Ok so you’ll have to bear with me for the food photography here – while slow cooked food is famous for generating lovely flavours, it doesn’t necessarily make for great photos! Or if it does, I haven’t learned how to capture that yet. But trust me on this one, because you pretty much can’t go wrong with a lovely slow cooked dish like this.
I’m starting a new job this month but in leaving me old one I was gifted not one, but two new recipe books my some very kind colleagues of mine! This recipe is from a beautiful cookbook with Persian recipes, given to me by Clare, who was also the inspiration behind the Moroccan Style Carrot Tart Tartin recipe. I love Middle Eastern flavours but have never strayed much into Persian territory, so I look forward to learning more! As a side note, I’ve also become more interested in Iranian culture following the visit from the Humans of New York blogger there this summer – I’d really recommend having a read of these little snapshots of normal Iranian people, which provides such a refreshing alternative to what we always hear about in the media. But I digress – back to the food.
This dish definitely isn’t one that you’d want to make as a quick meal after a long day at work, but rather one that you can have simmering in the background while you get on with other things. The actual prep time in terms of chopping and the like is fairly minimal, but there are quite a lot of long simmering times with little intervals where you might add a new ingredient. As with all slow cooked meals, it’s a good option if you’re entertaining because it doesn’t need a lot of attention once you’ve got it on the heat. This dish makes enough for 2-3 portions depending on your appetite and can be served with rice – I went for getting 2 portions out of it, which were big enough that I didn’t need a side. In the recipe, Ariana Bundy explains that in medieval Iranian medicine aubergines were considered to cause a lot of ‘heat’ in the body, where traditionally unripe sour grapes are used to counteract this. As I found unripe grapes fairly hard to come by though, I substituted these with fresh ones instead, which still gave a lovely balance. If you’re using meat, you can substitute the lamb with stewing beef or chicken on the bone. If you can get any extra bones in here then do so, it won’t only add more flavour but it’ll also give the meal the extra restorative nutrients found in a bone broth. The meat should be deliciously tender and falling off the bone when you’re done. And the smell of the cinnamon while you’re cooking this is absolutely heavenly!
- olive oil (or other), for frying
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 250g stewing lamb, with bones if possible
- 2 garlic cloves
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 400g can chopped tomatoes
- 250ml chicken stock
- 2 cinnamon sticks, or 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 medium sized aubergines, quartered lengthways
- 1/2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 tomatoes, halved
- handful of white grapes, preferably unripe
- a pinch of saffron threads, pounded and mixed with 1 tbsp hot water
How to make it…
- In a large, deep pan with a lid, fry the onions in oil for several minutes until they start to soften. Then, add the meat and fry for another 5 minutes or so, or until browned. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.
- Next, add the lemon juice and let this sizzle at the bottom of the pan. Add the turmeric, stirring this well so that it covers all your ingredients. Then add the canned tomatoes and the stock, making sure that the meat is covered in the liquid. Place the cinnamon sticks on top, cover and leave to simmer on a low-medium heat for 30-40 minutes.
- While you’re waiting, fry the aubergines for a few minutes on each side in a large frying pan, until they start to soften and brown slightly. Remove from the pan to a plate lined with kitchen towels.
- When the stew has been left to simmer as suggested, add the tomato puree and season to taste. If you have any extra bones floating about, remove these now. And if too much liquid has evaporated, add a little more hot water until the meat is covered again. Then, place the aubergines on top of the stew and cover again, leaving the stew to simmer and the aubergines on top to steam for another 30 minutes.
- Using the frying pan from before, fry the tomatoes for a quick 30 seconds or so on each side before adding this to the top of the stew with the grapes. Then pour in the saffron liquid. As before, add any additional hot water if too much liquid has managed to boil off. Then, cover and leave to simmer for a final 20 minutes.
From ‘Pomegranates and Roses – My Persian Family Recipes’ by Ariana Bundy, P48