Today we celebrate the persian New Year, Norouz, and I just finished my Haft-Sin for the occasion.
The Haft-Sin is a bit like the Christmas tree for those who celebrate Norouz. It’s not really Norouz if you do not have your Haft-Sin, and it’s not really a Haft-Sin if there’s no Samanu!
What is the Haft-Sin?
Each family makes this table according to its taste and its creativity and it is around it that everyone meets at the time of the new year.
It traditionally comprises the seven edible symbolic elements of nature:
- Sabzeh (wheat or lentil germ): Renaissance
- Samanu (wheat pudding): Abundance
- Senjed (fruit of sea buckthorn): Love
- Sîr (garlic): medicine
- Sîb (apple): beauty and health
- Sumac: sun
- Serkeh (vinegar): age and patience
Then the inedible elements traditionally present:
- Sonbol (Hyacinth): spring
- Sekkeh (Coins): prosperity
- Painted eggs: fertility
- A bowl of water with its goldfish: life
- A mirror: reflection of life
- Candles: fire and light
- And finally a sacred book or a poetry book according to the traditions of each family: the Shâh Nâmeh, the Divan of Hafez or the quran
This table is held as it is until the 13th day of the year called the Sizdah Bedar.
What is the Samanu?
Samanu is a sweet paste made entirely of sprouted wheat. This practice goes back to the pre-Islamic Persia, and despite the fact that it uses a cheap ingredient, Samanu has always been associated with great feasts. To make the Samanu the wheat is soaked and prepared for several days and the entire process can take up to a week. Traditionally, the final cooking began in the evening before the New Year until daylight and was accompanied by a party, involving only women.
When I lived in Iran, Samanu could be found everywhere in town during the holiday season. So I never felt the need to give myself the trouble of preparing it at home. This was also the case for most of the people I knew. The preparation of Samunu, it was said, is not a simple matter. A connoisseur ought to teach it, and we could stay a Samanu padawan for years. All these (somewhat exaggerated) arguments prevented me from having Samanu after I left Iran. But this year I realized that thanks to the magic of the internet I could find my Samanu Yoda. I started practicing and after a few attempts, I had my own Samanu worthy of the name.
Is this all worth it?
Samanu has a very particular taste. Many, like me, love it but also, many find it bizarre. Imagine chestnut cream with a herbaceous back tastes that reminds a field of wheat.
If you have never tasted Samanu, and you are of a difficult nature, I do not advise you to embark on its preparation, which is long and laborious. On the other hand, I strongly encourage you to taste it if the opportunity presents itself. In big cities like paris, for example, you can probably find it during the period of Norouz. Or if you plan to spend a holiday in Iran in March, do not forget to taste the famous Samanu of Ammeh Leila at the Tajrish Bazaar in Tehran, or the ones sold in many dairy shops of the Hafez street in Isfahan.
The recipe for samanu
- 500g Whole wheat
- 1kg Flour
Wash the wheat with cold water, then rinse.
Add the cold water until there is 2-3 cm of water on the wheat. Soak for about two days. Change the water after the first day.
At the end of the second day, bits of white germs will begin to appear on the tip of the seeds. Rinse the wheats.
Place a cloth under cold water until it is completely wet. Pour the wheat into the center of the cloth, then wrap it. Place the cloth in a bowl and leave the bowl in a slightly warm place.
Twice a day, spray cold water on the cloth so that it stays wet, but do not soak it.
When the roots appear (after 2 days normally), spread the wheat on a large plate or on a tray, then cover the wheat with the cloth, and spray with water. Continue to spray once or twice a day until the silver germs appear.
The cooking step begins just before the germs turn green. They will be a little silvery, and will form a well-bonded unit, for their roots are mingled. We will use the whole thing: germs and roots.
Mold the wheat (in a blender, a mixer or a mash press), add two glasses of cold water, and mix well.
The following three steps involve extracting the wheat juice. You can proceed as written below or you can use a centrifugal juicer.
Pour the puree of wheat into a very fine strainer and collect the juice.
Take the remaining wheat paste and put it in a clean cloth. Squeeze the cloth to collect more juice.
Place the wheat paste back in the blender and add a glass of water. Remix and repeat steps 9 and 10.
You now have a wheat milk. Pour this milk very gradually on the flour (that you will have placed in a large saucepan) and stir continuously.
Place the mixture over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture begins to boil and thicken. Continue cooking until the water disappears.
Now starts the difficult part, because it is necessary to stir constantly for 15-20 min. You will have to fry the mixture, but avoid it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. It is at this moment that the Samanu will get its dark brown color.
After 15 minutes, gradually add 2 glasses of hot water and mix well. Boil slowly, stirring every 5 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. If your Samanu is not dark brown its totally ok, its the taste that is most important.
I wish a very happy 1396!