Khorest-e Kadu (Persian Chicken and Zucchini Stew)

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Cooking Persian food can seem to be a daunting task. I’ll admit, I was intimidated at first. It’s the number one reason most of my Iranian friends don’t cook Persian food. Most complain that it’s too difficult or time consuming. But when you actually try it, it’s much easier than it seems. Trust me, if my little brother can make Fesenjoon off my recipe, anyone can!

I wanted to include a Khorest (Persian stew) recipe that even the most novice cook could make. This simplified recipe for Khorest-e Kadu is very easy to prepare and can be made in about an hour. The prep work is minimal and you only get one pot dirty. Just to put it in perspective……during my son’s afternoon nap, which is usually only an hour and a half, I was able to eat my lunch, prepare this stew, clean up the kitchen and still have time to do an art project with my daughter!

Khorest-e Kadu

(Serves 6)

vegetable oil
1.5 lb skinless boneless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 heaping tbsp tomato paste (approx a small can)
1.5 cups low sodium chicken broth
juice of one lemon
1/4 tsp of ground saffron dissolved in two tbsp hot water
salt & pepper
8-10 whole grape tomatoes

Heat 2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat in a large heavy saucepan or dutch oven. When the oil is  hot, brown the chicken, about 3 minutes per side.

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Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. If necessary add another tbsp of vegetable oil and add the sliced onions.  Fry the onions for 8-10 minutes or until they are slightly golden. Add the turmeric and fry for one more minute.

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Add the zucchini and fry, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. If you find that the bottom of the pan is getting too brown, turn the heat down slightly, add a few tablespoons of water and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

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Add the tomato paste and fry for one more minute. Return the chicken to the pan. Then add the chicken broth, the saffron water, lemon juice, one tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last 20 minutes add the grape tomatoes.

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When ready, check for seasoning. Add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if desired. The stew might seem very watery when it is very hot. It will thicken up a bit as it cooks down. What I personally like to do is cool it completely and then heat it up again before I serve it.

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Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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Havij Polo bah Morgh-e Ab Paz (Persian Carrot Rice and Braised Chicken)

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I have one culinary regret I have in my life…..I wish I had introduced Persian food to my daughter at an earlier age. I was a first time parent and so worried about strong flavours and exotic ingredients, that I don’t think I gave my little girl Persian food until after her second birthday. My poor daughter had a very bland (but healthy) diet up to that point….as a result, at five years old she still tends to prefer bland foods. Although she eats Persian food, she still sometimes asks if she can have her plain rice without “Farsi sauce”.

I vowed not to make the same mistake with my son and I’m proud to say that at 14 months he is a Persian food lover! I may go so far as to say that I think it’s his favourite cuisine. Havij Polo and Morgh-e Ab Pas was my son’s first taste of Persian food. Simple, delicious, aromatic and slightly sweet, I thought this dish was the perfect introduction to the spices that are common to Persian food. Since then, he has tried numerous Persian stew and rice dishes which he has happily gobbled up.

Havij Polo can be served on its own or as a side dish for any meat dish. Some people like to layer chicken within the rice during the cooking process, but I personally love serving Morgh-e Ab Pas (Persian Braised Chicken) on the side because I love pouring some of the flavourful braising liquid over my rice.

Havij Polo
(Serves 4)

2 cups basmati rice
4 tbsp butter
300 grams carrots (about 3-4), peeled and coarsely grated*
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp boiling water
canola oil
salt
braised chicken (recipe to follow)

In a medium non-stick frying pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the grated carrots and fry for 3 minutes. Add sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil and cook for another two minutes (most of the water will evaporate). Turn off heat and set aside.

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Wash as much starch off the rice as possible. To do this put the rice in a large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is clear (about 4-5 times).

After the rice is washed, cover with 6 cups lukewarm water and 1 tsp of salt. Allow the rice to soak for at least 30 minutes (this step is optional, but the rice will be tastier and fluffier if you do it).

Fill a large non-stick pot ¾ full with water and 1 tbsp salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Drain the soaked rice and add to the pot of boiling water. Turn down the heat slightly to medium-high (it should still be boiling) and boil for 6-10 minutes stirring occasionally. Make sure to taste the rice as you go along. When it is ready it should be soft but not mushy and over-cooked. It should be the texture of al-dente pasta. For me, I find that 6 minutes usually is enough.

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Drain the rice in a wire sieve.

Using a paper towel, dry your pot. Pour enough canola oil into your pot to just cover the bottom. Add the saffron water to the oil.

Using a spatula, add 1/3 of the rice to form a layer to cover the bottom of the pot and form the ta-dig (the golden rice crust).

Sprinkle half of the carrot mixture over the rice. Then layer another third of the rice on top and then the rest of the carrot mixture. Top with the last third of the rice. The layers should resemble sort of a pyramid.

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Using the handle of a wooden spoon poke three holes in the rice and pour over 1/4 cup water. Top with two tbsp butter. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes.

Turn down the heat to medium low and take a clean dish towel and cover the lid of the pot. Make sure that the lid is on tightly. Alternatively you can use a double layer of paper towel between the pot and lid. Let the rice steam for 40 minutes.

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When the rice is ready, use a spatula to transfer the rice to a serving dish. Gently, mix the carrot and rice. Season with salt if necessary. Loosen the ta-dig with your spatula or a wooden spoon.

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Serve with Morgh-e Ab Paz (recipe to follow) or Persian Roasted Saffron and Lemon Chicken.

*I grate my carrots in the food processor using the grating attachment. You may also cut the carrots in small match sticks if you prefer.

Morgh-e Ab Paz (Braised Chicken)

6-8 chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on preferred)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric

Spread the onions on the bottom of a large heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid (I prefer a dutch oven). Put the chicken pieces on top of the onions. Sprinkle salt, pepper and turmeric on top and pour 1 cup of water over it. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down heat to medium-low and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the chicken over half way.

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Serve the chicken and braising liquid with the rice. Enjoy!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Kotlet

 

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Happy 2014! Every year I make outlandish and unrealistic new year resolutions…that I inevitably abandon after a few days. This year I decided to keep it simple and attainable – add two extra servings of nutrient rich vegetables to my diet per day. Twelve days into the new year and I’m doing pretty well!!

I love Persian Kotlets and I wanted to make a healthier version that tasted delicious and was packed with vitamins. I replaced the traditional beef with lean chicken and the white potato for sweet potato.  Rich in fiber, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese and potassium, the sweet potato is considered by many to be a superfood. Instead of frying the kotlets, I baked them in the oven. By coating them in panko, they achieved the crunch reminiscent of the fried version, while still being soft and tender on the inside. I loved the texture and ease of baking them so much that I think it may be how I prepare all my kotlets in the future!

Chicken and Sweet Potato Kotlet
(16-20 patties depending on size)

1 lb ground chicken (or turkey)
2 large sweet potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 medium onion finely chopped (I chop mine in a food processor)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs
olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and rub olive oil on the parchment paper.

Peel and cut the sweet potato in one inch chunks. Steam until fork tender (about 20 minutes). Cool slightly.

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In a large bowl combine ground chicken, onions, dried bread crumbs, salt, pepper and eggs. Using a potato masher, mash the sweet potatoes and add to the bowl. Alternatively, use a potato ricer to rice the sweet potatoes into the bowl. Using a spatula or your hands combine the mixture. If it seems too wet, add a little more bread crumbs.

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Put the panko bread crumbs in a shallow bowl. Take about two tablespoons of the mixture (I use an ice cream scoop) and using your hands roll it into a ball and roll it in the panko. Flatten the meat mixture ball and set on the baking sheet.

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Repeat leaving one inch spaces between the patties. Drizzle patties with olive oil.

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Put in oven for 10 minutes. Turn and cook for another 10-12 minutes or until cooked through and lightly golden on the bottom.

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Serve with yogurt, ketchup or Persian pickles. Enjoy!

Khorest-e Sib o Aloo (Persian Chicken, Apple and Dried Plum Stew)

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Ten years ago tomorrow I married the love of my life. Our wedding was a grand affair and  the meeting of two completely different cultures. My husband is about 10th generation Canadian, so it was quite a sight to see some of his extended relatives from rural Ontario (who I’m sure had never set eyes on a Middle Eastern person before our wedding) dancing to Persian music. It was truly spectacular!

Before and after the wedding was filled with parties and celebrations. I don’t think any of us had anticipated that our wedding festivities would go on for a full year! Leading up to the wedding I had three bridal showers, but probably my most memorable shower was the one our dear family friend Behi-joon threw for me……it was like a wedding in itself!

One of my favourite keepsakes from this shower was a recipe book that she had put together for me in which all ladies in attendance submitted their favourite recipe. In celebration of my anniversary, I thought I would include one of the delicious recipes from this collection. Our family friend Pouri-joon had graciously given me her recipe for Khorest-e Sib o Aloo, which was her specialty.

With braised chicken, apples, dried plumes, pomegranate and aromatic spices, this sweet and slightly tart stew is not only easy to make, but also nourishing and the perfect Fall dish.

Khorest-e Sib o Aloo
(Serves 4-6)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
10-12 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp pomegranate paste
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 cooking apples (I used Fuji), peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup pitted dried plums (prunes)
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in hot water
salt and pepper

Heat canola oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Add the turmeric and saute for another minute.

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Add the chicken pieces and brown for 10 minutes over medium heat.

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Add the tomato paste and saute for one minute. Add the chicken broth, cinnamon, pomegranate paste and sugar. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Once boiling turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

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Add the apples, prunes, lime juice, saffron water, one tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of pepper. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more salt, pepper, sugar or lime juice if necessary. The stew should be a little sweet and a little sour – if it’s too sweet for your taste, add some lime juice. If it’s too sour add a bit of sugar.

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Serve with steamed rice. Enjoy!

Wedding photo

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.