khoresh-e-karafs: persian celery stew with braised beef, parsley, and mint

IMG_3635koresh-e-karafs is a staple meal at our house. once in a while we forget about it for several weeks-then it starts to feel like we’re missing something, and soon enough, some one will inevitably request it typically on {persian food} sundays. i’m not really sure why we (all) enjoy it so much, but that is the biggest appeal of this dish-everyone is happy when it’s on the menu-for us, there are few things more welcoming than the minty smell of this stew combined with the aroma of steaming basmati rice to welcome you home on a sunday afternoon. there are two ways to prepare it-and there is often discussion (and disagreement) about the right or best version. in my family it was always prepared the green (sabz) way-with lots of fresh parsley and mint. some people make the red version, with tomato sauce and saffron. i (much) prefer the green version-it reminds me of my childhood home and makes me feel warm and fuzzy each and every time.
ingredients for 4-6 servings:
  • 2 pounds grass fed (organic) beef or veal (stew meat)
  • 2 heads of organic celery, cleaned and cut in 2-3 inch pieces
  • 3 bunches flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 bunches fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) onions, thinly sliced-some as {piaz dagh}
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron (or 6-7 saffron threads seeped in warm water)
  • sea salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3 tbs turmeric
  • 3-4 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice (or sour grape juice-ab ghooreh)
  • vegetable oil (avocado, safflower or  oil of choice)
  • 2 cups basmati rice (brown basmati rice, or steamed quinoa for a healthier option work well)
let’s start with the stew beef, which should be trimmed and cubed:

1. cook the beef in a deep pot with 1 tbs vegetable oil, 3/4 of an onion, thinly sliced, sea salt, ground pepper, and 2 tbs turmeric-sautee the beef on all sides on high heat for about 5-7 minutes, then add 1 cup water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to low. simmer for at least an hour-until the beef is tender, but still has some juices left.

2. add 1 tsp saffron about 10 minutes before the beef is ready (after at least 50 minutes), simmer for 10-15 minutes more, then remove from heat.

3. while the beef is cooking, sautee the cut, cleaned, and drained celery with 2 tbs vegetable oil, 1 tbsp turmeric,  & sea salt in a skillet on medium/low heat for about 15-20 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until it is tender and slightly “golden” (fried).

4. remove the celery from the skillet, set aside, then add the chopped parsley and mint to the same skillet with 1 tbs oil and fry (or sautee) on med/low heat for about 5-7 minutes-there should be very little moisture left in the herbs (see photo below).

5. add the “fried” celery back to the skillet, and combine with herbs.


6. add the cooked stew beef to the celery & herb mixture, combine carefully, then add lemon (or sour grape) juice, sea salt, pepper, the rest of the saffron, and 1/4 of the sliced onions, fried separately (see piaz dagh (fried onion) recipe), plus a 1/4-1/2 cup filtered water. allow the stew to simmer on low heat for about 40-45 minutes, and up to an hour. as the stew cooks, taste it and adjust the salt and lemon juice as needed.

7. you should start cooking the rice about 1 1/2 hours prior to serving. see steamed rice recipe here.
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