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).
- 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)
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.