When learning to cook regional Jewish dishes, I like to go straight to the source. I want to observe the way it’s done by people who grew up cooking and eating the food. I’ll travel pretty much anywhere to learn the secret of an authentic regional dish. Luckily, when I wanted to learn Persian Jewish cooking, I didn’t have to travel– instead, our friend Farah came to me.
Farah was born in Iran. She immigrated to Israel with her family when she was 5 years old. Her father worked as a cook in many different places, eventually landing as the head chef in a Tel Aviv hospital kitchen. Farah followed in her father’s footsteps, opening a small cafe in Jaffa for other Iranian immigrants. She later moved to the United States with her family and cooked professionally for many years.
Farah is an awesome chef, and she’s generous with her talent. I asked her to give me a crash course in Persian cooking. When she asked what dishes I’d like to learn, I told her I really wanted the secret to making Persian rice with tah-deeg. So, she taught me how to make Persian rice with dill and lima beans… and Persian rice with raisins and carrots… and garlic roast chicken… and cucumber salad… and kooba, fried bulgur wheat pies stuffed with ground lamb and pine nuts. In addition to all this, my husband’s sister brought along two delicious eggplant recipes.
Needless to say, by the end of the night we were beyond stuffed! I think I waddled to bed. But the calorie splurge was worth it. Such a delicious meal!
Did I mention the Persian Lamb Stew? No? Well, it was my favorite dish of the night. I love it when a simple recipe is so full of flavor. Even if you’re not a big fan of lamb, you might want to reconsider and try this stew. The spiced meat is ultra tender, it flakes with a fork and melts in your mouth. The basmati rice soaks up the yummy sauce, a perfect accompaniment to the stew. As a bonus, this dish is gluten free. The sauce needs no thickening from outside sources; it naturally thickens during the slow cooking process. It also contains a hefty dose of turmeric, a spice that has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties.
It’s so hard to do a stew like this justice in pictures– it’s one of those recipes that doesn’t photograph very well, even though it’s amazingly delicious. I did the best I could. You’ll just have to trust me on this one. What a treat!
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- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, minced
- 3 lbs lamb stew meat cut into chunks
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
- 4 cups steamed basmati rice
- In a small dish, mix together turmeric, black pepper, salt, and crushed red pepper seasoning.
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high till hot (not smoking). Saute for 10 minutes until onion softens and starts to turn golden brown.
- Add the lamb stew meat to the pot. You can use bone-in lamb meat, boneless meat, or a combination of the two. Sprinkle the seasonings evenly across the top of the meat.
- Sauté, stirring occasionally, until the meat chunks have browned on all sides (about five minutes).
- Cover the meat with about 4 cups of warm water. Bring mixture to a slow boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Simmer on medium low heat for two hours.
- Use a large shallow spoon to skim the fat from the surface of the cooking liquid every 30 minutes.
- After 2 hours, add tomato paste to the pot and stir slowly until paste dissolves into the broth.
- Simmer for another 20 minutes uncovered till the meat is nice and tender and the sauce has thickened. Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning, if desired.
- Garnish the stew with fresh parsley or cilantro. Serve lamb and sauce over freshly steamed basmati rice.