The holidays are nearly here, and whether you take part in the retail frenzy or not, I hope you have somewhere to celebrate with the ones you love. All around the world, people will hold celebrations that mean different things, but if there’s one common denominator — it’s food.
If you’re Persian, you’ve probably heard of the festival Shab-e Yalda, which occurs on the night of the winter solstice, December 21st. This is the longest night of the year. Children are allowed to stay up all night and eat delicious food until the sun rises and the days begin to grow longer once more. Traditionally, there is a table covered with a variety of red-toned fruits like watermelon, strawberries and pomegranates. The most important of these is the pomegranate, which is intended to represent the cycle of life. Celebrants read poetry and discuss philosophy while they enjoy the food.
A traditional Shab-e Yalda dish we discovered in our research is Fesenjan (Fesenjoon) or Pomegranate Chicken. Served over fluffy jasmine rice, Fesenjan incorporates toasted walnuts, tender chicken and a garnish of arils and parsley, making this dish rich in both flavors and textures.
- 1 large yellow onion, small dice
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 1/2 cups walnut halves
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, medium dice
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- pinch each cinnamon, nutmeg, and black pepper
- 3 cups cooked white or brown rice for serving
- 1 cup pomegranate arils and fresh parsley for garnish
- Toast walnuts in a shallow pan over medium heat for 10 minutes or until golden brown and fragrant. Once cooled, transfer to a food processor or blender and blend into a fine meal. Set aside.
- Rinse 1 cup rice in a fine mesh strainer. Bring 2 cups water to a boil, add rice and a pinch of salt. Cover and turn to low. White rice should take 18-25 minutes; brown rice 30-40. Don’t open lid until it’s done. Fluff and set aside, covered.
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Once hot add 1 Tbsp olive oil and onions. Cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
- In a separate pan over medium heat, cook the chicken in two batches in a bit of olive oil. Once browned, add it directly to the pot with the onions. Salt chicken while browning.
- Once all the chicken is in the pot, add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and add pomegranate molasses, honey, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and walnuts. Simmer for 15-25 minutes or more, until desired thickness is reached. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- Serve over rice with naan. Garnish with pomegranate arils and parsley. Store leftovers
covered in the fridge. Should keep for several days.
Next, we make our way to the Punjab region of India for another winter festival, this time not only celebrating the lengthening of days but success of the year’s winter sugarcane harvest.
Being in warmer climes, farmers in Punjab are able to harvest crops like radishes, corn and mustard greens multiple times a year.
In short, this is our kind of party. Typically people host large bonfires that last late into the night while children engage in a mixture of caroling and trick-or- treating, singing door-to- door and receiving candy or money at the end of their performances.
A classic dish prepared during this time is Pindi Chane. Made with garam masala and chick peas, it is a simple stew that packs a punch of flavor.
- 2 cups Chick Peas
- 1 Tbsp tea leaves, tied in cheese cloth
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 2 Tbsp ginger, finely shredded
- 3-4 green chillies, slit lengthwise
- 2 potatoes-large, boiled, peeled and quartered
- 2 Tbsp coriander powder
- 1 Tbsp cumin seeds-roasted and powdered
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp black pepper powdered
- 1 Tbsp pomegranate seeds
- 3/4 cup oil
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Cook chickpeas in fresh water with tea leaves and 1 tbsp salt.
- Remove tea leaves and excess water. Add cumin, coriander, garam masala, black pepper, pomegranate seeds, 1 tbsp salt to the chickpeas. Mix well together.
- Heat the oil, add ginger, stir a few times, until slightly brown.
- Add green chillies and stir a few times.
- Add the Chickpea mixture and potatoes and stir continuously till well mixed and slightly fried.
- Serve hot, garnished with the lemon quarters.
These two recipes are just a taste of the wide variety of food enjoyed around the world during the winter holidays. If you are into adventurous eating and would like to learn some of the finer points of making these meals come to life, consider signing up for one of our many international classes. We offer classes ranging from Japanese Pub food to South American Street food and everything in between. Please check out our Adult Events and Date Night Menus calendars to see the courses available.
Until next time, happy holidays from Uncorked Kitchen!