On the first day of spring Iranians celebrate Nowruz, Persian New Year. The feast is to herald the return of the sun and clear light. Nowruz is the most important feast in Iran and celebrations go on for two weeks. People give each other presents, houses are scrubbed from top to bottom and richly decorated with bunting and flowers. A few days before Nowruz the ‘haft seen’ table is set with seven traditional symbolic foods that all begin with the Persian letter ‘S.’ Sumac (dried sour berries) symbolizes the rising sun, Senjed (Chinese dates) love, Serkeh (vinegar) patience and long life, Samanu (wheat pudding) fertility and affluence, Sabzeh (wheat grass sprouts) new life, Sir (garlic) healing, Seeb (apples) health and beauty. These foods will only be eaten after Nowruz. In the meantime plenty of other treats are made and eaten. There is no such thing as an Middle Eastern feast without an abundance of food and sweets! These shrini keshmeshi cookies are often baked and served during Nowruz. They used to be luxury party cookies with expensive ingredients like saffron, vanilla and eggs, but are now considered more everyday treats. These rich cookies with their distinct saffron taste are a little cake-like in the middle, but the edges are nice and crunchy. A very tasty beginning to spring!
Shirini Keshmeshi cookie from Iran
For about 15 cookies
about 10 saffron threads
100 grams (1 stick) butter
seeds of 1 vanilla pod
125 grams (¾cup) sugar
100 grams (¾ cup) raisins
150 grams (1½ cups) flour
pinch of salt
Leave the saffron to soak in 1 tsp of warm water.
Melt the butter, leave to cool slightly and with an electric mixer beat with the vanilla and the sugar for about 5 mins.
One by one beat in the eggs.
Add the saffron and the water and keep beating until the mixture becomes light and creamy.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.
Add the raisins, the flour and the salt .
Bake the shrini keshmeshi cookies in the middle of the oven for 10-15 mins. or until light brown along the edges.
Take out of the oven and leave to cool on the cookie sheet.
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