Category Archives: Iran (Persian)

Celery Stew – Khoresh Karafs

I’ve been getting fresh produce deliveries from The Produce Box this spring, and two weeks ago I received three beautiful bunches of NC-grown celery. The celery has very thin stalks compared to grocery store celery, because it’s a different variety that is able to grow in this climate. In addition, there were a lot of wonderful leaves.

That’s a lot of celery for one person!  In thinking about how to use it, I remembered an Iranian dish called Celery Khoresh, or Khoresh Karafs. Khoresh, you may remember from previous posts, is a stew usually consisting of meat and vegetables. In past posts, I have shared recipes for chicken and artichoke khoresh and yogurt-simmered chicken khoresh.  Today’s recipe is a celery and beef stew.

I looked at two recipes online and cobbled together my own version based on what was available in my pantry.   My version below will serve 4-6 people.

Celery Khoresh
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp. turmeric
1.5 lbs. stew meat (beef or lamb, cut into cubes)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and slowly saute the onions and garlic until they are starting to brown. Add the turmeric and stir to cook about 1 more minute. Then add the stew meat and turn up the heat a bit. Stir until the meat is sealed on all sides, it will probably not have enough room to brown the meat unless you have a very wide pot, and that’s ok. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a simmer.


1 Tbsp. olive oil
Celery, 3 cups chopped
2 Tbsp. dried mint
1 c. parsley or celery leaves

Meanwhile, chop up your celery into 1-inch pieces, and saute them in oil until they are starting to brown around the edges. Add in the mint and celery leaves and stir until wilted. Add to the meat stew. There should be enough water to just cover everything, but you can add more as needed.

Add 1 tsp. salt, cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours.  Remove the lid from the pot and add;

6 green onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp. lime zest
1 Tbsp. dried mint
2 tsp. dried dill
1/2 c. parsley or celery leaves
juice from one lime

Cook for another 30 minutes uncovered, so that the liquid reduces somewhat. Just at the end, stir in the juice of one lime and season with salt and pepper. Serve over rice.

It’s quite tasty, but you have to really like celery!  Which I do.

celery khoresh


International Festival, Sunday

Korean Bulgogi platter with Mandu (dumplings)

Iranian stewed okra and eggplant, and stuffed grape leaves

Egyptian Chocolate Balls – a favorite from last year’s festival and delicious again this year.  I need to figure out how to make these treats!

Samosa – this was my friend’s samosa, I actually got the samousa at the DRC (Congo) booth, and proceeded to eat it before remembering to take a photo! The DRC samousa was filled with mainly meat and very spicy – yum!

Hosting a Persian dinner

My church has an annual spring auction event to raise money for our youth group’s summer trips. This year, my friend Amy and I sold tickets to a homemade Persian dinner, which happened last night.  Most of the items on the menu were things that I had made (and blogged about) previously, during the March Persian cooking experience. Those included Pistachio Soup, Cauliflower Kuku, Chicken Kabab, and Adas Polow (this is the rice and lentil mixture shown below with chicken kabab around the outer rim of the plate).

One new item that we made was something I saw in a magazine recently. I don’t think it was attributed to Persian/Iranian culture, but it seemed to fit the overall theme. So we made these cucumber, feta and toasted walnut bite appetizers. No recipe is really required, it’s that easy – and such a delicious crunchy and salty bite. We had to hold ourselves back from eating them all before our guests arrived!

The other new item on the menu was a Persian rice cookie made with rose water. Rose water is a common ingredient in Persian sweets, though a bit unusual and “perfume-y” for the American palate. We served the cookies with a couple small scoops of mango sorbet, sprinkled with pistachios. Our cookies turned out very flat compared to those represented with the recipe on the mypersiankitchen blog, but there are probably a couple of reasons for that. One, the battery in my scales was dead, so I didn’t have a chance to verify the weight of the dry ingredients, and two – I was using rice flour purchased from an Asian market, which may have been a different consistency than Persian rice flour. Regardless of the look, the cookies tasted very good, with a melt-in-your-mouth, very airy consistency.

Overall, I think the crowd felt like they had gotten their “money’s worth”, and we had a great time fellowshipping and laughing together too!

A World of Stuffed Peppers

Studying the cuisines of many different countries also leads to the discovery of similarities or overarching themes that cross our cultures.  For example, I have seen a recipe for stuffed peppers in almost every cuisine that I know.  Since the fillings are so different, the dishes must have evolved independently, or at least have been well-customized to local ingredients and palates all over the world.  Peppers have the perfect hollow insides and are already sized for individual servings, so it’s not hard to believe that many people over the years shared the brilliant idea of stuffing them with something.  From the chile rellenos of Mexico, to Indian-spiced potato stuffed peppers, to Cuban peppers stuffed with picadillo, to seafood stuffed peppers of Southeast Asia (see below), every culture puts their own twist on it – and it’s all very, very good!

If I remember correctly, I think my grandmother stuffed raw pepper shells with some kind of cold (not baked) bread stuffing with cheese and maybe water chestnuts – I don’t even remember if it included meat.  I’m making a note to ask if she remembers the recipe the next time I visit with her.  Other stuffed peppers of my childhood in rural Virginia were filled with rice and tomato sauce, and sometimes ground beef.

Rice, tomato and meat seems to a popular combination in Europe and the Middle East, like this Iranian stuffed pepper shown below.  The Persian flavors are of course reflective of that region, with the filling being pretty similar to what you might see in a stuffed grape leaf.

Iranian Stuffed Peppers (or Eggplant)
Prepare vegetables to stuff:  Peppers should be cut in half, seeded and blanched for about 5 minutes in boiling water, then rinsed in cold water and drained well.  Eggplant should be cut in half, shaved slightly in order to stand upright, then flesh removed to leave about ¾-inch shells. Peel and drain with salt for about 20 minutes. Then rinse, pat dry, and brown on all the outer sides in a skillet with oil.

Make Stuffing:  This makes enough to stuff 2 peppers (4 halves), 2 eggplants, or one of each. Boil 2 Tbsp. Basmati rice with 2 Tbsp. yellow split peas in lightly salted water, and simmer for about 20 minutes.  Drain well.  Brown ½ sliced onion, 1 clove garlic, and ½ lb. ground beef in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. tomato paste and ½ tsp. ground cumin, stir to mix well and then remove from heat.  Add the rice mixture to the meat, along with ½ c. chopped parsley, ¼ c. chopped chives, ½ Tbsp. each dried mint and dried tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Make sauce:  Mix together ½ c. tomato sauce or chopped tomatoes, 1 Tbsp. lime juice, ¼ c. sugar, ½ tsp. cinnamon, and a pinch of saffron dissolved in hot water.

Assembly:  Fill the eggplant and/or pepper halves with stuffing and place them in a casserole dish. Pour the tomato sauce around the vegetables in the pan. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for about 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender and flavorful.  Adjust the sauce flavoring after baking, if necessary, and use it as a topping for the stuffed vegetables.


The other stuffed pepper recipe I made this month was Vietnamese, and probably originally Chinese (?) based on some of the different recipes I perused.  The pepper is stuffed with shrimp and pork and flavored with fish sauce, garlic and sesame. Since it doesn’t have a starch filler like many other stuffed peppers (bread, rice or potatoes usually), I enjoyed this dish with rice on the side. I followed this recipe from a Vietnamese food blogger, and it worked pretty well.

So as summer comes around and you have access to fresh bell peppers, I recommend stuffing them with something – maybe an easy tuna or chicken salad, or one of the options listed above.  Regardless of the filling, it’s a fun way to add some veggies into your life!

Walnut chicken, and Ginger-date confections

I stepped back into Persian cooking last night with a cookbook that’s due back to the library on April 15, Persian Cuisine by M.R. Ghanoonparvar. Since I hadn’t tried any Persian desserts yet, I decided to make a “date confection with ginger” that is cited as being from the Isfahan region (pretty much in the center of Iran).  It’s a no-bake treat, the biggest challenge was grinding the dates to the proper consistency. The recipe recommends using a meat grinder or food processor, and the ground dates actually end up looking very much like hamburger in consistency, though MUCH stickier. Except for the grinding and sticky fingers, this was a very easy recipe to make. If you like the flavor of ginger, it’s a great little pungent bite that should be a nice palate cleanser at the end or even in the middle of a meal.

Ginger-date confections
8 oz. pitted dates
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/2 Tbsp. ground ginger

Grind or process pitted dates until they’re pretty smooth, you don’t want to bite into any large chunks. Mix together the sugar and ginger.  Add half of the sugar mixture to the dates and mix into the paste. Sprinkle a cutting board with some of the remaining sugar mixture, and set the date paste on top, pressing to spread out to desired thickness. Sprinkle a little sugar on top and continue to shape the date mixture into a rectangle of even thickness. Cut into pieces of desired size (these are less than 1-inch square). Sprinkle with more sugar, but probably not using all of it.


I also made another savory, slow-cooked chicken dish called Talakuleh Ghurabeh, in the style of the Northern provinces of Iran. I changed the recipe a bit, most notably using pomegranate juice rather than sour grape juice, which seemed a reasonable substitution since I had pomegranate juice on hand in my Persian pantry. [One point of this hodge-podge month is to try and empty my pantry, not buy more ingredients!] The chicken is fall-apart tender, and it’s a nice comforting bowl with some basmati rice.

Talakuleh Ghurabeh (Chicken in a tart sauce with walnuts)
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 c. parsley, minced
1/2 c. chives or scallions, minced
1/2 c. cilantro, minced
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 c. walnuts, chopped and toasted
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. pomegranate or sour grape juice
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Lightly brown the chicken in a non-stick pot. Add 2 c. water and the salt. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, toast walnuts and saute parsley, chives, cilantro and coriander in the butter for about 5 minutes. After the chicken has cooked for 30 minutes, add the sauteed herbs and remaining ingredients to the chicken and its cooking broth, stirring well to incorporate egg.

Simmer again, uncovered over low heat for another 30-40 minutes. The ingredients ended up slightly curdled because of the egg, but that’s ok – it tastes great! Serve with rice.

Chicken Kabab

It’s the last day of March, so we say farewell to Persian cooking. But not completely, because for April I have planned a 6-month retrospective. So I’ll probably come back to Iran for a meal or two during the next month. Chicken, beef or lamb kababs are very popular in the region, so I finished with chicken kabab. Since it’s a rainy week, I didn’t get to break out the grill as planned, but made these under the broiler in the kitchen. The marinade gives the meat a very nice flavor and moisture.

Chicken (Jujeh) Kabab
1 1/2 lb. boneless chicken thighs
1/2 tsp. saffron, powdered and dissolved in 1 Tbsp. hot water
1/2 c. lime juice
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. yogurt
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. orange zest

Cut up the boneless chicken into large bites. Make a marinade with 1 tsp. of the dissolved saffron water and the remaining ingredients. Whisk and add chicken to the marinade. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator, turning every 8 hours or so, for at least 24 hours.

Skewer the chicken and grill or broil it until nicely browned and cooked through, using the following basting sauce;

the rest of the saffron water from above
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. canola oil

Grill tomatoes or other vegetables on separate skewers. Serve meat and vegetables with lavash or pita bread, fresh herbs and/or lime wedges.

Dill-icious side dishes

If you’ve been following this month of Persian cooking, you’ll know that the cuisine uses a lot of different herbs, fresh and dried.  Dill is a popular herb that is showcased in two recent side dishes I made.  My favorite was this celery & walnut dill salad.

Celery & Walnut Dill Salad
2 stalks celery, chopped small
1/3 c. chopped walnuts
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2 tsp. olive oil
Dried dill, salt and pepper to taste

Simply mix everything together except the walnuts and let sit to blend the flavors for a couple of hours. Then mix in the walnuts just before serving. This makes about 2 servings as a side dish or snack, I think feta cheese would be a good addition too.

Another dill dish was Baqali Polo, or rice with fava beans and dill weed.  I used canned fava beans, my first time cooking with that ingredient!  The recipe states that lima beans can also be substituted.

Baquali Polo (rice with fava beans and dill weed)
1 1/2 c. uncooked basmati rice
5 oz. canned fava beans or lima beans, drained (can also use fresh or dried and reconstituted beans)
1/4 c. dried dill weed

Boil the rice in salted water until al dente. Drain and rinse the rice briefly. Mix in beans and dill weed.  Steam on low heat until rice is cooked through.  The traditional rice preparation as done in a previous post for adas polow is preferred. I used brown basmati rice in this case, so I still didn’t acheive the tah dig crustiness on the bottom. One of these days I’ll use the right rice and the right pan to make that work!

Both recipes adapted from Persian Cuisine, by M.R. Ghanoonparvar