Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Beef, Bean and Herb Stew)

If someone were to ask me what my favourite Persian dish is, I would answer without hesitation. Hands down, no question about it, my absolute most beloved dish is Ghormeh Sabzi. I could probably eat it every day for the rest of my life and be happy!  In fact, I think if you polled Iranians in general, I’d say at least 90 percent would say it is their favourite too. Ghormeh Sabzi to me is the quintessential Persian dish – savoury, aromatic and possessing a “je ne sais quoi” that makes it extraordinarily delicious. It can be argued that it is Iran’s unofficial national dish.

Ghormeh Sabzi is a slow simmered stew of braised meat, fragrant herbs, tender beans and tangy dried Persian limes. In this recipe I used Italian flat leaf parsley and green onions but others sometimes include cilantro and other herbs as well. But what I think gives Ghormeh Sabzi its unique flavour is the fenugreek. Here’s a little secret though if you are not in the mood for all the herb cleaning and chopping – many Persian supermarkets carry pre-chopped herbs for Ghormeh Sabzi in their freezer section or you can even buy them in a can. Like many stews, the longer Ghormeh Sabzi simmers the more delicious it is. In fact, Ghormeh Sabzi tastes best the next day when all the flavours have had a chance to marry and meld.

Ghormeh Sabzi
(serves 6)

1 large onion
1 lb stewing beef (one inch pieces)
1 tsp turmeric
3 cup low sodium chicken broth
5 cups finely chopped italian parsley
10 finely chopped green onions (green part only)
1 rounded tbsp dried fenugreek*
5 dried Persian limes (limo omani) pieced several times
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 can (425 g) red kidney beans, drained
salt and pepper

In a large pot (or Dutch Oven), heat 3 tbsp of canola oil over medium heat. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and fry for another minute.

Turn the heat up slightly to medium-high and add the beef to the pot. Brown the beef well on all sides, about 5-10 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a light boil. When simmering, turn the heat down to low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash, dry and finely chop the parsley (remove the stems) and green onions. You may chop them with a knife but I highly suggest chopping in a food processor to make your life a lot easier!

Heat 1/2 cup of canola oil over medium heat. When the oil is heated add the chopped green onion and parsley. Fry for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently.

When the beef is finished simmering, add the chopped fried herbs, dried fenugreek, dried Persian limes, lime juice, 2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer on low heat. Cover and let simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Add the drained kidney beans and using the back of a wooden spoon press down on the Persian limes so they release some of their juices. Continue to simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. The longer the stew simmers the tastier it will be!

Taste and add more salt, pepper or lime juice if necessary. Serve with steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!

*You can buy dried fenugreek at Middle Eastern Specialty stores as well as South Asian supermarkets.


Kotlet (Persian Beef and Potato Patties)

These days children are much more adventurous with food. You’ll see toddlers eating sushi, pad thai in lunch boxes and families going out for Ethiopian food. When I was in elementary school the most exotic thing someone would pack in their lunch box was a ham and swiss sandwich.

One day when I was in fourth grade I opened my lunch box and happily pulled out my delicious Kotlet sandwich and took a bite. A fellow classmate looked over in disgust and started yelling “Farnaz is eating a poop sandwich!”. Soon the whole lunch room was starring at me and all I could hear was “yuck” and “gross”. I was mortified and no matter how much I loved Persian food I begged my mom not to stray from peanut butter and jelly anymore! Looking back, it’s funny because the ingredients in Kotlet aren’t exactly “exotic”. It’s essentially just beef and potatoes…..very North American.  Is a Kotlet sandwich really that different from a hamburger? Well, it was the 80’s and to kids back then it was.  Today, I don’t think anyone would bat an eyelash at a Kotlet sandwich in a lunchbox. In fact, I think they would be begging for a bite!

Kotlet are delicious, easy to make and a staple in many Persian households. Beef and potato patties that are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. They are delicious warm or cold, on their own as a main dish or in a sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. For my daughter I serve it with ketchup but for myself I like to eat it plain, with yogurt or torshi (Persian pickles).

(makes about 15-18 patties)

1 lb lean ground beef
1 lb potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 medium onion, finely chopped or grated (I chop mine in a food processor)
2 eggs
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
canola oil

Put potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil on high and then turn down to medium heat. Simmer potatoes till they are fork tender (about 20 minutes). Drain and cool slightly.

Mash the potatoes with a masher or a ricer (I love using a ricer because the potatoes turn out very smooth)

In a bowl combine the ground beef, onions, potatoes, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper.  You may use a spatula or your hands to combine them well.

Take a piece of the mixture, roll into a ball in your hands and flatten. Form into oval shaped patties about 1 cm thick.

Pour enough canola oil to coat the bottom of a non-stick frying pan. Turn the heat up to medium-high and fry the patties for about 2-3 minutes per side, depending on the thickness. The patties should be golden and crisp on the outside. Fry in batches so you do not crowd the pan.

When finished frying, place on a plate covered with paper towel to absorb any extra oil.

Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!