Khoresh Porteghal

Slow cooked chicken thighs with fennel, oranges & barberries

This dish is inspired by two Persian dishes – the traditional saffron chicken we cook to accompany a few of our rice dishes, and Khoresh Porteghal (chicken and orange stew). My recipe below sees the addition of fennel and barberries to the traditional recipes. From December to May, I also swap in blood oranges, which are in season during these months, and the picture above is the blood orange version.

It is surprisingly low effort and an incredibly satisfying accompaniment to a number of Iranian rice dishes. The chicken is slow-cooked so the meat falls off the bone, which is a requirement for us Iranians as we eat most of our dishes with a spoon and a fork (the spoon helps to shovel the rice in) – no knife needed for the chicken here! The oranges provide a sweetness to the dish balanced out with the tartness of the barberries. The cooked orange peel is not bitter and adds a musky depth to the casserole with a marmalade like jamminess to each bite.

I often knock up this dish as it is so simple and serve it with a crunchy citrus-dressed salad, pickles (torshi) or a side of fresh herbs (a mix of coriander, mint, Thai basil, parsley and chives) and Persian steamed rice – chelow. If you want an even quicker rice accompaniment then serve it with kateh (Persian rice cooked the easy way). But you don’t just have to resign this to a dish eaten with rice, you can serve it with buttery mashed potatoes and a side of green vegetables or pasta.

Other than saffron, advieh (Persian mixed spice made with nutmeg, rose petals, cumin, cardamom, coriander, cinnamon and black pepper) and the dried barberries, all the other ingredients are easy to source from your local supermarket if not already inhabiting your kitchen cupboards, fridge and freezer. You can order saffron, advieh and dried barberries online or buy it from your local Middle-Eastern food shop. Remember to grind the saffron strands into a powder to make sure you get more bang for your buck.


Khoresh Porteghal

Slow cooked chicken thighs with fennel, oranges & barberries
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 15 mins
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian, Cross-cultural
Keyword: comfort food, chicken casserole
Servings: 4 (to 6 people)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 kg chicken thighs (skin on / bone in)
  • 1 medium brown onion (halved and finely sliced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (crushed or minced)
  • 1 large carrot (about 150g - cut into 2 inch batons)
  • 2 small fennel bulbs (halved and medium sliced)
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp advieh (Persian mixed spice)
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron bloomed in 600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 medium oranges (1 to juice and 2 sliced for the casserole itself)
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • Juice of a fresh lemon
  • 2 tbsp dried barberries
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions

  • Pre-heat oven to 140°C (fan oven) / 160°C (conventional) / gas mark 3.
  • Heat a large shallow casserole pan or saucepan with a lid over medium/high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Season chicken thighs on both sides and then place the chicken in the pan skin down and fry until golden brown. Then flip the chicken and fry for a few minutes on the other side. You are simply crisping the skin and sealing in the flavours. The chicken will cook through in the later steps of the recipe. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
  • Add onion to the pan and cook until golden (the chicken would have released oil so use this instead of adding more oil). Add garlic and stir to release aromas. Add turmeric and stir in until the onion and garlic mixture is evenly coated.
  • Add carrots, fennel and follow with the advieh and stir until evenly mixed. Add flour and stir to coat the mixture. Add the tomato purée and stir in.
  • Add the stock with the bloomed saffron, the juice of 1 orange and the juice of a lemon. Stir until everything is evenly combined. Place the cinnamon stick and bay leaf in the mixture.
  • Place the chicken thighs into the pan so that they are 3/4 submerged. Add the sliced 2 remaining oranges and arrange so that they are part laying on the chicken thighs and part submerged in the casserole gravy.
  • Put the lid on the pan and place into the preheated oven to cook for 3 hours. Halfway through cooking (at 90 mins), remove pan and spoon juices over the chicken and oranges and adjust positioning if required.
  • About 45 mins before cooking time is over, remove the lid and slow cook further so the skin of the chicken crisps up a little and the casserole gravy becomes a little thicker.
  • After cooking time is over, remove from the oven. Take a few tablespoons of the sauce and mix with the barberries then pour back into the pan, distributing the barberries evenly among and on top of the chicken thighs. The barberries will be cooked in this quick method and will retain their bright red colour.
  • Because of the seasoning of the chicken, the advieh and stock, you may not need to season further, but taste once and add further seasoning if required.
  • Serve with kateh or chelow and a citrus dressed salad or torshi. For alternative serving suggestions see notes above.

Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange and Cashew Dressing

A while ago I ate an incredible Middle Eastern inspired salad bowl from Grain Kitchen – a lunchtime salad bar based in London, E1. They had a number of different themed salad bowl options such as the California Bowl or the Mediterranean Bowl but obvs I chose the Middle Eastern bowl!

Part of the salad offering was a charred red cabbage wedge with a cashew and carrot dressing. I fell in love with the vibrant color and taste of this component and set about trying to recreate it in my own home. And after a few goes the recipe below is the one I am happy to share with you. This dish is very versatile, not complicated to make and will really brighten up your plate. The dressing recipe yields a fair bit, we usually use all of it but if any remains just drizzle over a green salad – it will last up to a week if kept in the fridge.

You can eat this dish as part of a mezze-style offering…

Or you can make your own little salad bowl…

You can even eat it as an accompaniment with a pie and chips.. 


Roasted Red Cabbage with an Orange and Cashew Dressing

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Inspired by....
Keyword: vegetarian, vegan option
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Cashew and Orange Dressing

  • 75 g raw cashew nuts (soaked overnight)
  • 100 ml orange juice
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 50 ml water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)

Roasted Red Cabbage

  • 1 whole red cabbage (c. 1kg)
  • Olive oil (to drizzle over cabbage before roasting)
  • Finely chopped fresh parlsey (to garnish)

Instructions

  • Prepare the dressing by putting all the ingredients in a blender (if you have a nutribullet then blitz in that as it blends the almonds to a smoother consistency). Blitz until smooth. Pour into a container, cover and place in the fridge until ready to use.
  • Cut red cabbage into eighths so you have wedges. Then place in a saucepan of salted water and bring to a boil over a high heat. Cook until tender approx 8 minutes in boiling water.
  • While the cabbage is cooking, preheat oven to 200°C / Fan 180°C / gas 6.
  • When the cabbage is tender, remove from heat and drain water from saucepan. Drizzle the cabbage with olive oil until all the wedges are lightly coated. Place the wedges on a baking tray and place in the oven to roast for approx 20 mins until slightly charred on edges.
  • Remove the cabbage from the oven, plate up, drizzle with the dressing and sprinkle the finely chopped parsley. Can be eaten hot, warm or cold.

Sesame and Nigella Seed Flatbread

Hands down, this is the best flatbread recipe I have developed. After a a year of testing various quantities (with milk, without milk, with yogurt, without yogurt, yeast or no yeast – and the list of variations goes on), I am so happy with this fluffy, pillowy yet perfectly chewy flatbread.

This recipe does include yeast so proving time is required, but it makes a better flatbread as no yeast alternatives can be dense and become even more so if you don’t eat them straight away. I have used a combination of strong white bread flour and stone ground strong wholemeal bread flour, but feel free to change the quantity ratios of each if you prefer a more or less ‘wholesome’ bread. The use of Greek yogurt provides a delicious tanginess to the bread and the sesame and Nigella seeds provide a nutty and aromatic pop with each bite. 

See below for a number of my recipes you can dip this flatbread into – dals, dips and curry!

From top left: Persian-Style Dal; Mirza Ghasemi; Borani Laboo; Maast O’Moosir; Kashke Bademjan; Rose Harissa Aubergines and Hummus; Borani Esfenaj; Coconut and Herb Chickpea curry; Maast O’Khiar.


Sesame & Nigella Seed Flatbread

Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Proving2 hrs
Total Time3 hrs
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Middle-Eastern
Servings: 8 flatbreads
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 400 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting surface if kneading by hand)
  • 100 g stone ground strong wholemeal bread
  • 250 ml tepid water
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 7 g sachet of dried yeast
  • 100 g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (plus extra to oil proving bowl and to drizzle over dough pre second prove)
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp Nigella seeds

Instructions

  • Pour water into a jug, add sugar and yeast and stir to dissolve. Leave loosely covered for 10 minutes until it activates and has a bubbly surface.
  • Sift the white and wholemeal flours into a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir in salt, sesame seeds and Nigella seeds. Pour in yoghurt and olive oil.
  • Gently pour in the activated yeast and bring the mixture together (either by hand or slow speed on the stand mixer). Then increase speed and / or knead by hand until smooth-ish and elastic for about 8 to 10 minutes (the wholemeal flour and seeds will not result in a typically smooth dough). If kneading by hand you may need to add a little extra flour for dusting your surface as the mixture is quite wet.
  • Tuck the dough under to form a ball and place in a bowl oiled with a drizzle of olive oil, cover with cling film and then a tea towel and leave in a warm part of your home to prove until it has doubled in size (usually between 1.5 to 2 hrs).
  • Once the dough has proved, knock back gently and remove from the bowl. Divide into 8 pieces, dust with a little flour, and using the palm of your hand roll into balls. Leave the balls of dough covered with a tea towel on your work surface for about 15 mins to prove further.
  • Roll the dough pieces one by one, using a rolling pin, into a circle shape approx 20 cm in diameter.
  • Heat a medium sized frying pan or flat skillet on medium heat (allow for about 1 minute).
  • Brush one side of the uncooked flatbread with olive oil and place that side down into the frying pan and cook until bubbles start to form on top of the flatbread (approx 1 to 2 minutes). Brush the topside of the flatbread with a little olive oil and then flip and cook on that side for about 30 second to 1 minute. The aim is to get the flatbreads golden and bubbly.
  • Remove from the heat and place the flatbread in a tea towel to keep soft and warm, while you cook the others.
  • Serve warm and straight after cooking, or reheat later on either by toasting in a toaster on a low heat or wrapping in foil and warming up in a medium / low oven circa (160°C (fan oven) / 180°C (conventional) / gas mark 4) for about 10 mins.

 

 

Harissa and Lime Chicken Kebabs

Chicken kebabs marinated in harissa & lime

Simple yet delicious, this marinade for chicken can be used whether you are cooking on the BBQ, roasting in the oven, under the grill, on a griddle, in an air fryer or just frying the chunks of chicken in a pan. Either way the result is a powerhouse of flavour with very little effort required. 

One of my favorite ways to eat this chicken is an element to a salad bowl (kind of like a Buddha Bowl) with the fragrant and smokey flavors from North Africa and the Middle-East, as pictured below. But it can be eaten with anything or any way you want, whether you want to eat it as a kebab roll with the chicken wrapped in some flatbread with salad, pickles and some garlic and / or chili sauce alongside some chips; or with some rice or Tabouleh or other healthy grain based salad. 

The ingredients are simple – chicken breasts, harissa paste (any variety – I use Rose Harissa by Belazu but apricot or just the plain one is absolutely fine); crushed garlic, dried za’atar leaves or oregano and fresh lime juice. Leave the chicken to marinate for a minimum of 4 hours but for best results overnight and you will not be disappointed.

For those of you who may not be familiar with za’atar, it is a herb grown in some Middle-Eastern countries, like Lebanon, with a flavour like a cross between thyme and oregano. It is also the name for a spice and herb mixture used like a condiment.

Harissa originates from North Africa. While every region has its own variation and take on the paste, it’s particularly associated with Tunisia. It is a hot chilli pepper paste, the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, cumin and olive oil. Rose harissa contains dried rose petals, and, usually, rosewater too. This softens the heat and adds a subtle floral note to the dishes it is added to. The use of yoghurt in the marinade also tempers the heat a little further making this a recipe that can be enjoyed by the whole family. Using a shop bought paste like this really helps to reduce thinking and preparing time so I welcome these shortcuts. A little addition of extras like lime, garlic and yogurt make it more personal.

On a side note – I am slowly putting together recipes for all the other elements of the pictures as they are all too delicious not to share with you so please watch this space!


Harissa & Lime Chicken Kebabs

Chicken kebabs marinated in harissa & lime
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Keyword: chicken, kebabs, harissa
Servings: 4 (to 6)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 1.2 kg chicken breasts (about 4 to 5 large chicken breasts)
  • 4 tbsp harissa paste (I use Belazu Rose Harissa)
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • Juice of 1 large lime
  • 2 tsp dried za'atar leaves or oregano
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp butter and / or olive oil (Melted - to baste the chicken while cooking)

Instructions

  • Chop your chicken into chunks (fairly large as they will shrink when cooking). Put the chicken pieces into a bowl and then add all the ingredients except the butter and massage into the chicken until all the marinade is mixed in and evenly distributed amongst the chicken pieces. It will be a bright red / orange colour.
  • Cover and leave in the fridge for the flavours to develop for a minimum of 4 hrs but best left overnight. Take the chicken out of the fridge about 30 mins before you want to cook to bring up to room temperature.
  • When you are ready to cook the chicken (either on your bbq or under the grill on the highest setting), divide the chicken on to about 4 / 6 skewers and cook, basting with the butter and / or olive oil and turning the skewers until the chicken is a little charred. It takes roughly 15 to 25 minutes on a bbq or grill (depending on how hot your bbq / grill is).
  • Serve alongside chips, rice or lavash bread / flatbread, salad, mezze-style dishes including hummus and yoghurt dips.

Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

This recipe came about one evening when I had a jar of chickpeas, a can of coconut milk and a pillow of herbs starting to look a little pathetic in my fridge. The resulting dish totally bowled my family over and is now in the top 5 of our go to vegan dishes. 

The spices used for this curry are turmeric and coriander seeds with the addition of red chilli, garlic, ginger and coconut milk to give those familiar aromatic curry notes. The use of herbs such as dill, parsley, coriander and fenugreek bring a about a flavour profile more common to Middle-Eastern cuisine. This dish is deeply savoury but with a kick of citrus from the use of fresh lime juice to make it an all-round delightful meal.

The recipe below yields enough to feed 4. If you have fewer people to feed, honestly, don’t revise the measurements down! As with most curry-style or Persian khoresh (stew) dishes, leaving it a day for the flavours to intensify by the ingredients getting to know each other better makes the experience of eating leftovers even more spectacular than your first bite of this dish straight after cooking!

Other than the amazing herbs and spices, the real key to this dish is the type of chickpeas you can get your hands on. I always find that the chickpeas that are available in jars are larger and more buttery than tinned chickpeas. So I recommend finding a good deli or  posh shop somewhere to buy these. I actually buy mine from Amazon – a little pricey but hands down worth it!


Coconut and Herb Chickpea Curry

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Cross-cultural
Keyword: chickpeas, curry, vegetarian, vegan
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion (finely diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds (crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • Thumb size ginger (grated)
  • 2 tsp dried fenugreek
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 400 ml coconut milk
  • 720 g jar of chickpeas (drained weight aprox. 420g)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (dissolved in 250ml water)
  • 30 g fresh dill (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • 30 g fresh parsley (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • 30 g fresh coriander (finely chopped either by hand or in a food processor)
  • Juice of 1 largish lime
  • 1 red chilli (sliced finely and diagonally along the chilli - remove seeds for a milder version)
  • Salt and Pepper (to taste)
  • Some extra fresh herbs and / or sliced red chilli to garnish (coriander or parlsey or dill or mint - or a sprinkling of all of them)

Instructions

  • Place a medium-sized pan on medium / high heat and add 2 tbsp of oil. Add finely diced onion and cook until it starts to caramelise.
  • Add garlic and turmeric and stir into mixture until the aromas are released. Then add crushed coriander seeds, followed by grated ginger and stir in.
  • Stir in the dried fenugreek and place bay leaf into the pan. Then pour in coconut milk and stir (lower the heat if required to get it to a gentle simmer).
  • Leave to simmer for 5 minutes and then add drained chickpeas and stock. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  • Add chopped fresh herbs, lime juice and sliced red chilli and stir the curry until evenly distributed. Place a lid on the curry and let simmer for a minimum of 20 mins.
  • Taste the curry and adjust seasoning and / or lime juice. Garnish with some more sliced chilli and / or fresh herbs. Serve with rice and / or naan.

Khoresh Bademjan

Persian lamb & aubergine stew

This Persian stew is probably my favourite of all the khoresh dishes. A controversial statement as most Iranians would say Ghormeh Sabzi (a stew made with lamb, kidney bean, herbs and dried limes). But my love for aubergines and tomatoes makes this my number one, although really there is not much in it between this and the other khoresh dishes we Iranians cook and eat.

Khoresh translated from Farsi means stew, but technically my version of this dish should be called a casserole as it is slow cooked to perfection in an oven, as opposed to simmered on a stove.  If you prefer, you can cook this all on the stove. Just continue to simmer on your stove top (medium / low heat) at step 6 below for over 1 hour until the meat is tender and falls off the bone when prodded.

The ingredients for this amazing khoresh are lamb (on the bone), aubergines (‘Bademjan’ in Farsi), onions and some tomatoes (either halved or on the vine) placed on top to slow cook with the rest of the stew. The flavour profile of this dish is enhanced by the use of garlic, turmeric, saffron, a bay leaf and cinnamon with some tomato purée and fresh lime juice for good measure.

Although the traditional recipe for this khoresh is with lamb, some make it with beef or chicken. You can make a vegetarian version by using tofu or lentils if you fancy. If you are looking for a vegan / vegetarian Persian khoresh then check out my recipe for Khoresh Kadoo-e-Tond here (a spicy red lentil and courgette stew). You can replace the courgettes with aubergines.

The key to this dish is frying the aubergine separately before adding it to the khoresh. It really does make a massive difference to the flavour and the consistency of the aubergine, which should be soft and not spongy. You can, of course, oven roast your aubergine if you don’t want to fry them. But the recipe below is as close to the version most Iranians make in their homes.

As long as I can remember this khoresh has featured at many of our family gatherings over the years, held during the winter months. It is deeply comforting and will warm the cockles!

It is commonly served with chelow and tahdig (rice and crispy rice formed at the bottom of the pot while cooking), and further accompanied by a salad (such as Salad Shirazi), yoghurt dip (such as Maast O’Moosir or Maast O’Khiar) and pickles (Torshi).


Khoresh Bademjan

Persian lamb & aubergine stew
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 25 mins
Total Time3 hrs 45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Persian, Iranian
Keyword: khoresh bademjoon
Servings: 4 (to 6 people)
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

  • 100 ml vegetable oil (the majority of this is used to fry the aubergines)
  • 3 medium aubergines (halved and salted to draw out water)
  • 600 g to 1kg of lamb leg on the bone (ask the butcher to cut into 3 cm cubes)
  • 1 large brown onion (finely chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed or minced)
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 600 ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron (bloomed in 2 tbsp of water)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Salt and Pepper (to season)
  • 500 g small to medium sized tomatoes on the vine (I use Sainsbury's Majestic tomatoes on the vine as they are the perfect size - bigger than cherry tomatoes but smaller than medium sized tomatoes)

Instructions

Prepare Aubergines (this stage can be done in advance and the aubergine will keep in fridge for up to 3 days or you can freeze them, defrost and use at a later date)

  • Slice aubergines in half, salt and leave then in a colander to draw out the water (about 30 mins).
  • Pour 75 ml of the vegetable oil into a non-stick frying pan / skillet and place on high / medium heat. Pat the aubergines dry and then gently lower flesh side down into the oil and cook until golden / brown and soft on both sides. Cook in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. Then place aubergine slices on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

Prepare the Khoresh

  • Pre-heat oven to 140°C (fan oven) / 160°C (conventional) / gas mark 3.
  • Take a shallow casserole pan (with a lid) and place on a medium / high heat. Add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil and heat for about 1 min. Season and then seal the lamb chunks in the pan. Remove the meat from the pan and leave on a plate to rest.
  • Add 2 tbsp of oil to the casserole dish and heat for about 1 min / until the oil glistens. Add the chopped onions and cook until they turn golden / start to caramelise.
  • Add 3 crushed garlic cloves and stir into the onions. Then add 1 tsp of turmeric and stir in. Once evenly distributed and you can smell the aroma, add 3 tbsp of tomato purée and stir in.
  • Add the sealed lamb, followed by the stock, bloomed saffron, cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Add some water if you need to ensure the meat is covered by the sauce. Stir and then add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Let the mixture simmer for about 10 mins. Then turn the stove off. Nestle the aubergine halves into the stew so that they are submerged into the liquid. Place the tomatoes on top. Put the lid on the pan and place in the oven to cook for approx 3 hrs.
  • Half way through, remove from oven and spoon the juices over the aubergine and meat and adjust meat and/or aubergines gently to ensure they are in the sauce. The oil will rise to the top of the stew gravy - feel free to spoon off any excess oil which may have formed on the top. I sometimes gently lay a kitchen paper towel on the surface to soak up any excess oil. Others just mix it back in.
  • Once cooked (lamb should be falling off the bone after the slow cook), serve with rice, salad and yoghurt.