Khorest-e Ghaimeh (Persian Beef and Yellow Split Pea Stew)

For those of you unfamiliar with Khorest, it is a Persian stew and one of the pillars of Iranian cuisine. I have to admit that I always found the idea of cooking Khorest very intimidating. It seemed complicated and time-consuming and best left up to the experts….. namely my mother. But once she began to teach me, I learnt that, while Khorests do take a long time to simmer (as do most stews), many of them are incredibly simple to prepare and are the perfect make ahead dinner.

Khorest-e Ghaimeh was always one of my favourite stews growing up and one of the absolute easiest Khorests to prepare. It is a savoury mix of tender beef, yellow split peas flavoured with rich tomato and tangy dried persian limes and then topped with fried potatoes. What child wouldn’t love a stew that is essentially topped with french fries!

There is much debate in my family about how the potatoes should be served. My mother and I like to serve them on top of the Khorest as a garnish so they remain crispy. My father, on the other hand, says that the “correct” way is to incorporate the fried potatoes into the stew so they absorb the delicious flavours. You be the judge.

Khorest-e Ghaimeh (Persian Beef and Yellow Split Pea Stew)
(serves 4)

canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 lb stewing beef cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 3 tbsp boiling water
1 tbsp fresh lime juice or bottled Persian lime juice
1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 dried persian limes, pierced several times with a knife
1  baking potato, peeled and cut into match sticks
salt and pepper to taste

Heat two tablespoons of canola oil in a heavy pot over medium heat. I prefer to cook my stews in a cast iron dutch oven which has a very tight-fitting lid. Add the onions and saute for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden. Add the turmeric and saute for another minute.

Add another tablespoon of canola oil and the stewing beef. Turn the heat up to medium-high heat and saute for 5-6 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and fry for one minute. Pour in the chicken stock, lime juice, saffron water, cinnamon and the dried yellow split peas.

Add the dried Persian limes. When it begins to gently boil turn the heat down to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer for two hours stirring occasionally (if you find that the stew is getting too thick you may add a little more stock or water).

When the Khorest is ready season it with salt and pepper. I like to very lightly press down on each dried lime to add a bit more of the citrusy flavour to the stew.

Keep the Khorest warm and begin frying the potatoes*. I prefer to shallow fry my potatoes. In a large frying pan, pour enough canola oil so that there is a 1/4 inch layer of oil in the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium-high heat (closer to medium than high). When the oil is hot, gently add the potatoes in batches. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook the first side until lightly golden about 5-7 minutes and the other side for about 3 minutes or until lightly golden.

When the french fries are ready drain the oil on a plate covered with a double layer of paper towel. Season the potatoes with a bit of salt and arrange on top of the khorest.

Serve over basmati rice.

*If you do not like frying your potatoes you can also try baking them in the oven. Toss the potato sticks with 1 tbsp of canola oil. Arrange on a single layer on a slightly greased baking tray.  Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden in a 450 degree oven.

*You may also leave out the potatoes if you wish. The khorest is delicious without them as well.