Qormeh Sabzi (also written as Ghormeh Sabzi) is thought to possibly be the national dish of Iran, and after just one bite I could understand why.
Although made up mostly of an assortment of fresh herbs, there is no doubt that the real stars of the show are the Persian dried limes, leemoo-amonee (or “Limu-omani”). They aren’t exciting to look at, in fact you might find them kind of ugly (J thought they looked dusty), but they add the most amazing flavour to the dish that I’m sure can’t be replicated. I was lucky enough to find some at Akram’s, in Kensington Market.
Kensington Market is also a great place to find lots of fresh herbs at a decent price. I bought almost all of the herbs I needed there.
How to describe Qormeh Sabzi? It’s a rich, dark green stew made up of lots of herbs, kidney beans, lamb and the leemoo-amonee. It’s kind of hard to describe how the herbs taste in it, because it’s very different from using fresh herbs to a dish – it’s more like when you cook with leafy greens, like spinach. The dried lime doesn’t make the stew incredibly sour – because they are whole, and dried, a mellow lime flavour comes out. That is, unless you press the liquids out of the lime after cooking – this will intensify the lime flavour, and is sometimes best done in your own dish, if you are serving a group.
If you want to live on the edge, you can even eat the lime. I like to eat the outer parts – they are very strong, and a little bitter, but so much fun!
The lamb is actually a pretty important part, and this time around I opted to go without it. I haven’t cooked meat in about 15 years, and this is the first dish that has made me want to change that. Anyone that has had lamb knows that it has a strong flavour – this is why I like it, and why others don’t. That’s why, for me, it really is important in Qormeh Sabzi. My version of the dish was missing that aspect of the flavour. Other people make it with beef instead, which would make it taste a little bit different (good for folks who don’t like lamb).
Not the prettiest picture, but soooo delicious.
If you haven’t had Persian food before, you are missing out!! So was I, until earlier this year. If you like complex flavours, stews, interesting ingredients, you should definitely try this. People who like Indian food will probably like this — sure, there are lots of differences (for one, Persian food is not nearly as spicy hot!), but there are some similarities as well (basmati rice, stews, legumes).
People in Toronto should try Pomegranate restaurant, on College St. near Bathurst. It’s usually busy, so be sure to make reservations!! You won’t regret it!
Adapted from the recipe posted on Gastronomie. Serves 4.
Note to Steph: add more herbs & spinach — done, pretty much.
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1.5 lbs of lamb OR 3-4 portabello mushrooms, in large cubes (or half of each…)
- 1 cup green onions, green parts only, finely chopped
- 1 cups spinach, finely chopped
- 1 – 1.5 cups italian flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cups dill, finely chopped
- 1/3 cups leeks, finely chopped
- 1/2 cups fenugreek leaves, finely chopped (I used dried)
- juice from one lemon
- 4-5 dried persian limes, leemoo-amonee
- 1 19oz can red kidney beans
- In a deep sauté pan, or pot, sauté the onion over medium-high heat in a couple of tablespoons of canola oil until it is a deep golden brown.
- In a frying pan, fry the herbs in a health splash of canola oil until they are fragrant and have started to soften a little. Watch them carefully as they will go bitter if burned.
- To the onion mixture, add the turmeric, frying another minute or two, then add the lamb or portabello mushrooms. Toss well to coat in turmeric, and cook until the meat is browned well on all sides, or the mushrooms have let off liquids.
- Add the fried greens to the lamb/mushroom and onion mixture, stirring well. Add 1.5 – 2 cups of water, for a thick stew consistency (not too wet). Season with salt and a little bit of pepper to taste.
- Add the lemon juice, turn the heat down, and let the whole thing simmer, covered, for 1.5-2 hours, or until the greens are mostly softened. (Note: if you are using dried beans, you will want to add them at this point)
- About an hour into the simmer, add the leemoo-amonee (any sooner and they will turn the stew bitter), pushing them down into the liquid. They will want to pop back up, so try to cover them with a few pieces of meat to keep them submerged.
- Add the drained kidney beans, and cook another 30 minutes.
Press down on the dried limes to get them to release the liquid they’ve absorbed if you want a stronger lime flavour.