When learning to cook regional 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 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 Persian 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 a terrific cook, 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. You may be more familiar with traditional Irish Stew, but 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. It also contains a hefty dose of turmeric, a spice that has strong anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. What a treat!
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Persian Lamb Stew
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 1 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
- 1 tsp salt (if salt sensitive, you may want to use less and salt to taste at the end of cooking)
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (omit if spice sensitive)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 medium onions, minced
- 3 lbs lamb meat cut into chunks for stewing (leg meat works well, it cooks up very tender)
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped
- 4 cups steamed basmati rice for serving
In a small dish, mix together turmeric, black pepper, salt, and crushed red pepper seasoning.
In a large pot, or large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium high heat till hot (not smoking). Saute for 10 minutes until onion softens and starts to turn golden brown. Begin browning the lamb. Add the lamb stew meat to the pot. You can use bone-in lamb meat, boneless meat, or a combination of the two. Brown the meat for a few minutes on each side. Drain the fat that collects at the bottom of the pot.
Sprinkle the seasonings evenly across the top of the browned meat.
Cover the meat with 4 cups of 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, stirring occasionally, until the meat is nice and tender and the sauce has thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and.or spice, if desired.
Garnish the stew with fresh parsley or cilantro. Serve lamb and sauce over freshly steamed basmati rice.