Nowruz: Feasting for Persian New Year

This year, add this spring celebration to your calendar – another great reason to indulge in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines


Who says we can only celebrate New Year once a year? With a new wave of Persian cuisine taking the UK – and our supermarket aisles – by storm, surely it is time to embrace Nowruz?

Celebrated for over 3,000 years, the Persian New Year observed throughout much of Asia and the Middle East heralds the arrival of spring, coinciding with the Equinox on 21 March. This sense of newness is marked by spring cleaning the home and celebrating with food. Ahead of the curve, Michelle Obama held a Nowruz dinner in 2015 at the White House with a Haft-Seen, an altar-like table setting featuring seven items to symbolize hope, including sabzeh (sprouting wheat or lentils) to symbolize rebirth and sumac for sunrise.

At Nowruz, highly prized herbs such as mint, tarragon, and basil are the festivities' most valuable players, symbolizing the new hope of spring. Look out for dishes like ash-e reshteh, a soup made with vermicelli, beans, and herbs; sabzi khordan, a herb platter with flatbread and feta; sabzi pulao, fried fish and rice layered with green herbs (be sure to request the tahdig, the crispy rice crust) and kuku sabzi, a herb frittata. Woven into these dishes are subtle touches of tamarind, rose petals, saffron and walnuts.

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MasterChef finalist Afsaneh Kaviani – who runs Persian supper clubs in Leeds and London – is collaborating with Parsee chef Cyrus Todiwala at Cafe Spice Namaste in London to run The Parsee and The Persian on Monday 20 March. The pair will serve Indian-inspired Persian dishes derived from those who fled Iran to India 1400 years ago.

Persian-born Bita Fallah, a private chef who has previously worked in Michelin-starred kitchens, will host a Nowruz supper club on 18 March, which will see guests enjoy eight courses including sabzi khordan, aubergine, whey and braised lamb on Barbary bread and saffron rice with chicken and jewelled rice with almonds, pistachio and barberries. Fallah has a daily stall at the O2 Centre on Finchley Road where she will also cook Nowruz feasts to order.

And further demonstrating our fascination with Persian flavours to enjoy beyond Nowruz, desserts by Darlish, including rose and vanilla panna cotta will soon be available at Selfridge’s Food Hall. Bon appetite, or for Nowruz: Nooshe Jan!

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