Tuesday, 26 August 2008
Back in June, I said I'd make my dear Iranian friend Hw his favourite food as a birthday treat, thinking that would be ghormeh sabzi, that glorious dark citrusy stew that I thought was every Iranian's favourite. But no, he wanted gheimeh, something I hadn't quite mastered from the slightly unclear recipe in Najmieh khanom's The New Food of Life. Luckily, St Google offered up many recipes and I decided to go with this one, which I've made metric and adjusted for the pressure cooker.
Gheimeh, a rich, but lightly spiced stew of meat, tomatoes and dried limes, is traditionally served with chips (French fries) on top, but as I'm not one for deep frying, I added the potatoes, quartered, to the stew near the end of the cooking. Hw was fine about this innovation of his favourite dish; but it seems that Iranians are not so keen on potato skins. Next time peeling might be in order (g).
If you make my pressure cooker version, remember that split peas are notorious for getting burnt to the bottom of the pot. Give the pressure cooker a good shake at regular intervals during the cooking time in order to avoid this problem. Also, if you have the choice, use light coloured dried limes (limu Omani) in this dish, as they may break up in the cooking (or when you squeeze the concentrated liquid out of them at the end of the cooking), leaving what otherwise look like burnt scrapings from the bottom of the pan (!) in your lovely stew.
This has to be the easiest Iranian dish I've made yet, but the flavour is quite outstanding, and I'm sure it will become a favourite in this house, too.
1 kg stewing beef or lamb cut into 2 cm cubes or smaller
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic chopped finely (optional, but recommended)
1 x 400 g can whole or crushed tomatoes or use 500 g fresh
1-2 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
1/2 cup yellow split peas
450 g potatoes
3 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4-5 dried lemons
Lots of vegetable oil for frying
1 Fry the onions in about 2 tbsp of oil over med/high heat till they are lightly golden. Add the meat, raise the heat to high and keep frying till all the juices are absorbed. If you want to add any garlic, it may be added at the same time as the meat.
2 When the juices are absorbed, add the spices (salt, black pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper) and fry for a minute or so (don't over-fry). Add the canned tomatoes and bring to a simmer. If you use whole tomatoes, break them into big chunks with your wooden spoon.
3 Add the dried lemons, yellow split peas and about 400 ml water, bring to pressure and turn down the heat. Cook under low pressure, swirling the pot from time to time to prevent sticking, for about 45-50 min, or until the meat is done to your satisfaction (fork tender). If the sauce looks too thin, add the1-2 tbsp tomato paste to thicken it. If the sauce is too thick, add water as needed.
4 Add the potatoes and pressure cook for a further 5 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
5 When the meat is done, the sauce should be thick. Serve the stew in a large bowl. Serve with hot basmati rice.