This traditional Persian stew is made with lamb, slow-cooked with celery, mint and parsley resulting in a deliciously light yet comforting stew.
Winter is the season of stews and Khoresh Karafs is a lovely introduction if you are new to Persian cuisine. Persian stews are relatively low maintenance to cook. They just need time to cook and for the flavours to fall into place.
What is Khoresh Karafs?
Khoresh Karafs is a Persian stew made with lamb, celery and fresh herbs (mint and parsley). ‘Karafs’ translated from Persian is ‘celery.’ And ‘Khoresh’ means ‘stew.’
We have two versions of Khoresh Karafs. The first one, the subject of this recipe and the better known version, is cooked with herbs. The second one is cooked with tomatoes and usually chicken. We refer to them by their colour: Khoresh Karafs-e-Sabz (‘sabz’ means green in Farsi); and Khoresh Karafs-e-Ghermez (‘ghermez’ means red in Farsi).
Ingredients In Khoresh Karafs
The ingredients for this khoresh (stew) are simple and easy to source with most items available at your local supermarket.
You will need:
- Lamb – the best cut of lamb to use for this recipe is from the leg and from a butcher. Ask for the leg to be trimmed of the outer layers of fat and to be cut into stew size pieces with the bone.
- Celery – use fresh celery to ensure you get the delicious peppery and savoury flavour profile from this amazing vegetable.
- Parsley & Mint – use fresh herbs. As a guide 2 large bunches or 250 grams of parlsey to 1 large bunch or 150 grams of mint.
- Onion, Garlic, Turmeric, Saffron and Fresh Lime Juice – the aromatics and flavour enhancing elements of the stew.
- Vegetable Oil – or any other neutral flavoured oil for cooking elements of the stew prior to adding the cooking liquid.
- Water or Vegetable Stock – the cooking liquid for the stew.
- Salt and Pepper – to season the stew.
Variations Khoresh Karafs
- Some add dried limes (Limoo Amani) to their khoresh while cooking but I prefer it without.
- You can use beef but make sure it is the cut of beef best for stewing i.e. braising beef such as skirt, chuck or blade.
- You can also use chicken instead of red meat.
How to Serve Khoresh Karafs
As with all Persian stews, the flavour continues to mature and intensify if you leave it for a day before you reheat and serve. This is, therefore, a dish you can make on a Sunday evening and tuck into later in the week reducing the time spent in the kitchen and washing up afterwards. Serve it with Persian rice – Chelow and a lime dressed chopped salad like Salad Shirazi.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 3 days. Khoresh Karafs can also be frozen up to 4 months. Defrost thoroughly before reheating. Gently reheat khoresh in a saucepan or in a microwave.
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 250 g fresh parsley
- 150 g fresh mint
- 1 large head of celery (about 7 to 10 stalks cut into 2 to 3 inch chunks)
- 1 medium onion
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 0.6 to 1 kg lamb on the bone (preferably leg, portioned into chunks approx. 2 to 3 inches width)
- 600 ml water or vegetable stock
- 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
- Juice of 1 to 2 fresh limes
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
Gather and Prepare the Ingredients
- Remove woody stems from herbs and discard. Wash herbs and place on a tea towel and dab them dry.
- Finely chop herbs either by hand or using a food processor and set to one side until ready to use.
- Finely dice your onion. Take the celery and chop into 2 inch chunks.
Prepare the Stew
- Take a casserole dish / saucepan which has a lid and a minimum capacity of 3.5 litres and place over medium-high heat. Add 2 tbsp of oil and brown lamb and remove from pan.
- Add diced onions to pan and cook until they turn golden. Add crushed garlic cloves and stir, being careful that the garlic does not turn brown or burn.
- Add lamb, then turmeric and stir until distributed evenly.
- Add water or vegetable stock and bloomed saffron (the liquid should just cover the meat so adjust if necessary). Place lid on pan and turn down heat to low and let simmer.
Saute the Celery and Herbs
- Take a frying pan and add 1 tbsp of oil and place over medium-low heat. Add chopped herbs and stir until the herb mix has softened, being careful not to burn it. A few minutes will suffice. Then add the herb mix to the lamb and stir. Replace the lid.
- Sauté celery over medium heat in frying pan used for the herbs with the remaining 1 tbsp of oil for no more than a few minutes. Just enough for the celery to take on some heat from the pan but not soften. Turn the heat off under your frying pan and add celery to the lamb and herb mixture.
Cook and Season the Stew
- After 5 minutes of simmering, add the fresh lime juice (start with half the lime and then add more), salt and pepper and adjust according to taste.
- Continue simmering the stew for a minimum of an hour, stirring gently every 15 minutes and checking the softness of the meat - ideally you want the meat to be falling off the bone.