This is a special Shab-e-Yalda post, which is being done in concert with many other food bloggers around the food blogging universe. You can find their Persian themed dishes at the bottom of the page.
So what is Shab-e-Yalda? Typically it’s held on December 20th or 21st depending on when the winter solstice occurs that year. This holiday has been going on for hundreds of years in Iran and is done to celebrate the longest and darkest night of the year.
Traditionally you eat watermelon and pomegranates on this night, along with nuts and other yummy foods. The whole family gets together, your family elders will read stories or recite poetry. Meanwhile, the kids will do what they always do at Persian parties, which is run around and play by themselves because the parents are occupied.
*Tangent Alert* Is this just me? But growing up as a kid, my parents did not cater to my needs at parties. Basically they would arrive at the host’s house, tell us to go to the basement and we wouldn’t see them until the night was through, and I was like 7. Now it seems like parents are watching their kids like hawks at parties making sure that their child’s delicate palate is being satisfied to their liking. I’m not judging, it’s really just an observation, I’m not sure what I’ll do when I have little Unmanly Chefs running around.
Anyways, back to Yalda. Growing up we didn’t really go all out for this holiday or have a huge party for this. But, what I do remember about winter as a kid was my Mommon Joon’s Americanized Korsi.
A korsi is basically a low table with a heater underneath it and then a blanket is thrown over top of it. This is basically a death trap, and I’m surprised Iranians haven’t been dropping like flies over the years because of this.
Anyway you spin it, you’re putting yourself in some degree of danger. Traditionally the heating element under the table would be hot coals that would heat the whole room, and if you were lucky you didn’t die from Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Nowadays, they have a heating coil underneath the table which then heats up everything underneath the blanket. Which is basically a huge no-no because it’s a gigantic fire hazard, but what a glorious fire hazard it is.
*When I explained this to my fiancee she basically just shook her head with amazement at the fact that I hadn’t died in some sort of electrical fire during my youth*
So anyways, what we would do every winter at my Mommon Joon’s house was take her tiny space heater and place a large thick blanket over it. Then the awesome warm ultra electric blanket that would result would heat us all up throughout the night until we went home. This isn’t exactly like the Korsi’s I’ve described above, but it was our version of it. It also allowed us to just pull the blanket off the heater, any time things got a little too toasty.
Another staple of an Iranian winter is, Quince or Beh. Quince is in the apple and pear family. It has a tough chewy texture and tart flavor when eaten raw. It’s been used throughout time in cooking and originates in Iran, Turkey, and Southwest Asia. In Iranian cuisine, Beh is used extensively in a variety of ways. Predominately you can find it in stews or preserves. Every winter, my Mom and Mommon Joon would make jars upon jars of Moraba Beh and we would have it for the rest of the year. Moraba is farsi for preserve or jam.
Quince or Beh is popular around Yalda time for the dark red color it creates when it’s cooked. Quince is high in pectin so it makes for a thicker preserve without needing to add any additional pectin from the store. You can also save the seeds to suck on if you have a soar throat. The seeds create an almost gelatin like substance in your mouth that can soothe your throat. But similarly to Apples the seeds can be toxic if eaten in mass.
This is a great preserve that goes great with some warm bread and butter. The quince will have a slightly chewy texture, but it works perfectly, trust me.
For more great Shab-e-Yalda stories check out the other links at the bottom of the post.
5 Peeled & Sliced Quinces
6 Cups of Sugar
8 Cups of Water
2 Tsp. Rose Water
After you have peeled and diced your quince, place them into a large pot and then add your sugar, water, and rose water. Then cook for 3 to 4 hours depending on your preferred level of thickness.
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- 5 Peeled & Sliced Quinces
- 6 Cups of Sugar
- 8 Cups of Water
- 2 Tsp. Rose Water
- After you have peeled and diced your quince, place them into a large pot and then add your sugar, water, and rose water. Then cook for 3 to 4 hours depending on your preferred level of thickness.