A Quintessential Persian Stew
Shared by Ayala Hodak
Recipe Roots: Tehran, Iran > Holon, Israel > Tenafly, New Jersey
Ghormeh Sabzi is one of those dishes whose name says precisely what it is. Ghormeh in Farsi means stew and sabzi, herbs. The verdant stew is packed with greens, made hearty by the addition of meat and beans and brightened with aromatic black Persian lemons. While it’s wonderful year round, it’s perhaps best as winter’s chill starts to set in.
Growing up in Holon, Ayala Hodak’s mother Yafa (born: Maheen) Saadia made the stew on Friday nights and holidays. Her recipe, which uses beef and black eyed peas, is influenced by the two women who taught her to cook, Ayala explains. When she was very young, that was her mother, who lived in Tehran. And, when she was older, in Israel, it was her mother-in-law Dalia. (Read more about her story here).
“When she met my father and got married, there were things that she remembered,” from her mother’s cooking, Ayala explains. Spending time in the kitchen with Dalia “brought other memories,” and recipes, that Ayala grew up with. She brought this one with her when she moved to the United States almost 20 years ago and continues to make it on occasion for her family in New Jersey.
Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Herb Stew)
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Time: 3 hours
12 dried black Persian limes, halved and seeded
9 cups water, divided
1 cup black eyed peas, soaked overnight
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1½-inch pieces
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
5 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 bunches parsley (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
3 bunches cilantro (8 cups leaves and tender stems), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 bunch mint (1½ cups leaves), washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 leek, green part only, sliced into ⅛-inch strips and washed
3 tablespoons dried savory
3 tablespoons dried mint
3 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
2½ teaspoons ground cumin
1. Place dried Persian limes in medium heatproof bowl. Bring 1 cup of the water to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the dried limes. Let sit until ready to use.
2. In large stockpot, place the beef chuck and cover with the remaining 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam off the top. Reduce the heat and simmer and cook for 1 hour, skimming the foam as needed.
3. Add the beans to the pot and increase the heat to a boil for 5 minutes, continuing to skim any foam off the top. Add the dried Persian lemons with their soaking liquid and reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for another hour.
4. Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook without any oil until they begin to sweat, 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and continue to cook until golden brown, 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl and add all of the remaining ingredients.
5. Once the beans are tender, add the onion and herb mixture to the pot and stir to incorporate. Cover and continue to cook until the greens have wilted and the stew is fragrant, 20 to 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt as needed and serve.
Note: This recipe can be made in less time using a pressure cooker to cook the beef while you simmer the beans on the stovetop. Then, add the beef to the beans with the herb mixture and simmer until the greens have wilted.