September 02, 2012

Khoresht e Gheimeh: Persian Lamb & Yellow Split Pea Stew

The first time I had this dish my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. Well, that's what it felt like, at any rate. The rich flavour of the slow-cooked lamb, the thick, savory tomato gravy plus the wonderfully tart notes of lime seemed so very right that I knew I was going to want to eat this again and again and again.

I first tried a version without sourcing the all-important dried limes (lemons, actually, it turns out), using the internet-suggested substitution of lime juice added at the end of the cooking time. It was tasty, but it didn't taste right. I shelved the dish, mentally speaking, until I could find the proper ingredient.

So, when I discovered an unassuming-looking bag of "dried lemons omani" in my local eastern mediterranean deli, a little research showed that this was exactly what I had been waiting for. I set about the internet once more, looking for likely recipes. In the end, I synthesized my own out of several offerings, and was really happy with the result (and thanks to my co-worker Laya, who assured me that putting fried potato on top was important). This recipe is slow food, so it may not be great for weeknights, unless you like to eat a little later (or you do the prep ahead of time), although we made it mid-week and thought it well worth waiting for.

I used a lot less oil than most of the recipes I could find, but the recipe didn't seem to suffer for it. I made up for it by frying the potato in oil, although you could oven-bake them for a healthier option. The stew itself is quite healthy, especially if you use lean, trimmed lamb, and go with six servings.

Khoresht e Gheimah

Serves 4 - 6
Total Prep & Cooking Time: 120-150 minutes

500 grams lamb stew meat
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dried yellow split peas
2 cups canned diced tomatoes (no salt added)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 dried lemons / black limes / limu omani
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 cups shoestring or thin-cut fried potatoes

In a Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, and cook the onions (sprinkled lightly with the salt) until softened and just starting to brown. Add the lamb chunks and stir frequently until some of it is browned, and the lamb has lost its raw appearance.

Add the turmeric and tomato paste, and stir through, scraping the bottom of the pot with a spatula or wooden spoon, adding a tablespoon or two of water, if necessary to prevent sticking. Stir for a minute or two, and then add the tomatoes and enough water to cover the surface by an inch or so, stirring well and scraping up the bottom of the pot so that nothing burns. The dish will have turned quite red. Lower the heat to the lowest setting. You can use lamb vegetable broth instead of water, but watch the salt content, if you do.

Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Add the yellow split peas (washed and drained), and enough water to cover by an inch (if necessary). Stir well, and add the cinnamon, and the dried lemons. For the lemons, crack them in half with a hammer, and drop them into the stew (the insides of the lemons should be black or dark brown). Simmer, covered, for another 45 minutes, or more, until lamb and peas are both tender. Remove the lemon peels (some of the insides will now be floating in the stew, that's fine). Taste, and adjust for salt and pepper if needed. Garnish with fried potatoes and serve with rice and yoghurt on the side.


I should probably confess that I put the peas in right away, in the picture above, rather than waiting the 45 minutes. However, while the overall dish was excellent, I felt that the peas got softer than they should have, and lost their shape, which is part of the reason that you can't really identify them visually in the photograph. The next time I make this, which will probably be in about a month, I'm going to do the 45 minute delay, because yellow split peas only take about 30 - 40 minutes to become tender, and I'd like to have more of their texture in the dish. If your yellow split peas take longer to cook, add them before you start simmering.

The rice that I served with this was a rice-cooker adapted version of Bhagali Polow - a dill-and-fava rice with a tadig, a recipe that I am still developing. Plain rice is probably more traditional to accompany this khoresht, though.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

This sounds wonderful! I love Persian meals...and I'm always looking for ways to use up a bag of dried lemons!