|Persian stew with rhubarb, mint and lemon|
Rhubarb is not readily available in Japan and it was years since I'd had it. It has been in the back of my mind, though, as it seems to have been enjoying a surge of popularity in the UK the last few years and my favourite foodie haunts are full of rhubarb recipes. When a translator friend posted pictures on Facebook of rhubarb dishes his wife had made and, better yet, let it be known that she actually has it for sale, I knew my time had come!
And what better reintroduction to rhubarb than this Persian stew, adapted from one in Pomegranates and Roses: My Persian Family Recipes by Ariana Bundy. I bought the book as soon as it came out and it is fast becoming one of my favourite Persian cookbooks. The spicier "Gulf" dishes are especially welcome, as many similar books on Persian cooking tend to focus on the dominant cuisine and skip the regional delights. Better yet, quite a few of the recipes, including this one, are doable on a weeknight!
The khoresh is tart but not too tart, and wonderfully fresh-tasting with all that lovely mint. I prefer to kepps some for garnishing with before serving, but in Iran, they would all be cooked with stew. Watch the rhubarb carefully for doneness. You want the pieces to stay whole and not disintegrate. Mine were ready in less than five minutes after hitting the pot!
Khoresht-e rivas: Persian stew with rhubarb, mint and lemon
1 large onion, chopped into small dice
1 stalk celery, chopped into small dice
1 kg chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar, or to taste
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, or to taste
1-1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
25 g fresh mint, finely chopped
150 g flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
650 ml unsalted chicken stock
1 tsp dried mint
750 g rhubarb, cut into 5 cm pieces on the diagonal
1/2 tsp saffron threads ground in a small mortar and dissolved in 2-3 tbsp hot water
1. In a heavy pot over a medium-high heat, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, celery and chicken until the vegetables are golden and the meat is seared--about 10 minutes. Stirring frequently, add the garlic cloves, butter, turmeric, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Stir in 2/3 of the fresh herbs. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the stock and dried mint. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.
2. Add the rhubarb, lemon juice and saffron liquid and bring to the boil, without stirring too much to avoid breaking up the rhubarb. The stew is cooked when the rhubarb is cooked, but not falling apart.
3. Check the seasoning: if it is too tart, add more sugar and if not tart enough, balance it with a little more lemon juice. Scatter over the remaining fresh herbs and serve immediately.