Here’s part two of our Nowruz cookies mini series. You’ll find the Walnut Cookies and the introduction to Nowruz here. Today’s cookies, Naan-e Berenji, also known as Shirini Berenji are gluten free too and are made with rice flour. These Persian Rice cookies are so addictive, not too sweet but because of the very soft dough, has an almost melt in the mouth texture.
But before we get to the cookies themselves, let me talk about one particular Nowruz tradition that I absolutely love – the Haft-Seen Table or the Table of the 7 S’s.
In Farsi (Persian),
Haft = number 7 (in this instance, representing the seven days of Creation)
Seen = the letter S
So, the Haft-Seen table is a table set specifically for the New Year celebrations with 7 items beginning with the letter S.
Today, these items retain the spiritual representation of Creation and new beginnings and here is a typical example of what the table would display and what the items represent:
Sabzeh (sprouted wheat grass) – rebirth and renewal
Serkeh (vinegar) – age and patience
Sumac (Middle Eastern spice) – sunrise, ie. light vs dark, good over evil
Senjed (dried fruit of the lotus tree) – love and affection
Seeb (apples) – health and beauty
Seer (garlic) – medicine, ie. good health
Samanu (wheat pudding) – fertility and affluence
Besides the 7 S’s, you will also find other symbolic items on the table, such as:
a mirror to encourage one to reflect on the past year and to look forward to the next
painted eggs to represent fertility
real goldfish to represent life
a special book like the Quran or a compilation of ancient Persian stories, poems etc
an orange in a bowl of water for the earth, and so on.
Most of my friends only go for the sprouted wheat grass these days, only one of them goes the whole length with setting the table. Either way, how can one not be so impressed and in awe of a culture so rich and steeped in history?
Back to the cookies, our Persian Rice Cookies. This is one of three recipes that I have from friends and it’s my favourite for its light, gone in a moment texture. I have to warn you though, not the easiest dough to work with because of its soft, sticky nature, but oh so yummy! I’ve not played around with this recipe, because, as mentioned, I have two more that are of a “sturdier” nature but this is definitely our favourite!
Start the day before!
- 250g icing (powdered) sugar
- 250g salted butter
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tbsp rose water
- 300g rice flour
- seeds of 5 cardamom, ground
- poppy seeds
- extra icing sugar for dusting hands
- Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. This will take 3-5 minutes depending on the speed of your beaters.
- Add egg one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter will turn from rather runny to quite thick, like icing.
- Beat in the rose water.
- Fold in the flour and cardamom. The batter will still be fairly soft. Place in the fridge for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight to firm up and for the flavours to develop.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 160˚C.
- Using your hands, form little balls with the dough, press them slightly and place on the baking sheet, giving an inch between each cookie. Dust your hands with the extra icing sugar every so often as the dough will get soft and sticky as soon as it warms up in your hands.
- If you like, using a table knife, a fork or cookie cutter, form deep little patterns on each cookie. The dough spreads and does not retain its pattern very well, unless you place the cookies in the fridge, which I don't bother with.
- Sprinkle some poppy seeds in the middle of each cookie.
- If you want, refrigerate for 20 minutes before baking for about 10 - 14 minutes. 10 if they were not placed in the fridge. The cookies should still retain their light colour, no browning.
Prep time here does not include overnight rest period in the fridge. Start the day before you intend to bake them.
The dough is very soft and sticky, dusting your hands with icing sugar as you roll the cookies into little balls in your hands will help the process.