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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alternative Roast

Slow Roast Chicken &

Vegetable Stew with Herb Dumplings

It may not be a Persian dish but it is a firm favourite and will, in time, be a classic Sunday dish in our little family.

My husband, being English, loves a roast and so do I. It wasn’t a dish that we ate when I was growing up but with pub lunches and Christmas becoming another excuse for a family gathering, my Iranian family were introduced to the concept of the British Roast dinner. Although I love a roast, I don’t always love the amount of work and washing up involved, so this is my alternative to the traditional Sunday Roast.

All the vegetables are cooked in one pot as a casserole and the addition of fluffy dumplings are a highly satisfactory substitute for roast potatoes. The chicken is slow roasted for three hours, so you can prepare the casserole straight after popping the chicken into the oven and then get on with Sunday chores, park adventures with the kids or zoning out in front of Netflix with a glass (or 4) of wine.


The Alternative Roast

Slow roast chicken and vegetable stew with herb dumplings
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 15 mins
Total Time3 hrs 45 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: British
Keyword: family recipes, roast dinner
Servings: 4
Author: Mersedeh Prewer

Ingredients

Roast Chicken

  • 1 large whole chicken (1.8kg - 2kg)
  • 1 lemon (halved)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed - for rubbing on the chicken)
  • Fresh mixed herbs roasting herbs (sage, thyme and rosemary - usually sold as a packet of roasting herbs)
  • 2 tbsp butter (room tempertaure)
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Vegetable Casserole

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 400 g new potatoes (washed and halved)
  • 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 medium leeks (washed and chopped into 2 inch chunks)
  • 4 parsnips (washed, peeled and chopped into 3 inch chunks)
  • 300 g Chantenay carrots (washed and halved)
  • 250 g mushrooms (cleaned and quartered)
  • 8 stalks purple sprouting broccoli
  • 225 ml white wine
  • 1.5 litre chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and pepper  (I sometime use crushed / ground pink peppercorns as an alternative which gives a lovely note to the stew)

Dumplings

  • 140 g chilled butter (chopped into small cubes)
  • 250 g self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 125 ml water

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 120°C  (fan) / 140°C (conventional) / gas mark 1.
  • Place the herbs in the chicken’s cavity and around the chicken in a roasting tray. Add the lemon halves and the garlic bulbs to the tray.
  • Crush the 2 garlic cloves and add to the butter. Rub the butter into the chicken and drizzle with the olive oil. Season and place in the oven for 3 hrs.
  • After the chicken has been in the oven for 90 mins, baste with the juices and return to the oven.
  • About 15 mins before the end of the cooking time for the roast chicken, increase the heat to 200°C (fan) / 220°C (conventional) / gas mark 7 to crisp the skin. Once the skin is crispy, to your liking, leave to rest out of the oven (don’t cover) for about 15 mins.
  • While the chicken is in the oven, heat the oil in a casserole dish approx 3 litres capacity on a medium heat.
  • Add the potatoes and cook for about 5 mins. Add the flour and mix, this will help to thicken the gravy for the vegetable casserole.
  • Then add the vegetables, with the slowest cooking veg going in first, with around 2 minute intervals between each addition (carrots, parsnips, leeks, mushrooms). Hold back on the broccoli for now.
  • Add the bay leaves, thyme leaves and garlic and mix. Add the wine, if using. Then add the stock and lower the heat and let simmer until the veg is soft.
  • Season to taste. You can put the lid on the casserole once simmering or if you have cooked the casserole early on and intend to reheat prior to adding the dumplings.
  • Then make the dumplings. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like bread crumbs. Add chopped parsley and the Parmesan. Add water and form into a dough. Divide and make 8 balls.
  • While the casserole is simmering and about 5 mins before increasing the temperature of the oven to crisp the chicken skin, remove the lid of the casserole dish (you will have no further need for it during the remaining cooking steps) and add the broccoli and the dumplings and let the casserole simmer.
  • Place the casserole dish in the oven with the chicken on 200°C (fan) 15 minutes before the roast chicken has finished cooking. Check in on your dumplings half-way through the cooking time i.e. when you take the chicken out to rest.
  • Leave the casserole in the oven as the chicken is resting for a further 15 mins (overall about 30 mins in the oven) for the dumplings to turn golden.
  • Serve the vegetable casserole with the roast chicken and a side of cranberry sauce.