Saturday, 2 January 2010

Orange khoresh

When winter gets you down, it's good to know that there are always juicy citrus fruits to pep you up. On of my favourite things about the cooking of the Middle East and Iran and Morocco in particular is the combination of citrus and meat.

When I embarked on this voyage into the kitchens of far away places, one of the first things I cooked was a lamb and orange and lamb khoresh (Iranian stew) in Diana Henry's Crazy Water Pickled Lemons. It was a stew heady with the scents of "the Orient": orange flower water, cardamon and mint. Around that time, I started making some Iranian friends. But none of them had heard of an orange khoresh.

Exploring further, I made a lamb, spinach and orange khoresh from Najmieh Batmanglij's New Food of Life. Fabulous!

And now, a version with chicken from Margaret Shaida's The Legendary Cuisine of Persia. Of the three recipes I've tried, this is perhaps the simplest, but just as tasty.

I devoured Legendary Cuisine cover to cover when I got it, but this was my first attempt at any of the recipes. The prose is so lovely, a real paean to the culinary arts of Iran. In contrast with Najmieh-khanom's master work, Legendary Cuisine's recipes are pared back, home-style cooking that you probably could attempt on a weeknight. As such, Legendary Cuisine is a perfect partner to that work.

I reduced the meat in this recipe by half. Only because 2 kg of meat is rather too much for a family of two with too little freezer space as it is. Although you could easily cook this in a pressure cooker, the carrots need pan-frying for almost half an hour, so there is not too much point unless you start with the carrots.

Note that you will be peeling the zest of three oranges. The easiest way to do this is with a vegetable peeler. The prepared peel is then brought to the boil in three changes of water to remove its bitterness. Orange peel prepared in this way keeps very well in the freezer, so it is worth doing extra. I sometimes throw some in with some garlic stir-fried cabbage for an easy side veggie. You can also use it in citrus vinaigrette.

It is worth using the saffron in this recipe. It adds a magical note to this stew. Serve with steamed white rice.

Orange khoresh

Serves 4

1 kg chicken thighs, cut into quarters
2 large onions, finely sliced
1 tsp cinnamon
3 oranges (Seville for preference)
3 large carrots
small pinch saffron threads, ground with a little sugar or salt, and steeped in 1 tbsp boiling water
juice of 1 lemon, or 2 tbsp sugar if using Seville oranges
salt and pepper

2 tsp pistachio slivers
2 tsp almond slivers

1 Wash the chicken pieces and pat dry. In a large pot, heat a little oil and fry the chicken until nicely browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2 In the same pot, heat a little more oil and fry the onions until soft and golden brown. Stir in the cinnamon, add the chicken and enough water to cover. Cover and simmer gently for 30 min.

3 Scrub the oranges with detergent, rinse well and pat dry. Peel thinly (with a vegetable peeper) and cut skin into julienne strips. Put in a small pot, cover with water, bring to the boil and drain. Repeat twice more and leave to drain.

4 Peel the carrots and cut into julienne strips. In a large frying pan, heat a little oil and fry carrots for around 20 minutes then add to the stew with the orange zest. Simmer for a further 25 min.

5 With a sharp knife, remove the pith from the oranges and the skin from the segments.

6 A few minutes before serving, stir in the saffron water and the lemon juice (or sugar if using Seville oranges) and add the orange segments, reserving a few to garnish

7 Simmer for a minute or two and dish up in a warm bowl. Garnish with almond and pistachio slivers if desired and serve with plain white rice.


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