Thursday, March 13, 2008

chickpeas and purim

the jewish holiday of purim, or feast of lots, is almost here again — the last holiday before the big one of passover (which always coincides with the beginning of Spring). however as i look out the window at this past weekend's mountains of snow we received from our last major snowstorm, i wonder where Spring is hiding.

but i digress. back to my main point.....

celebrating the demise of Haman, an evil character who plotted to annihilate the jewish population in persia {now modern day iran}, jews commemorate this holiday with much merriment in a carnival-type way. children and adults dress up in costumes, attend synagogue services to hear the story retold as has been done for centuries. the synagogue service is very very loud as it is tradition to make noise, so as to obliterate the name of Haman every time he is mentioned. in israel, the whole country celebrates with parades and parties and it is probably one of the noisest holidays known to mankind! LOL.

besides a TON of symbolic foods eaten at the festive se'udath purim {feast}, traditionally a lot of sweets are enjoyed. many of them involve poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nuts & dried fruit and come in shapes that represent some upper body part of Haman or piece of his clothing. let's see..... his hair, eye(s), and ears make up several things we eat, not to mention recipes that are said to form items which represent his hat or pants.

as part of the story of purim involved one of the main characters, queen esther, eating a strict vegetarian diet during her stay in the palace so as to adhere to {kosher} dietary laws, some communities will serve dishes which involve using grains, lentils, beans and seeds to remember this fact. one such recipe comes from a friend of mine.

in the 1980s, daveed — who now lives in los angeles — daringly escaped from iran on his own while still a teenager. later, his other immediate family also made it out to start new lives in both israel and north america. daveed's mother is a great cook and baker who generously likes to give away many of the things that come out of her kitchen.

during purim she makes these, in addition to the following recipe for melt-in-your-mouth shirini-e nokhodchee which are tiny chickpea flour shortbread-ish cookies scented with rosewater and decorated with slivered pistachios. these clover-shaped cookies are typically iranian and well, not necessarily (sephardic) jewish. they are served by people of iranian descent and always baked for the Spring festival called no-rooz.

the chickpea flour used to make these is the iranian kind (nokhodchee) which ground from garbanzo beans which have been pre-roasted. as my friend's mother says, it's NOT the same thing as the indian kind called besan which is made from kala channa or small dark (black) chickpeas which is sold UNroasted. read here. i've never tried this with the indian kind so heed the caveat: "baker beware" — in other words, don't blame me if it doesn't work :o (you may just need to adjust the amounts of flour -- make sure to pan roast it briefly first). the other thing is that i haven't tried it with flour i've ground on my own so i can't vouch for that either ..... it just easiest to buy it. as for the small one inch clover shaped cookie cutter, you'll have to visit a store which sells iranian food products or order one online if you really want that shape. otherwise, just use a small cutter or cut very small one inch squares with a very sharp knife.

if it interests you, here are two videos about the remaining jewish community in iran today: part one & part two. à propos for purim - watch and you'll see why! :)

chickpea flour cookies
shirini-e nokhodchee

makes 30 small cookies


4-6 tbsp melted samneh* or margarine or oil (or more as needed)
5 tbsp finely ground regular sugar or icing sugar
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1 - 2 capfuls rose water

1 c roasted chickpea flour (nokhodchee)
1 tsp poppyseeds, if wanted

slivered pistachios (directions here)

*samneh = clarified butter


before starting, NEVER add water to the dough if it is not cohesive enough. add more oil or butter, little by little.

measure out the chickpea flour and sift it in a bowl at least twice. do not skip this step as the flour tends to clump.

in another bowl, place the samneh or melted margarine or oil with the cardamom and the icing sugar. DO NOT add the rose water yet.

mix the sugar, oil and cardamom until it is completely smooth.
then add the rose water and mix again.

the mixture will change colour at this point. if you add the rose water before, it makes the mixture clump up.

now add the chickpea flour, and poppy seeds if using, and stir or blend until you get a smooth mixture.

it shouldn't stick to your hands at all. knead it together for about 20 seconds or so until it is cohesive. you may need to add another tablespoon or two or three of oil depending on the quality of the flour you are using.

take the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface (with the chickpea flour) — i suggest doing it on a moveable surface like a chopping board as you will need to chill the dough before cutting it.

mold the dough into a rectangle or square which is almost 1 inch thick. this is very important to this recipe as the cookies are meant to be this way.

chill the block of dough for about 45 minutes. the cookies will cut nicely at this stage.

preheat the oven to 300F and have a cookie (baking) sheet ready with parchment paper or foil paper which has been very lightly greased.

take the cutter and cut out the cookies. the best way to do it is to place the cutter almost at the exact point where you cut the previous one so as not to loose much dough between cuttings.

recover the remaining scraps of dough and press them back into a block and cut again. repeat this until there is almost nothing left.

depending on the softness of your dough, the decorating part of these cookies will be easy to difficult. much depends on the chickpea flour you are using — sometimes the dough will feel denser; if it is then be gentle with this step.

in any event, the easiest way to add the pistachio is to make a little slit in the center of each cookie and very gently push it in until it stands on its own. you will invariably break a few of the pistachio slices as they are very fragile.

slice each pistachio into 4 slivers (or thereabout). see this post on how to do it.

bake the cookies for about 23 minutes. you may need to go longer.

they should colour slightly and the bottoms will be golden brown. do not overcook them and wait until they are fully cooled before trying to move them.

they are too delicate while warm.



Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Such pretty cookies! I love the shape of your cutter... A delicate job.



sarita said...

lovely and instructive post! you're such a good pâtissier...and baker, cook...o.k. enough flattering for today, i'll spoil you! :DDD

burekaboy — said...

rosa - i think all very small food things tend to have that "cuteness factor". i forget what my friend's mom told me about the shape of the cutter..... anyway, they are easy to make in spite of being so small. almost nothing to the recipe itself. thanks for the comment :)

sari - thanks, of course.

you haven't seen my disasters. i always say it's not my fault -- there must be something wrong with the recipe! hehe. but yes, stop swelling my head, it may explode!! <|;{o}

TopChamp said...

they are beautiful!

Vidya said...

It has been ages since I visited your site and I see that you have added more must-try recipes. I don't know when I'll find the time to make these, but one day I will. They are so cute to look at and the chickpea flour makes it a healthy choice. I know nuvroz is coming up, maybe I'll make a Iranian platter to celebrate, and make these then.

burekaboy — said...

hi tc - thank you. they are really cute after all is said and done.

vidya - welcome back! :)) good to hear from you again. i'm sure, little by little, you'll try things here and there. these are quite good and actually have a melt-in-the-mouth texture to them. they also include your favourite pistachios!

thegoanmallu said...

clearly, i will be spending a lot of time cooking from here. another bookmark. this lacto- (rarely ovo...the eclairs at patisseries are difficult to pass) vegetarian is liking it here. now let me move on and find an eggless lemon curd recipe...

burekaboy — said...

goanmallu - firstly, LOL about the eclairs! secondly, i hope you find some things here which you like and are perhaps new to you. as for an eggless lemon curd recipe, check this post near the end of it; there is an eggless recipe there for it. hope that helps a bit.

thegoanmallu said...

brilliant! that explains why i reached here yesterday night. fast-forward to next day morning. still here, marking anything-eggless-sweet, to be made someday. cooking blog with picture per liking it.