A koresh, according to Najmieh Batmanglij’s tantalizing New Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies (Mage Publishers, 2003), is, “a delicate and refined stew.” And although Iran is not technically a part of Asia, the Persian empire once was, and it’s cuisine and customs have alternately influenced and been influenced by its contact with the east. Plus, it’s still cold outside and a hearty, sophisticated stew is just the right thing for now, served, of course, over a mound of steaming basmathi rice.
To prepare this recipe, I picked up a bag of dried omani limes from a new Middle Eastern store I discovered, and consulted with my Persian friend Faraz on how to properly use them. Apparently they just need to be pricked and thrown into the stew, where they soak up all the flavor. The other special ingredient which is optional, advieh, is made from dried rose petals, cinanamon, cardamom, black pepper, angelica, nutmeg, cumin, coriander and lime powder. Since I did not have rose petals or angelica, I decided to forgo this spice mix this time. But the end result could not have been better.
The stew tastes even better the next day, when as Iranians say, “Jaa oftadeh,” which literally means the stew has “fallen into place,” and all the flavors have melded perfectly. Not even a hint of garlic, ginger, or green chilies and I love it! I think you will too.
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 pound stew meat (lamb, veal, or beef), cut into 1/2 inch pieces
5 Tbsp. oil
4 whole Persian limes (limu-omani), pierced
1 Tsp. salt
1/4 Tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Tsp. turmeric
1/2 Tsp. advieh (optional)
1 large tomato, peeled and chopped
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 Tbsp. orange or tangerine peel slivers
1/2 Tsp. ground saffron dissolved in 2 Tbsp. hot water
1 pound or 2 large potatoes, peeled and French cut
1/3 cup yellow split peas
1.) In a non-stick Dutch oven, brown onions and meat in 3 Tbsp. oil. Add dried Persian limes, salt, pepper and turmeric. Saute for 2 minutes longer. Pour in 1 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low heat for 55 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2.) Add the advieh, fresh tomato, tomato paste, orange zest, and saffron water. Cover and cook for another 45 minutes.
3.) During this time French-fry the potatoes and drain on a paper towel and set aside.
4.) Cook the yellow split peas in 2 1/2 cups water and 1/4 Tsp. salt for 30 minutes. Drain and add to Dutch oven.
5.) Check to see if meat and peas are tender. Taste the stew and correct seasoning. Transfer the koresh to a deep ovenproof Pyrex dish, cover and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.
6.) Just before serving arrange the French fries on top. Serve with chelow (Saffron steamed rice), torshi (Persian pickles) and sabzi-khordan (fresh vegetables and herbs) on the side.