Saffron Rice and Shiraz Wine: The Past & Present of Persian New Year

 Chickpea flour cookies, a traditional Nowruz sweet treat. 

Chickpea flour cookies, a traditional Nowruz sweet treat. 

From fire jumping to colored eggs, Persian New Year (Nowruz) is an epic annual tradition for millions of people worldwide. A celebration of the return of spring, Nowruz is a food-laden affair, where thousand-year-old dishes are served each year on Persian tables. Join us as we chat with Iranian-born Merhnoosh Zamani and Kimia Ziafat as they prepare to ring in the new year of 1397 in Vancouver, British Columbia. We'll dig deep into the stories and legends that surround this great holiday, travelling back to the earliest years of the Persian Empire to sit in on the first Nowruz celebration with the mythical King Jamshid and then join King Cyrus the Great for a cup or two of Shiraz wine. Along the way, we'll taste a few classic Persian recipes, uncover the earliest traces of viniculture, and read some fantastically foodie poetry from medieval Persia. 

Written and Produced by  Laura Carlson

Technical Direction by Mike Portt

Research and Production Assistance by Leslie Javorski, Food Words

Special Guests:

Mehrnoosh Zamani 

Kimia Ziafat (VP External, University of British Columbia Persian Club)

 THE COURT OF JAMSHID, Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period, 1520s   Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper  Lent by the Ebrahimi Family Collection 

THE COURT OF JAMSHID, Iran, Tabriz, Safavid period, 1520s 

Opaque watercolor, ink, and gold on paper
Lent by the Ebrahimi Family Collection 

Nowruz Recipes

There are many delicious Nowruz recipes to choose from, but here are a few savory and sweet classics you can try at home

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Chickpea Cookes aka Nan-e Nokhodchi

Find the Recipe at Ahead of Thyme

Delicious and delicate, these cookies are a wonderful not-to-sweet treat perfect for Nowruz. Instead of wheat flour, the cookies use chickpea flour (making it gluten free!), spiced with delicious cardamom, rose water, and topped with pistachios. 

 

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Asheh Reshteh aka Persian Noodle Soup

Find the recipe at My Persian Kitchen

Persian cuisine is known for its wonderful soups. This thick soup (known as ash) is a fantastic and hearty vegetarian meal. Using fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley, and mint, a slow simmering mixtures of lentils, red beans, and chickpeas makes this a one pot meal! Don't forget the reshteh, the thin Persian noodles that give the dish its name. Serve with fried onions and kashk (Persian whey or, in a pinch, yogurt) and fresh baked Persian bread. 

The Persian History of Wine

Did Persian King Jamshid plant the first grape vines? Where did wine come from? Learn more about the earliest traces of viniculture with Dr. Patrick McGovern's book, Ancient Wine: The Search for the Origins of Viniculture

 

The Origins of Wine: From Persia to Georgia

Ancient Persia was a center for wine making (and wine drinking), respected throughout the world! And, for much of history, it was believed that Persia had been among the first cultures to practice viniculture. Although archaeological evidence points to wine drinking in Persia at least 3,000 years ago, only in 2017 archaeologists recovered pottery sherds in the nearby country of Georgia that suggest a new (and earlier!) origin story for wine.

Discover more about the history of wine in both Persia and Georgia with these great resources:

"Wine from Prehistoric Georgia With an 8,000-Year-Old Vintage" The New York Times, Nov. 13, 2017

"Zero Compromise: A (Georgian) Natural Wine Story" The BBC Food Programme