Easter Birthday Nowruz Dinner

Last month, Raw Spice Bar sent me a package to review on my other blog, Subscription Box Blues.  The packaging and recipes they include were absolutely wonderful, and at only $6 a month, a great way to tour the world through food.  The recipes were geared toward the Persian New Year, Nowruz, which is in late March.  Since it is definitely a celebration meal, I wanted to make it for a special celebration, and since my daughter loves lamb and Easter was her birthday this year, I chose to make them all on Sunday and share the results with you, my dear reader.  Remember that this was my first attempt at making any kind of Persian food, and that some of the techniques were completely new to me.

yogurt and stuff 3-15Mast-O-Khiar With Rose and Mint

This is a yogurt sauce, similar to Greek tzatziki sauce, but with different herbs that include rose petals.

cukes cubed 3-15Dice up a couple of cucumbers into 1/4″ cubes.  I chose hothouse cucumbers because they looked much better than the ordinary ones and were no more expensive.  For tzatziki, you would usually shred them, but this recipe called for diced cucumbers.  It is definitely easier to cut lengthwise, then widthwise rather than the other way around!

yogurt et al 3-15Next, crush garlic and sea salt into a paste.  The recipe said to do this with the side of a knife, but a mortar and pestle makes much quicker work of it.  You can do this whichever way you prefer.

Mix your yogurt with the garlic paste, and refrigerate each separately until just before you serve it.  This is to keep the sauce from getting watery, but you could mix it ahead of time and either mix in the water or pour it off.  I still have leftovers in the refrigerator that really are as thick as they were on Sunday.

The walnuts and raisins are also to be added at the last moment, but are optional.  I only used these for a small bit of the whole, because not everyone likes nuts.  Toasting the walnuts makes them much more flavorful, but I didn’t take pictures of that part.

Lamb et al 3-15Braised Lamb Shanks & Advieh

My kids love lamb.  It’s not my favorite, mostly because if you don’t do it well, it’s not very good.  These are meant to be braised until they fall off the bone,  Advieh is the spice mixture, which smells delicious and exotic.

chopped onions 3-15Dice a couple of large onions.  I diced mine smaller than I like for a braise because the birthday girl hates onion pieces, although she likes the flavor.

garlicCrush some garlic with the side of your knife.  This doesn’t have to be ground into a paste, or even diced, just crushed to release the flavor.

Turn the oven on to 300 degrees

browning 3-15Put a little oil in a large skillet and brown the lamb shanks on all sides.  I had some trouble with the recipe for this, because it said to use 6 lamb shanks to feed 8-10 people, but it didn’t give any idea how big the lamb shanks should be.  I think the ones I got were much bigger than they needed to be, because we are still working on them, and there were seven big eaters at our table.

Makeshift dutch overn 3-15Once the lamb shanks are browned, remove them to a large dutch oven.  My dutch oven is nowhere near big enough, so I did a makeshift one using my largest oven-safe glass bowl, which I covered tightly with several layers of aluminum foil.

onions sauteeing  3-15Add more oil to the skillet, then toss in the onions and cook until translucent.  Best smell in the world!

Toss the crushed garlic in there and give it a minute or two.  With garlic, it’s usually better not to let it touch the bottom too much, because it can burn and get bitter easily.

Next, add in the advieh.  Delicious cumin and cinnamon are the main notes I smelled.

A little orange juice, and rosewater are added next.  This was my first time cooking with rosewater, and it was interesting.  The smell is much stronger than I expected, given that it is competing with onions and garlic.

Pour that and some water over the lamb shanks, cover them tightly, and put them in the oven for about 3 hours, turning once, about 2 hours in.  Three hours was not really enough for my big shanks to fall off the bone.

shabzi polow 3-15Sabzi Polow with Dill & Saffron

This is a rice dish that is cooked to develop a tahdig, or crust.  The recipe calls for fava beans, but my husband hates them (I’ve never had them), so I substituted green peas.  The peas were not really quite successful, and I think it would be better with nothing.

chopping dill 3-15Chop lots of dill.

dill mess 3-15Dill makes a mess when you chop it.  Do not do this on the white tablecloth you hope to eat dinner on later.

garlic cloves 3-15Crush your garlic with the side of a knife.

My camera remote died somewhere around here, and I was starting to panic that I would never get dinner on the table because cooking while photographing takes twice as long, and cooking something you are totally unfamiliar with takes even longer.  I hope you can follow without pictures from here on out.

Rinse your rice, over and over and over again.  It is important to use basmati rice, because regular rice is a completely different texture.  Boil the rice in lots of water, then drain it.

Line a large pot, about 8-10 inches wide, with parchment paper, then melt butter with olive oil and a little water over the parchment paper.

Make saffron water with boiling water and saffron.  Once that has steeped, mix it with some of the rice and yogurt, then put that into the skillet, smoothing it out.

Mix the remaining rice in a very large bowl with the dill and peas (or beans, or nothing).  Mound the rice on top of the yogurted rice, wrap the lid with a kitchen towel, then cover the whole thing up.  Make sure your kitchen towel is not hanging down near the burner.  Turn the heat up for a couple of minutes, until steam puffs out, then turn it down to low and let it simmer for 70 minutes.

Dinner 3-15Once the rice is done, put it the whole thing in a pan of cold water for a minute or two before removing the cover.  When it is ready, loosen around the edges, invert a serving platter over it, and flip it over.  My Sabzi Polow was rather loose, and it probably would have worked better to have a platter with at least a bit of a bowl shape to it, but all I had that was large enough was a cutting board.

Dinner 4-15My family wouldn’t wait around for me to get really good photos of everything, but I managed a couple of them anyway.  This was an enormous amount of food, and I would halve the recipes next time.

To see more about Raw Spice Bar on my blog, click here.  To subscribe, click here.  The recipes in full are here.

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3 thoughts on “Easter Birthday Nowruz Dinner

  1. Pingback: Raw Spice Bar Results, March 2015 – Subscription Box Blues

    • If I could just get started on my cooking before the light gets too low, maybe it would work better! Then again, as I was writing, I realized there were several shots I would have loved to include that I didn’t even think of as I was cooking.

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