This is our 10th video! Join me for the premiere of this video tomorrow, Friday, March 13th at 12:30 PST on Youtube.
Just click on this link and it will take you to this YouTube video and I’ll be there online, to answer any questions you might have.
No on to the blog…
To celebrate the occasion of releasing our 10th video combined with Nowroz, Afghan New Year, we have made a docu-demo showcasing the vibrant Afghan community of Northern California with a field trip to the “Little Kabul” district of Fremont, California and a demonstration of my favorite Nowroz food, Haft Mewa, Seven Fruit Compote.
I would like to thank my sister, Zohra, who encouraged me to make video demonstrations of my recipes and continued to harass me until I found my amazing director, videographer and editor Brandon Chaves who cares deeply about educating the world about other cultures. I so appreciate all his details, special touches and all the hours he spends editing until we feel the video is just right.
If you haven’t already done so, please check out my Youtube Channel, you’ll see that we have produced professional videos that not only showcases Afghan food but we have also used this platform to teach the world about Afghan people, culture and their lives.
Now, we move on to a very special annual celebration…
Nowroz is a New Year festival celebrated in Afghanistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Kurdistan, the Indian Sub Continent and many immigrant communities around the world. Although each country, region, and family celebrates Nowroz differently, you can be sure that people eat lots of food, wear special clothes, attend picnics and festivals.
Sal e now e shoma Mubarak! Happy Nowroz!!
If you like my Nowroz video, please share with friends, family, and on your social media and together we can share Afghanistan’s culture with the world.
Photograph: Stefanie Glinski from The Guardian article about Nowroz.
When is Nowroz?
Nowroz was originally a Zorastrian celebration that preceded Islam in Central Asia and the Middle East and therefore it’s not considered a Muslim holiday.
Nowroz falls on the Spring Equinox which mostly falls around March 20th. This date represents the first day of the first month of the Afghan year according to the solar calendar. The difference between the Afghan and occidental calendar is 621 years, so on March 20th, we’ll be celebrating the year 1399 in Afghanistan. The United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution of 2010, proclaimed March 21st as the "International Day of Nowruz".
How is Nowroz celebrated in Afghanistan?
Like all traditions, every family has their own take on it. When we lived in Afghanistan, our family’s Nowroz preparations began in early in March with khana takanee, a thorough house cleaning which included:
Taking down the wood-burning stoves in various rooms around the house
Cleaning all linens and carpets
Patching the roof
Painting the house
Cleaning and prepping the yard for planting
It’s like what we here in the US call Spring cleaning.
Once the house was spotless and ready for entertaining, we were measured for new outfits, new shoes, and coats which also served as our school outfits since the Afghan schools start a week After Nowroz. The Afghan school year runs between March to November.
Foods served during Nowroz holiday:
Most of the foods prepared and served around Nowroz are meant to signify new hope, prosperity and good crop for the upcoming year. My favorite is Haft Mewa, a seven (dried) fruit compote where a mix of seven nuts and fruits are soaked overnight and served to guests on the first day of Nowroz. Traditionally the haft mewa ingredients are black & yellow raisins, senjid (the dried fruit of the oleaster tree), pistachio, walnuts, almonds, and dried apricot. I decided to make Haft Mewa with ingredients purchased from my local market, except for the rose water, I had to get that from a specialty store. This is a very flexible recipe, just use dried fruit and nuts that you have in your pantry. All nuts, especially walnuts, are great brain food and by soaking them overnight you are activating or sprouting them. This process allows our body to absorb all the great vitamins in the nuts.
Preparation of Samanak, a halwa like pudding (for lack of a better word), is made from wheat germ and only cooked once a year during Nowroz. Making samanak takes over a week and on the occasion of Nowroz, women gather around a pot of samanak to sing, tell stories and catch up on the past winter’s gossip.
People also make or buy fried fish and jelabi (fried sugar dessert) which are mostly taken to on picnic.
Festivals and Picnics:
I loved going to Buzkashi tournaments with my family.
Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, similar to polo but instead of using a ball and mallet, the teams (on horseback) compete to gain possession of a headless goat carcass which they take to a scoring area. In Kabul and also in northern provinces Buzkashi tournaments are held around Nowroz.
Red tulips are very popular around Nowroz.
Mela e Gul e Surkh:
The Red Flower Festival is the red tulip bloom, mainly celebrated in Mazar-i-Sharif in Northern Afghanistan where many people travel to experience the gorgeous flowers.
In Kabul, Herat and where it’s safe, people attend picnics to enjoy the greenery, flowers and time with family. Of course, kite flying, a national pastime in Afghanistan, is at the center of all these outings.
I hope you and your family have a wonderful Nowroz Celebration and if you decide to make my haft mewa recipe, please let me know how it turned out. Sal-e-now mubarak.
Afghan New Year Dried Fruit Medley
½ cup walnuts
½ cup pistachios
½ cup yellow raisins
1 cup red raisins
½ cup dried bing cherries (not sour cherries)
1 cup dried apricots (look for sweet ones)
½ cup blanched, slivered almonds
½ tsp. rosewater (optional)
5 cups cold filtered water
Large (at least 5 pints) lidded container with a wide mouth
Begin by blanching the walnuts and pistachios. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, remove from the heat, add the walnuts and pistachios, cover and let it sit for 20 minutes.
In the meantime in a large bowl add both kinds of raisins, cherries, and apricots. Rinse three times (or until the water runs clear) in cold water to remove any residue.
When the nuts are ready, pour the hot water out and add a little cold water. That way you won’t burn your hands.
Peel the skin off the nuts using the best method you can muster up. I must admit, the pistachios were a dream but the walnuts take patience, which I don’t have.
I found if you have a whole walnut, break it in half and then start peeling. It really makes it easier. Give yourself around 20 minutes for this; perhaps recruit family members to help. Make sure all the skin is removed from the pistachios and the walnuts, no exception.
Add the dried fruit and the nuts to the container along with the rosewater and 5 cups of cold water. Stir well. The water should be at least 1 inch above the ingredients. Refrigerate overnight and it’s ready to go. .It will keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Serve in a bowl with its juices. I also think it would taste wonderful on vanilla or mango ice cream or plain yogurt.