Khorest-e Ghaimeh Bademjan (Vegan Persian Eggplant and Yellow Split Pea Stew)

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A couple of years ago I flirted with veganism. I had started seeing a holistic nutritionist and she suggested a wheat-free vegan diet. Needless to say it didn’t last long…….I missed lamb chops and spaghetti bolognese way too much! But, it did instil in me a respect and appreciation for meat-free cooking and I must admit it was the healthiest I have ever felt.

My mother taught me this vegan version of Khorest-e Ghaimeh Bademjan years ago when I was having a vegan friend over for lunch and was at a loss as to what to prepare. Rich and  nourishing, this stew combines caramelized onions, eggplant, mushrooms, yellow split peas and aromatic spices in a silky tomato sauce. Khorest-e Ghaimeh Bademjan is so delicious and hearty that I can guarantee you won’t miss the meat!

Khorest-e Ghaimeh Bademjoon

canola oil
2 medium eggplant or 5 japanese eggplant
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
8 oz cremini mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
4 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
juice of one lime
1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
salt and pepper

Cut the top off the eggplant, peel them and quarter them (if using Japanese eggplant just half them).  Put them in a colander and liberally sprinkle salt on them to remove any bitterness. Leave them for 30 minutes – 1 hour.

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Meanwhile, in a large pot (or Dutch Oven), heat the 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.

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Add mushrooms and fry for about 5 minutes until starting to brown.

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Add the tomato paste and fry for one minute. Add the vegetable broth, the split peas, the lime juice and the saffron water. Cover and bring to a gentle boil. When boiling turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

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Rinse the salt off of the eggplant and pat dry. In a separate non-stick frying pan, heat about 1/4 canola oil over medium-high heat. Fry the eggplant in batches until browned on all sides (about 2-3 minutes per side). Add more oil if necessary as the eggplant will absorb it.

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Add the eggplant to the stew and simmer for another hour to hour and a half or until the split peas and eggplant are tender.

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When ready, taste and season with salt, pepper and more lime juice if necessary.

Serve with steamed basmati rice. Enjoy!

Adasi (Persian Style Lentils)

I began my love affair with lentils a few years ago. We had always been friends but in the past few years my love for these legumes has blossomed.  Lentils are versatile, delicious and extremely nutritious. They are an excellent source of vegetarian protein, fibre, iron, vitamin B and folate. They are low in dietary fat and extremely economical. They are a staple for many vegetarians, as well as omnivores like me that try to adhere to “Meatless Mondays”.

I get a lot of requests for vegetarian/vegan recipes and Adasi is one of my favourite Persian meatless dishes. Lentils with caramelized onions and fragrant spices that can be served hot or cold, as a side dish, a dip, a main dish served with rice or (as my mom grew up with) a delicious breakfast dish.

For those of you unfamiliar with Golpar (Angelica powder) it comes from the seeds of a wild plant that grows in the mountains of Iran. Golpar is very aromatic and is found in a variety of Persian dishes. It is often used with legumes because it reduces the digestive gas that is often associated with eating beans and legumes.

Adasi
(Serves 4)

3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 cup dried green lentils, rinsed
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 tsp golpar (ground angelica powder)*
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan heat the canola oil over medium heat. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and garlic and fry for another minute.

Add the lentils and vegetable broth to the pot. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Turn down to low, cover and let simmer (stirring occasionally) for about 1 hour or until the lentils are very soft. If it gets too dry, add some extra water.

The consistency should be thicker than a soup but not too dry. Add the golpar, cinnamon, salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

*Can be found at Iranian supermarkets and specialty stores.

Persian Inspired Israeli Couscous Salad

Also known as my “Peace in the Middle East Salad” or my “Make Love Not War Salad”. When Israel and Iran work together, beautiful things can happen. If only politics could be this easy!  In my modern interpretation of a traditional Shirazi Salad, toasty Israeli couscous meets fresh cucumber, tomatoes, red onions, mint and lime. The result is a delicious, refreshing and hearty middle eastern salad.

I have recently become obsessed with Israeli couscous. It is so versatile and is delicious in warm pilafs and cold salads and is a good substitute for rice, pasta or quinoa. Israeli couscous, also known as Ptitim, is a toasted wheat “pasta” that is shaped into little pearls. It is a very popular dish among children in Israel and is available in whole wheat and spelt for the health conscious. I like preparing it for my daughter with some butter, parmesan and lemon.

This salad is one of my favourite ways to serve Israeli couscous. It is a delicious accompaniment to a variety of grilled meat and fish dishes. I especially love it with Jujeh Kabab!

Persian Inspired Israeli Couscous Salad
(Serves 4-6)

1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
2 cups water
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium tomatoes, diced (1/2 inch pieces)
1 cup diced seedless cucumber (1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 tsp  salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a small pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the couscous and toast for 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 12 minutes (water should be evaporated and the couscous tender).

Put into a large bowl and add 1/8 cup olive oil. Let cool. When it is cool, fluff the couscous up with a spoon. Sometimes the pearls stick together you might need to spend a few minutes separating them with the back of a wooden spoon.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, mint, lime juice, salt, pepper and remainder of the olive oil. Stir to combine.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to blend. Taste and season with more salt, pepper and lime juice if necessary. Enjoy!