ideas as well.
When I went to fetch my local vegetables yesterday evening, I discovered that the “bunch of celery” which I had ordered was so huge that it was almost scary. I don’t usually use more than a stick or two of celery for my recipes, and I was a bit lost at the idea of having to use up that entire bunch. It didn’t even fit in the refrigerator. I had to stick the root into a huge pot of water, and hope the celery would still be fresh and crunchy the next day. And it was! Now that I have used some of it, I could do what I usually do when getting celery: I removed the leaves, washed, dried, and froze them for soups; and I wrapped the stems in foil, and placed them in the refrigerator. Celery doesn’t keep for very long before going limp, but I hope I can share some other recipes with you in a near future. I decided it was high time to give another thought to that question my friends had asked me back in September, and I hope they (and you) will enjoy what I have come up with.
After going through some cookbooks and websites, I decided I would begin with a salad. Not the usual tuna salad or egg salad (though I think I will make an egg salad at some point soon), but a light and fresh salad. I have already mentioned that I enjoy making one-course meals using a whole-grain, as they are quick, tasty, healthful, are usually not very time consuming, and can be made ahead of time. This salad is one of those. Today, I chose to use freekeh, which is wheat, harvested when still green, and roasted; I love it’s slightly smoky taste, firm texture, and the fact that it reminds me of Syria (where we used to eat it plain, drizzled with some clarified butter, or mixed with small pieces of leftover mutton). You could use farro, spelt, wheatberries, oat groats, rye, or any other firm grain you like. I should perhaps advise you against using barley, rice, and buckwheat here (trust me: barley will yield a mushy mess, rice will taste a bit bland here, and the taste of buckwheat is just too strong for this salad). While the grain is cooking, I washed, chopped, minced, and whisked. The cooked grain is then mixed with the seasoning, and allowed to cool. And that’s it! This salad is both fresh and crunchy, slightly tangy, and filling; it was unanimously appreciated in my home, so I hope you will want to try it in yours some day!
This is a guest post scheduled to publish while I travel in Iran. Courtesy of the lovely Maria Dernikos! You do remember Maria’s gorgeous koloocheh recipe, right? (If not, you’ve got to check it out.) Kefteds, the featured food, is similar to the Persian version which we call koofteh. A delicious, comforting, and universally beloved type of food. In addition to the recipe, there’s a harrowing tale of a trip, one that I remember reading while on the figurative edge of my seat. Read on and you’ll see for yourself!
Kefteds – Guest post by Maria Dernikos (Post originally published here.)
Keftedes (pronounced keftethes) are Greek meatballs eaten hot or cold. There is something special about them, they are incredibly moreish and I think every Greek household must have their own version of the recipe. I use lamb mince but there is nothing to say you cannot use pork, beef, veal or a combination. In summer I eat them cold with tzatziki and a salad and in winter I eat them warm with fava. The recipe is versatile in that you add more bread to increase volume, or add different herbs.
The summer I learnt to make Keftethes was the summer I travelled to Athens by Magic Bus. My friend Karen and I had talked for weeks about going to Greece overland and spending the summer lying in the sun. We scoured the back of Time-Out for cheap tickets. One advert caught our attention ‘The Magic Bus’ – return ticket London/Athens/London £55. Tickets were only issued on a cash basis and in person, the offices of The Magic Bus were above a shop in Shaftesbury Ave and pretty shabby. We were both nervous in handing over our hard earned cash for a non-refundable coach ticket but the thought of a summer of love was greater. Our fate was sealed. Hello summer of expectation.
My parents drove us up to Victoria bus station where we boarded the packed coach. My protective father interviewed the two Greek drivers who had little to no English, the cross examination went well until they asked him if he knew the way out of London. I could feel the chill of an ill wind whistle pass my seat.
The promised three and a half day trip turned into ten days of hell. The coach was old, and tatty. It was packed to the brim with people and luggage. There was very little legroom and had we known that we would have to sleep sitting up in our seats for the next ten days we would have got off at Victoria. We were lucky in that the nasty infection which spread through the coach was limited to the foot, which was so nasty the chap sitting behind us ended up in a Greek hospital.
Our drivers were hell bent on driving at break neck speed with as few stops as possible, they had a mission and the rest of us were not in on it. As we approached Mont Blanc the driver’s behaviour became very excited and as we weaved up the mountain we could see what was an earlier Magic Bus. To celebrate their reunion, they took it in turns to over take each other, whilst opening and closing the door shouting and waving. As the coach climbed higher the stunts became more dangerous with the other coach’s spare driver managing to hang out of the door whilst trying to drink a glass of white wine. I think if I hadn’t been so tired, hungry and bashed about I would have been frighten senseless. I sat there rooted to my seat glancing out of the window at the massive drop and wishing I was somewhere else. I had gone off the idea of love.
Shortly after this we had several long delays, which pushed our drivers to the brink of meltdown. One of their ideas was to cut the length of time for our food and toilet stops to a minimum. We as a group tried to revolt and refused to be rushed in returning to the coach. Two of us passengers learnt a hard lesson that we were not in that strong a position, because the coach left without them. No amount of shouting and abuse at the drivers by us stopped the coach. We never saw them again.
From then on in the journey was just pure hell. Two days stuck at the Yugoslavian borders and a lot of backtracking due to the drivers being completely lost. When we did finally arrive in Athens all I can remember is that I was tired and filthy and longed for home.
It took about 24 hours before we bounced back. I spent the rest of the summer staying with Patroklos in Athens. Kyria Cisci, Patroklos’ mother lived in the flat below and was keen to take me under her wing. During the day when Patroklos was at work Kyria Cisci would show me how to iron a man’s shirt and how to cook.
One of the recipes she showed me and has stayed with me is keftedes. I think it was because she told me her secret ingredient, which was a little bit of Ouzo added to the mince mixture. I felt very honored to have been let into her secret. I would sit in her kitchen early in the morning (to avoid the mid day heat) and take notes as she went about creating her recipes. I might not have found love that summer but I certainly was prepared if I did!
Hi everyone! As part of the continuing series of guest posts scheduled while I’m off on my excellent adventures in Iran, this is a guest post, made possible by Laila – a lovely reader of this blog – and chef Hanif Sadr. Laila’s story; the story of Golestan (a full immersion Persian preschool in Berkeley); and chef Hanif Sadr’s delicious recipe for this lush meatball stew hailing from the Northern region of Iran are all fantastic – so let’s just hurry and get to those. Enjoy!
A Gilaki Dish and Golestan for Kids in Berkeley – A Guest Post by Laila:
I stumbled upon Fig and Quince while looking for cooking inspiration, and I found the holy grail… I have seriously been hooked since. (Editor’s note: Thank you!) I am a native and current resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, the first of three children of an Iranian father and an American mother, married to a Jewish Mendocino County native. Quite an eclectic mix we are! I have been so lucky to have recently found opportunities to get in touch with my family’s culture and history, and to give my own children access to the richness and depth that comes with being Iranian. I’m a psychotherapist/social worker by day, but lately my passions include kitchen adventures involving cilantro, cumin, and pink sprinkles, attempting to put together the intriguing puzzle that is the Persian language, and being exhausted by the dizzying delight that our little ones, Soraya and Ezra (ages 3.5 and 10 months) bring us.
The Golestan Center for Language Immersion and Cultural Education (Golestan Kids) in Berkeley, California, is a multi-classroom preschool, after school program, and resource for educators worldwide. Founded in 2007, thanks to the tireless efforts of a handful of families, Golestan has become a haven for anyone seeking connection with Iranian culture. The program is for children ages 2-5 and elementary school aged children as well, and is conducted entirely in Persian. The school day is steady and rhythmic, and includes art, science, movement, story-telling, gardening, music, outdoor play, and of course, food to tie it all together.
The children participate in the cooking and preparation in whatever ways they can, and are learning to distinguish tastes and textures. They eat family style, and respect particular mealtime rituals including setting the table, the before-meal blessing, an after-meal gratitude song, waiting until all are finished to get up from the table, and clearing their own dishes after the meal. As a result, children feel excited about and involved in the process of choosing food, preparing it, and eating together. In fact, while chopping the sabzi for the recipe below, my three-year-old daughter came and peeked over the counter, asking for a “taste of herbs, please.” I gave her a piece of what I thought was parsley, she tasted it, made a face, and stated with confidence, “Spicy. This is NOT parsley. THIS is cilantro.”
The kitchen is the center, the heart, of Golestan. The chef, Hanif Sadr, takes thoughtful measures to ensure that the food that the children and staff eat represents the culture at our roots and stays true to the school’s mission flowering above us. Hanif does all of the school’s grocery shopping by bicycle, feeding approximately 40 children and 15 staff daily. The philosophy behind the cooking at Golestan is this—fresh, unprocessed food makes for happy children and a healthy planet. Organic and local produce and ingredients are used whenever possible. Pasture raised, organic grass-fed meat is sourced from a farm nearby. The only processed food is organic pasta. Even the whole grain bread and crackers are made in-house. The menu is chosen to reflect the children’s increasing awareness of the world around them—on Fridays, they eat foods from the country they learn about that day.
The recipe below comes from the Gilan province of Northern Iran. Gilan’s lush, humid climate allows crops such as tea, rice, citrus, and kiwi to flourish. Parsley, cilantro, mint, and spinach are indispensable ingredients used in most all cooking. Pomegranates, as well as the thick-skinned, sour citrus fruit Narenj, are reduced down to make tart, concentrated syrups that impart bright flavor to Gilaki dishes. Hanif is from this region and prepared this dish for the children at Golestan when they learned about Shab-e-Yalda. It was very well received by their tender taste buds! It is generally eaten with rice—Kateh, to be precise.
Because the school has a “no nuts” policy due to allergies, Hanif replaced the walnuts with sunflower seeds. This did make the dish slightly less deep and rich, but it was still quite successful. He uses ground beef in his recipe, but chicken or turkey could be substituted easily, or the meatballs could be omitted entirely for a vegetarian version of this delicious, simple dish.