Kabab Torsh (Persian Pomegranate and Walnut Marinated Beef Kabab)

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Until about seven years ago I had never heard of Kabab Torsh. My (non-Persian) husband claims that he is the one that discovered it at a Persian restaurant called Shomal in Toronto that specializes in Northern Iranian cuisine. My memory of the discovery is a little foggy and I am not sure how accurate his story is, but according to him it was HE who introduced this delicious regional dish from the province of Gilan to us.  His story is that when we looked at the menu, we all overlooked Kabab Torsh in favour of our usual order of Kabab Sultani. He, on the other hand, found the description of this new unfamiliar Kabab intriguing and ordered it despite our naysaying. His story is that once he gave us a little taste we were all hooked!

Now I’m not sure if I’m ready to give him all the credit but I will say that he is right in the fact that once we tried it we were hooked. Tender beef marinated in pomegranate, ground walnuts and garlic, Kabab Torsh is a perfect balance of slightly sweet and sour. My husband is such a fan that when we are invited to a Persian restaurant the first thing he asks is if they have Kabab Torsh on the menu and if they don’t he sulks and whines.

Kabab Torsh
(Serves 4-6)

2 lb beef tenderloin*, cut into  1 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups walnuts
3/4 cup pomegranate paste
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Using a food processor, chop the walnuts until very fine.

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Add the pomegranate paste, garlic, olive oil, sugar, salt and pepper and process until it resembled a thick paste.

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Add the yogurt to the food processor and pulse a few times until its incorporated.

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Put your beef pieces in a large glass or plastic bowl (or you may use a big ziplock bag) and pour the marinade over it. Stir to cover all the pieces. Refrigerate and let marinate at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours.

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When ready, take out of the fridge and let come up to room temperate (about 20-30 minutes).  Thread onto skewers. I prefer to use metal skewers but if you use wood ones make sure to soak them for at least an hour so they do not burn.

Barbeque all sides over high heat for approximately 8-12 minutes total depending on your preferred doneness (8 minutes will usually result in a nice medium-rare).

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When done, cover with foil and let sit for 10 minutes at room temperature.

I like to serve my kabab with steamed basmati rice, lavash bread, bbq tomatoes and mast-o-khiar (and a nice cold beer!) Enjoy!

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*You may use sirloin if you wish. It will be delicious but not as tender.

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Jujeh Kabab (Persian Barbecued Chicken)

It’s hard to believe that August is almost over. Luckily barbecue season will continue for another few weeks. Persians are no stranger to the barbecue…..our kababs are world-renowned. One of my favourite kababs to make at home is Jujeh Kabab – juicy chicken marinated in lemon, saffron, yogurt and onion then grilled over hot coals.

Traditionally, Jujeh Kabab is made with bone-in chicken pieces, usually small chickens or Cornish hens that are threaded onto skewers. In 1961, Queen Elizabeth visited Iran and was the guest of The Shah. At the royal dinner they served Jujeh Kabab. Much to everyone’s surprise the Queen of England picked up her chicken and ate it with her fingers (something Iranians at the time would never do in the company of guests). Out of respect, the rest of the people seated at the dinner also picked up their chicken and ate with their hands. Still to this day when someone refuses to eat chicken off the bone with their fingers, Iranians will remind them that the Queen of England did not have a problem eating with her hands so they shouldn’t!

In this recipe I have simplified things and made the Jujeh Kabab using boneless, skinless chicken thighs and have skipped the skewers. I love using chicken thighs. I find that they have more flavour, are juicier and almost impossible to dry out. But if you prefer you may use breasts and if you do not have a barbecue, they are also delicious made in the oven.

Jujeh Kabab

(serves 4)

8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you may use breast meat if you prefer)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cups plain yogurt (2% or full fat)
juice of two lemons
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water

Put chicken in a large bowl or a large ziplock bag. Add all the other ingredients and stir to blend well and cover the chicken. Marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 4 hours.

Preheat your BBQ on medium-high heat. Put the chicken on the grill and cook for approximately 5-7 minutes per side (until 160 degrees farenheit on instant read thermometer).

Transfer to a serving dish and let rest for a couple of minutes. Serve with lemon wedges. Enjoy!

* You may also cook these in the oven. Bake them in a preheated 400 degree oven for 30 minutes.