It’s the Spring Equinox! It’s also Finals Week of the winter term for me! It’s also time for the wonderful Persian New Year Celebration of Nowruz … I learned about this lovely festive time, when I was living in Afghanistan, and have incorporated at least a nod to it into my holiday pantheon ever since. Nowruz, which means “New Day”, has ancient roots in Zoroastrianism and is celebrated in various parts of Central Asia and even further afield. Preceding the holiday is a thorough spring cleaning of the house — unfortunately that’s not happening here! Nowruz has wonderful traditional foods associated with it, and a symbolic table spread called the Haft Seen. Beginning at the moment of the Vernal Equinox and continuing through twelve days of visiting and entertaining, it shares with Easter the potent renewal imagery of colored eggs. I’d love to delve further into this, but it will have to wait til next year because my Chinese herbal formulas final exam is calling loudly for me to study …
A friend’s mother told me about a Nowruz custom of putting sweets outside the night before the holiday commences. The first person awake brings the sweets into the home, symbolizing kindness and good fortune in the new year. Such a beautiful gesture … these cookies would be a simple way to bring it into your home every year — assuming some lucky little squirrel or mouse doesn’t get to the sweets first. I squeezed in time at 5 o’clock this morning to bake before getting out my flashcards. Nothing like watching it gradually get light out with cookies in the oven.
Nan-e Nokhodshi — Chickpea Cookies … with Cardamom & Rosewater:
- 2 1/4 cups chickpea flour (I usually use Bob’s Red Mill brand.)
- 1 cup butter or vegetable oil
- 1 cup confectioner’s sugar (Coconut sugar would also work in these if you want a cookie with a lower glycemic index.)
- 1 tablespoon ground cardamom
- 1 tablespoon rosewater
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla powder (optional)
- 1 egg yolk (Optional –this is not entirely traditional but makes the dough much easier to work with if you are going to roll it out and cut shapes; you can leave out if you want vegan cookies.)
- Pistachios or slivered almonds for garnish
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar with rosewater and salt. Add the flour and cardamom, and mix til a soft dough is formed. (Or — my favorite method — put everything in a food processor, and press the on button.) Collect dough into a ball, and refrigerate, wrapped in plastic wrap for an hour or two. If the dough seems sticky, slowly add a bit more flour.
When you are ready to make your cookies, roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness and cut with small cookie cutters. A clover shape is traditional. Little flowers are nice too! Tip: you can also pack this dough into a 9×9 inch pan and cut with canape cutters. These are deep and make tiny but thicker cookies. This also takes less time than rolling, and you won’t need to mix as much extra flour into the dough. If you’re really pressed for time, you can also roll the dough into walnut-size balls, and flatten slightly with your hand or press with a fork. Decorate with pistachios or slivered almonds.
These cookies have a delicate flavor and are delightful served with afternoon tea. I especially like them with Earl Grey or green tea with a few crushed cardamom pods added. Happy Nowruz … and once again, Happy Spring — It’s finally here. It is — gasp — sunny in Portland 🙂