khoreshe-e-fesenjan: traditional persian walnut & pomegranate stew

pomegranate {انار} tree in napa valley, california

please don’t be discouraged by the image of this very (deservedly) popular and delicious traditional persian stew made from the most ingenious combination of ingredients: finely ground walnuts (superfood in its own right), pomegranates (well known antioxidant powerhouse), onions, and poultry (duck or chicken) simmered together to create the most magical and addictive combination of textures, flavors, and aromas that is khoresh-e-fesenjan { فسنجان }. the flavors of fesenjan are sweet and tangy (or rather, tart) with a satisfying nutty depth, and they intensify (and improve) over time, which is why the dish not only travels well, but is possibly better the day after (which also makes it a good one to make ahead)it is traditionally served with steamed basmati rice or chelow (follow this recipe, leaving out the spices), but can also be served with tah-chin (without the chicken & spices). one of the main ingredients for a good fesenjan is pomegranate molasses (or rob-e-anar) which is easily found (at least in southern california) in specialty middle eastern markets, as well as on line-if need be, you can substitute it with reduced (pure) pomegranate juice and a few spoonfuls of sugar. 
the pomegranate continues to be a rather mysterious and difficult-to-eat fruit for some, but it’s actually a nutrient-dense food packed with antioxidants originating in persia (modern day iran) where khoresh-e-fesenjan was also born many hundreds of years ago. although cooking this dish might seem like a daunting task at first sight, (in my humble opinion) it is by far one of the easiest persian stews to prepare, and well worth the efforti strongly urge you to try it…you will make your friends and family very very happy, over and over again! nooshe-jan :)  

ingredients for 6-8 (generous) servings, and some leftovers!

  • 1.5 to 2 pounds fresh shelled walnuts (finely ground in a food processor)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 cup (or slightly more-adjust to taste) pomegranate molasses~i use a combination of a sweeter and a more tart one: sadaf (more of this) & cortas (slighly less of this)
  • 1-2 tsp turmeric
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • 2-3 tbs cane sugar (optional)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1-2 tbs vegetable (olive) oil
  • 8-10 pieces skinned organic chicken (thigh is best)

1. in a food processor with a steel blade grind up the walnuts (make sure they are fresh and not bitter or rancid) with one roughly chopped onion and enough water to help the processing. pour the mixture into a heavy pot or dutch oven, add about 2-3 cups of water (not too watery, and not too thick-like above), and allow it to come to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on medium/low~more like low (while stirring occasionally) for about 50 minutes to an hour.
2. while you wait, finely chop the other onion and brown in 1-2 tbs of oil in a shallow skillet. add the cleaned chicken, turmeric, ground pepper, and sea salt and brown on both sides, then add about 1/2 cup water and slow cook or braise (simmering on low) for at least an hour until tender. set aside.
3. start preparing your chelow (steamed basmati rice) at least an hour before serving-link to recipe above.

3. the color of the walnut mixture will slowly darken and intensify, and the oil will begin to separate (you want to see this). add sea salt (to taste) and the molasses and stir until fully incorporated.  taste and adjust for salt, add 2-3 tbs of sugar if it is too tart for you. allow the mixture to simmer on low for another 30-45 minutes and up to an hour (stirring occasionally so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pot).
4. add the fully cooked chicken to the mixture about 10-15 minutes prior to serving. the photo below reflects the color and texture you want to see when you are ready to serve.

 

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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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abgoosht or abgusht: (a traditional persian beef stew)

an abgoosht { water-meat } story…

cooking minette's abgoosht

abgoosht

Ābgusht (Persian: آبگوشت‎, literally translated as “water-meat”), is a Persian and Mesopotamian stew 

{per sahar’s request-abgoosht, the way i imagine our grandma used to make it}:my cousin and i grew up together until the age of eleven or twelve when she moved to another country, and life as we knew it came to (a rather abrupt) end. when i say we grew up together, i mean we did everything together-i saw her first thing every morning on the school bus that took us to the same school-we learned to swim, (attempted to) dance, ride horses, make snowmen, climb trees (or not so much) to pick (and eat) fruit, make makeshift houses out of furniture, eat (lots of) candy, laugh and cry together. sadly, we still live too far apart, but the bond and love we shared as kids remains strong-i miss her. she’s been following this blog (she encouraged me to start), and it makes me so happy to know that it connects us through our collective love for the food we grew up with and shared (particularly every friday around our grandmother’s table). when she asked me to make abgoosht for the next blog post, i realized this dish (and the incredible aroma it creates as it slowly cooks) is intertwined with so many of our shared memories-of family, warmth, comfort, and love.

 

ingredients:

  • 2 pounds organic grass fed beef or veal shank (or lamb), 1 pound stew (grass fed) meat
  • 2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced or cubed
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled, crushed, and sliced
  • 1 cup (or slightly more) cooked garbanzo beans+
  • 1 cup (or more) cooked white beans+
  • 3-4 sm/medium potatoes (i used yukon gold)-peeled and quartered or halved
  • 2-3 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp ground saffron (or saffron strands seeped in a few drops of hot water)
  • sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • 2-3 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 ripe tomatoes
  • 4-5 whole (pierced) persian limes-“limu -omani” *you can substitute juice of 2-3 fresh limes
  • 1 tbsp oil (safflower or grape seed)
  • 5-6 cups water
  • 3 italian eggplants, peeled and halved *optional*

+ soak your beans overnight and cook them in salted water separately for about 30-40 minutes. they will cook again with the stew, so do not over cook them. you may also add them uncooked to the stew from the beginning (when you add the water), but that is not my preference as they tend to either disintegrate or not cook enough-you can also use canned beans if you’d like.

1. sautee the onions and garlic in the oil in a large heavy pot for a minute, then add the beef. sprinkle with the turmeric, salt, and pepper, and brown on both sides.

2. once the beef is browned on all sides, add the pierced dried lemons, tomato paste and water. cover and simmer for about an hour.

3. after simmering for an hour, add the cooked beans, potatoes, and eggplants, and simmer for another 45 minutes. add the quartered tomatoes and saffron, and simmer for another 15 minutes. how to serve this? continued below…

cooking minette's abgoosht

4. for the “tileet“(or soup):
-serve the liquid (soup) in small bowls with flat bread broken in to it in small pieces:

abgoosht

5. for “goosht koobideh” or mashed beef:
take a portion of the ingredients (the stewed beef and some of the shank, potatoes, beans, etc.) and mash them up. this is easy to do because it is all braised really well and soft-add some freshly ground pepper, and serve with flat bread and fresh herbs ( such as lemon basil and mint-you make little bites or sandwiches). this is delicious in a sandwich cold the next day.

abgoosht koobideh

 

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