As a parent, it’s natural to draw upon childhood experiences to recreate special holiday memories for our children. When my family moved to the United States, we not only lost our home but in a way we lost many of our traditions since it was hard to recreate the festive atmosphere of Afghan holidays such as Eid, Nowroz and the month of fasting, Ramazan, while following an American calendar where the dominant celebrations and days off of school stems from Christian holidays.
The only celebration that is universal is Mother’s day. In Afghanistan, school teachers encouraged us to make paper flower bouquets or works of art for our mothers. I usually wrote a card to my mother and one to my my sister Nabila, who was eight years older and played an active role as my care giver. Im sad to note that I won’t celebrate mother’s day with my mother but I dedicate this post to her, my sisters (who are both amazing parents) and all the moms around the world.
Perhaps this year with your bouquet of fresh or paper flowers, you can make a tin box full of sheerpayra, Afghanistan’s answer to the milk fudge. Sheepayra has the juxtaposition of cardamom and rosewater scent against the crunch of the walnuts, almonds and pistachios. It turns out making sheerpayra requires a great deal of precision and patience, the two qualities I lack. So, I created a fast and easy recipe by slightly modifying my friend Helen Saberi’s sheerpayra recipe from her Afghan Food & Cookery*.
In Afghanistan, sheerpayra is served on Eid holidays, weddings and baby’s sixth day celebrations.
Afghan Rosewater, Cardamom Fudge
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
1¼ cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon rosewater
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons walnuts, finely chopped
2 tablespoons almonds, finely chopped
2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped
Lightly butter a glass or metal pan, approximately 7x11 inches and 1-2 inches deep.
Time is of essence in this recipe. For best results, have all your ingredients measured and accessible in your work area before you go to the next step.
Add the water in a heavy bottomed sauce-pan, cook the sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar melts, around 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat up to high, bring to a boil, stir constantly for 2 minutes, a white foam will form on the syrup and it will thicken.
Remove pot from heat and move to your work area. Drizzle the powdered milk in the pot, as you stir, a creamy smooth mixture will form. Add rosewater, cardamom, almonds and walnuts. Mix well, making sure the nuts are distributed evenly in the batter.
Pour the mixture into the pan, scraping all the extras from the sides of the pan. It should spread out but if it doesn’t, use the back of a spatula to flatten it evenly. Sprinkle with pistachios and set to cool, approximately 1-2 hours.
Cut with a sharp knife in 2x2 inch squares, serve with a cup of black tea or coffee. Store the extra in in an air tight container or ziploc bag. Do not refrigerate, keep at room temperature.
My mother with her daughters and some of her grandchildren.
* Afghan Food and Cookery by Helen Saberi