Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lamb Khoresht with Split Peas and Fried Potatoes

Every time we ate this wonderful dish in Iran, I puzzled over the fried potatoes on top. Why would you add these when the dish was most often served with rice? I even considered making them “optional.” What I discovered when I made the dish for myself was how much the potatoes softened and rounded out the rather intense flavor of the dried limes, adding a nice mouth feel as well. Even with the hassle of frying them, they play a very important role in the dish and I would highly recommend including them.

½ cup yellow split peas, soaked in water for 30 minutes or overnight
1 medium onion, chopped
4 dried limes, washed, dried, and pierced with the fork
1 pound lamb, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons powdered dried lemon or lime
Salt and pepper to taste
2½ cups boiling water or stock [I prefer chicken stock]
Note: I heated my stock in the microwave.
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons lemon juice, optional
Note: It may not be needed if you use the dried lemon or lime powder.
2 tablespoon liquid saffron, see directions below

2 medium potatoes
vegetable oil
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoon chopped parsley or cilantro

1. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy sauté pan or a cast iron Dutch oven. Fry the onion until golden.
2. Add the lamb, turmeric, lime or lemon powder, whole dried limes, salt and pepper. Stir well and fry until the meat is golden brown all over.
3. Add the boiling water or stock and reduce the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and simmer on low heat until the meat is cooked. It should be tender enough to cut with a fork. [The recipe calls for 45 minutes to 1 hour but mine took a much shorter period of time—like 15-20 minutes. It all depends on the tenderness of your meat.]
4. Drain the split peas and add to the pan. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20-30 minutes or until the split peas are cooked. They should be soft while still retaining their shape. Add small amounts of boiling water or stock if the mixture looks too dry.
5. Add the tomato paste, lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of the liquid saffron. Cook for a further 10 minutes on a low heat. You can make the khoresht ahead to this point and refrigerate until you are ready to serve it. Before serving, reheat gently and remove the inflated dried limes as best you can.

6. For the garnish: While the khoresht is heating, cut the potatoes into ½-inch x 2-inch pieces like small French fries. Place them in a bowl of cold water unless you plan to cook them right away.
7. Heat about ½-inch oil in a heavy cast iron frying pan until hot but not smoking. Drain and dry your potatoes. Slide them into the hot oil. Cook until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. If you need to keep them for a short period of time, remove from the paper towel, transfer to a plate and keep warm in a 250º F. oven.
8. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon liquid saffron to the toasted almonds and stir to combine.

9. Serve the khoresht in a shallow bowl or a bram. Garnish with the fried potatoes and the nuts. Sprinkle with the parsley or cilantro. Best served with rice to soak up the delicious sauce. Cucumbers with Yogurt and Mint is also very good with it.

To make liquid saffron: In a small cup, mix ¼ teaspoon ground saffron with 4 tablespoons boiling water. Stir, cover the cup, and let sit for 3-4 minutes. It is also possible to make half a recipe.

You can find both the dried limes and the lime/lemon powder at Middle Eastern or Persian food stores. Zand’s is located in Albany, CA on Solano Avenue, blocks from my house. I’m so lucky.

Serves 4
Adapted from Jila Dana-Haeri’s New Persian Cooking: A Fresh Approach to the Classic Cuisine of Iran

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