In B.C. and around the world, millions of people will spend Monday celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

The annual event occurs on the vernal equinox and is also feted in several other countries including Afghanistan.

On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson says anyone who has attended Nowruz celebrations knows feasting is a big part of the festivities.

"A lot of Persian dishes take a long time to cook: stews and braised meats, for example," Gail Johnson told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko. "However, the centerpiece of most Nowruz meals is not one that takes hours. It's called Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi. This is white fish with herbed rice.

"The fish is simply pan-fried till golden. The rice is abundant in fresh herbs. Nowruz is a holiday that's loaded with symbolism and so greenery and herbs are prominent. They are said to represent freshness, renewal and rebirth."

Other Persian dishes for this time of year include kookoo sabzi, which is similar to a frittata, only with less egg and more herbs; and sangak, a flatbread traditionally baked on top of small, heated rocks and sprinkled with white sesame seeds and black onion seeds.

Sweets are important too: think Persian baklava or cookies, including chickpea cookies or sweet walnut cookies.

If you want to try some Persian flavour at home, Johnson has this kookoo sabzi recipe from Vancouver culinary concept consultant Hamid Salimian.

Kookoo sabzi


  • ½ cup (125 ml) cooking oil, divided, or 10 tsp (50 ml) unsalted butter, divided 5 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) dried fenugreek
  • 1 Tbsp (15 ml) salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp gluten-free flour
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, finely chopped
  • 2 bunches dill, stems removed, finely chopped
  • 3 large eggs 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1½ cups (375 ml) walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) dried zereshk (Persian berries)
  • 1 Seville orange


  1. Preheat oven to 375° F (190° C).
  2. Heat ¼ cup (60 ml) of the oil or 7 tsp (35 ml) of the butter in an oven-safe pan over medium-high heat. Add green onion and cook for 1 minute,or until crispy.
  3. Add fenugreek, salt, and herbs. Lower heat to medium and cook for 4 minutes, or until herbs start to brown.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, gluten-free flour, baking powder lemon juice and lemon zest.
  5. Transfer cooked herb mixture to a large bowl and reserve pan for later use. Add walnuts, zereshk and egg mixture to the bowl and stir together.
  6. Heat remaining ¼ cup (60 mL) oil or 3 tsp (15 mL) butter in pan over medium heat. Add egg mixture to pan and cook for 2 minutes until mixture starts bubbling. Transfer pan to oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until centre is firm.
  7. To serve, flip kookoo sabzi upside down onto a large plate. Squeeze juice from orange over top and cut into 4 servings.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast