Persian Herbed Stew is aromatic, hearty and satisfying. Okay, it’s not the most beautiful dish and will never win any food-porn prizes. But close your eyes and smell the parsley, cilantro, mint and leek all vying with the rich beef, black-eyed peas and Persian dried limes. Come on – what’s not to love?
Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) is a quintessential Persian dish with many variations. The version that I’m using was a typical Friday night meal for a Jewish family that made their way from Tehran to Tenafly, New Jersey. I came across it while delving into the wonderful Jewish Food Society website. It is citrusy, peppery and herbaceous and sure to wake up any jaded palate.
Black-eyed peas are used here, but dark red kidney beans are a more common ingredient. You can’t go wrong with either, however. Many recipes include potatoes, some use lamb and apparently whether you use fenugreek says where your family came from in Iran originally. What you cannot skimp on, however, is the massive amount of fresh herbs or the Persian dried limes. It simply would not be Persian Herbed Stew (Ghormeh Sabzi) without them.
I admit that I was skeptical when I first ordered the limes and opened the bag. They do not look very promising, but oh, the aroma! Some people grind the dry limes up and use the powder to sprinkle on just about anything where a pop of citrus would brighten things up. While not a big drinker, I could imagine rimming a glass for a Margarita with ground up Persian limes.
This dish does take some preparation although no single element is that difficult. It would go faster in a pressure cooker, but I will freely admit that those things scare me; I don’t own one and have no plans to change that! It can be served simply over Basmati rice and with the typical Middle Eastern salads and dips for a truly remarkable meal fit for the Sabbath Bride.
I’ve actually been wanting to make this dish for some time now, but it has been impossible during the pandemic to get all of the fresh herbs that I needed. Finally, my order arrived with everything that I needed so here we are.
Now while this dish is clearly made with meat, I could imagine it being made with tofu and more beans for a vegan version. Obviously the cooking time would be reduced and the tofu would be added after the beans had cooked and become tender. I would use firm or extra firm tofu and would press it under weights for 30 minutes before cutting it into chunks. It wouldn’t be authentic, but it would be delicious.
For more recipe ideas:
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
12 small, dried Persian limes (Some limes are bigger than others, so you may use fewer.)
9 cups water, divided
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 bunches parsley (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
3 bunches cilantro (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 bunch mint (1½ cups leaves), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 leek, green part only, sliced into ⅛-inch strips and washed
3 tablespoons dried savory (I didn’t have savory, but I did have fenugreek, so used that instead since it was in so many other versions that I found.)
3 tablespoons dried mint
2.5 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1. Place dried Persian limes in medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the dried limes. Let sit until ready to use. After they soak, you should halve the limes around the middle and remove any seeds before adding to the stockpot. This prevents excessive bitterness.
2. In large stockpot, place the beef chunks and cover with the remaining 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam off the top. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming the foam as needed.
3. Add the beans to the pot and increase the heat to a boil for 5 minutes, continuing to skim any foam off the top. Add the dried Persian limes with their soaking liquid and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for another hour.
4. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook without any oil until they begin to sweat, 5 minutes. Add the canola oil and continue to cook until they begin to brown, 5 to 8 minutes more. Now add the greens and dried herbs and spices. Saute until they turn dark green in color, are tender and very fragrant, another 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Once the beans are tender, add the onion and herb mixture to the pot and stir to incorporate. Cover and continue to cook until the greens have wilted and the stew is fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt as needed and serve.