The end of the 3rd week of March brings the Spring (or Vernal) Equinox to the Northern Hemisphere. The Spring Equinox marks the first day of Spring, which is the time of year associated with growth, renewal and warmer temperatures than in the bleaker Winter months. It is recognised as being a special time of the year by many cultures and faiths. For example, Hindus, Jews and Christians celebrate the festivals of Holi, Passover and Easter in the period around or after the Equinox.
One festival that occurs on the actual day of the Spring Equinox is the Iranian New Year, which is known in Farsi as Nowruz. This year Nowruz was on the 20th of March and the year is now 1392 according to the Persian solar calendar. Iranians celebrate this auspicious occasion in style with a sumptuous, veritable feast that forms the culinary centrepiece of the day’s festivities.
Traditional Persian cooking has had a pivotal culinary influence in the Central Asian region and beyond. It is a rich and flavourful cuisine which includes dishes such as kookoo (omelettes), khoresh (stews), and chelo kabab (kabab served with rice). Ghormeh sabzi, a traditional, aromatically-herbed stew made with slow-cooked lamb or beef, is considered to be one of Iran’s most popular dishes. Classic flavours found in Persian food are herbs (such as parsley and dill), dried fruits, dried lime and saffron. No Iranian meal would be complete without some saffron-rosewater ice cream or faludeh for dessert.
In order to learn more about Iranian food traditions and about how Nowruz is celebrated, I spoke to Kaveh Kalantari, the development manager of the Iranian Association based in West London.