‘Let’s eat Persian tonight!” It’s not a phrase we often hear, and yet the traditional cuisine of Persia offers a rich and complex variety of flavors, fragrances and textures that you can easily recreate at home with a few key ingredients.
The signature dish called ghormeh sabzi has been enjoyed since the days of the Persian empires, more than a thousand years ago. Also known as Persian Green Stew, it is popular to this day in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan and Iran, where it is considered a national dish.
Many versions of ghormeh sabzi have arisen over the centuries. We call ours Persian Red Bean Stew. Making it will fill your kitchen with enticing aromas. And with a pressure cooker or Instant Pot, this savory and satisfying dish can be on your table in less than an hour.
Seasoning the stew calls for a combination of sautéed fresh herbs and aromatics — leeks or green onions, parsley, mint, dill and cilantro — and spices. Authentic ghormeh sabzi will include turmeric, paprika and dried Omani lemons. Omani lemons are similar to our normal dried limes, but stronger in flavor. The fruits are given a long soaking in brine, which intensifies their citrusy taste.
Ghormeh sabzi is always prepared with beans, such as kidney beans or black-eyed peas, and many cooks add turmeric-seasoned beef or lamb for a meat meal. You can also include any bitter greens such as kale, turnip greens or mustard greens. Serve the stew with rice or toasted bread for a hearty meal.
Persian Red Bean Stew
2 cups dried red beans
6 cups water
3 omani lemons
1⁄3 cup olive oil
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tbs. paprika
1⁄2 tsp. turmeric
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
5 scallions, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped
1⁄4 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped
1⁄4 bunch dill weed, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro leaves, finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1⁄2 tsp. salt
Place water, red beans, omani lemons and 1 tsp. salt in a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. Close and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes.
In a nonstick pan, heat up olive oil.
Add onion and sauté for 10 minutes, until brown.
Add chopped garlic and continue to sauté.
Add the paprika, turmeric and celery and sauté for a few minutes.
Add the green onion and the remaining chopped parsley, mint, dill and cilantro.
Sauté over medium heat for 3 minutes, until fragrant.
Remove the pressure cooker from the heat, release pressure and open the lid.
Add the herb mixture and gently stir the ingredients.
Without wiping the sauté pan, add the Roma tomatoes and sauté over high heat, stirring, until they soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes to the pressure cooker, cover and cook all ingredients for additional 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper and serve hot, with toasted bread.
If you prefer a meat version, add cut beef or lamb when sautéing the herbs.