It was a strange coincidence last week when I forayed into Persian cuisine with this sumptuous lamb stew… and it happened to be the Persian new year. A couple of weeks ago I made pancakes for breakfast for the first time in ages and ages… and later that day I realized it was pancake Tuesday. I must have food-focused holidays imprinted in my subconscious.
I recently bought a cookbook – The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia, and it has me totally enamoured. I’ve read it cover-to-cover about three times. I haven’t cooked from it a ton yet, but I love Louisa’s style: fruit- and vegetable-centric recipes and inspired flavour combinations (mostly classic Iranian, plus many of her own twists). Think pomegranates, lime, fresh herbs by the bunch, yogurt, sumac, pistachios, saffron – really gorgeous flavours.
This was the first recipe I tried, and I can’t believe I changed it (well, I can believe it actually). But my good friend Fariba is a wonderful Persian cook, and has made this (or a similar) stew for me with lamb. She always puts so much love into her food that I got the warm fuzzies when I thought about making it again in my own kitchen. Other than swapping the chicken out for lamb, though, I did follow Louisa’s recipe.
The foundation for this stew is walnuts, providing a toasty-nutty backdrop, and a generous pour of tangy-sweet pomegranate molasses. The flavour is really interesting – quite tart indeed, but balanced by lots of onion and earthy beet.
I like that there aren’t many ingredients – really simple to make, with impressive results. I served mine with fragrant saffron rice and a green salad. The only thing I’d do differently next time is double the recipe!
- vegetable oil, for searing
- sea salt
- 2 lbs lamb leg or shoulder, cut in 1" cubes (or skinless chicken legs, per original recipe)
- 2 yellow onions, finely diced
- 1 cup walnuts, coarsely ground
- ½ cup pomegranate molasses
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup peeled and grated beets
- Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high; add a splash of oil and brown lamb on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
- Drain all but 2 tbsp fat from the skillet. Add onions and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, until golden. Stir in walnuts and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add pomegranate molasses and stock; bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and return lamb to the stew. Stir in beets. Cover and cook until lamb is tender, about 1½ hours. Season to taste with salt.