Chicken stew with celery and tomatoes
This stew is the lesser-known of the Persian celery stews. The famous one being Khoresh Karafs made with lamb, mint, parsley and celery. This version can be made with chicken, lamb or beef with the stew being tomato-based.
In my family, we distinguish between the two by referring to the colour: ‘Sabz,’ which translated means green in Farsi, for the herby version; and ‘Ghermez,’ which means red, for the tomato-based version. In fact, this version is probably the most popular among my mother’s side of the family, who primarily come from Mashhad in the Khorasan Province of Iran. I have recently asked other Iranians about this version and the majority were unaware of this alternative recipe, with all of them being connected to or from other provinces in Iran. I don’t know if this version originates from the Khorasan Province but currently the evidence seems to indicate that may be the case, but if anyone reading this knows about the origins then please get in contact with me. With tomatoes apparently only being introduced to Iran in the late 19th century, this stew is inevitably fairly young in the longstanding history of Iran and the Persian Empire.
I cannot recommend this recipe enough with it being so easy to prepare and cook, using only a handful of ingredients but maximising on flavour. It is a comforting yet light stew so I love eating this in the earlier part of Spring as we make the gentle transition away from eating the heartier dishes and move towards salads, BBQ’s and a Mediterranean feel to our dishes.
I usually serve this stew with Kateh (Persian rice cooked the easy way) which I flavour with a little saffron to get a golden rice and tahdig (as pictured). A simple salad with a citrus dressing, or fresh herbs, or pickle / olives also make complementary side dishes. See my Torshi recipes for Persian pickles, which complements this and many other recipes on this site.
Khoresh Karafs (Ghermez)
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 8 skinless chicken thighs on the bone
- 1 medium onion (finely diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
- 1 red chilli (minced - optional)
- 1 medium leek (medium sliced)
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 3 tbsp tomato purée
- 650 ml water
- 1 bay leaf
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime
- 1/8 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
- 1 head celery (chopped in 2 inch chunks)
- 5 small / medium tomatoes (halved)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- Chopped fresh parsley (to garnish)
- Place a shallow casserole pan or equivalent on a medium / high heat and add 1 tbsp of oil. Seal the chicken thighs on both sides, remove from the pan and leave to one side until ready to add to the stew.
- Add 2 tbsp of oil to the pan and add the onions. Cook until the onion turns golden. Then add the garlic and chilli and stir in until evenly distributed.
- Add the leek to the pan and stir and cook until softened. Then add the turmeric and stir in until evenly distributed.
- Add the tomato purée and stir in until evenly distributed.
- Add the water, bay leaf, lemon juice, saffron water and stir.
- Evenly arrange the chicken thighs in the pan so that they are just submerged in the liquid of the stew. Then add the chopped celery making sure they are in the liquid too so they can cook evenly. Place the tomato halves evenly in the stew.
- Bring the stew to a boil and then lower the heat to allow the stew to simmer with a lid on the pan for about an hour or until the chicken is practically falling off the bone. If the stew is too watery, allow to simmer further without the lid on to thicken the sauce.