During my recent trip to Iran I visited a small town called Qamsar which is famous for making rose-water and I was fortunate enough to see them making it in front of me. The rose petals are picked in the early morning and then boiled in a large vat. The steam condensates and is then collected and cooled and the resulting rose infused water is then bottled. I brought some back with me and wasn’t sure what to do with it until, while researching traditional Persian recipes, I found a recipe for Rice Cookies which are gluten-free as well as contain rose-water.
(I have found rose-water available on Amazon here)
The original recipe calls for white rice flour and confectioner’s sugar. I have replaced these with red rice flour and coconut palm sugar but you could also use brown rice flour. I find palm sugar to be quite sweet so after experimenting found a ratio that is not too sweet and consequently the sugar content is much lower than the original recipe.
Red rice flour has many advantages over white rice flour. The process of milling the rice grain to make white rice removes the bran and germ thereby removing all the good stuff.
The rice germ contains B vitamins, calcium, zinc and iron, manganese, selenium, magnesium and other nutrients. We need calcium and magnesium to maintain healthy bones and teeth and to reduce the risks of osteoporosis and arthritis. Magnesium is also useful in lowering blood pressure. Because red rice is higher in fibre the rate at which it is converted into blood sugar is slower so you don’t get the insulin spike associated with white rice.
The thing that makes red rice stand out though is that it contains an anti-oxidant called anthocyanin. This is what gives it it’s colour. This anti-oxidant is believed to be anti-inflammatory and in lab tests have been shown to inhibit tumours.
Poppy Seeds are used as a garnish for the cookie and they come in two colors, black and white. The traditional rice cookie with it’s use of white rice results in a white cookie, and black poppy seeds are sprinkled on top. However using red rice flour and palm sugar the resulting cookie is brown and therefore as a contrast I used white poppy seeds, but the choice is up to you.
Poppy seeds contain minerals like calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron and are rich in dietary fibre and essential fatty acids (EFA). They are a good source of the EFA, Oleic Acid which helps lower the “bad” cholesterol LDL and increases the levels of the “good” cholesterol HDL.
The seeds are also an excellent source of the B-complex vitamins.
So here is my version of Naan Berenji – Persian Rice Cookies, gluten-free, dairy free and refined sugar-free.
2 cups Red or Brown Rice Flour
1 cup Coconut Palm Sugar (blend into a fine powder in the food processor)
1 cup Virgin Coconut Oil
½ cup rose water
2 eggsPoppy Seeds
Separate the eggs and keep the whites to one side. In a bowl mix the egg yolks, palm sugar and coconut oil. Mix well.
Add the red rice flour and rose-water and mix well
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites then fold into the rice flour mixture.
Wrap the dough in cling film and rest overnight in the fridge. This will prevent the cookies spreading into each other when cooking and to ensure a more even consistency of the dough. It will also make the dough easier to work with when it is chilled.
The next day preheat the oven to 150 C.
Take teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Using a fork press them flat, at the same time making criss/cross indentations in the top of each ball. Sprinkle poppy seeds on top and bake in the oven for 20 mins.
Allow to cool before serving.
For more Cookie recipes like this take a look at my Cookies eBook on Amazon: