Persian Classics: Meat & Yellow Split Peas Stew with Dried Limes & Saffron (GHEIMEH)

I’m so excited about today’s post as it’s one of my personal favourites and of course a popular Iranian dish among the natives and others – a stew called GHEIMEH served with rice and some thin-cut chips (or french fries) on top. What could be better, ha? 😉 To me, this amazing dish encapsulates the very essence of Persian cuisine with its wonderful and glorious aromas of saffron and dried limes. It’s most delightful and very delicious indeed.

Before I go through the recipe, I’ve got to explain a few things to those of you new to this dish and Persian food in general, so please read on…

Specialty Ingredients in the Recipe

Most of you must have heard of spices such as saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg etc., but there are a few that might be new to you, so here’s a brief intro…

Whole Dried Limes

A very special ingredient, these limes are quintessential flavours of some classic Persian dishes. You could buy them in almost any Middle-Eastern food shops or even online. They could also be ground and used as powder to add aroma and tartness to a dish. But be very careful not to use too much or your dishes would taste too sour/bitter!

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Rose Powder/Ground Dried Edible Rose Petals (GOLE SORKH)

This amazing condiment comes from a special variety of roses in Iran (from which rose water is made), so it’s incredibly aromatic (smells heavenly!) and a wonderful addition to dishes, just like a pinch of magic.

To be honest, I’ve never had to buy it as my mother makes me enough to last me a lifetime! lol but I imagine you could buy them in Middle-Eastern food shops or online. I’ll do more investigations and let you know in future posts. Meanwhile, you could substitute it in recipes with rose water, even though they’re not exactly the same.

About the Meat

Traditionally this stew is made with lamb because the beef in Iran is usually too tough. However since I’ve always cooked in the UK, I’ve made it with beef as it’s good quality and relatively quick to cook, plus it’s much leaner than lamb and doesn’t stink! Having said that though, the British lamb smells a lot nicer than the Iranian counterpart, so the choice is yours; use whichever you prefer 🙂

The Main Challenge of the Recipe

Cooking the yellow split peas; the aim is to cook them thoroughly without mushing them. This is usually much easier said than done, and those of you who have ever attempted making this stew know what I’m talking about. The reason is that the cooking time varies depending on the variety and age of the yellow split peas. Some need soaking overnight, others don’t; in fact for some types is a bad idea to soak them overnight. So to overcome this issue, I tend to cook the peas separately and according to the packaging instructions (I buy mine from supermarket brands with proper instructions to be sure); then once I’m happy with the texture, I’ll add them to the stew towards the end of the cooking time. Seems to do the trick, and as they say: “Jobs a good’un!” 🙂

SERVES 4

Ingredients

  • 600 g extra lean beef casserole steak, washed & cut into small cubes (you could use lamb instead
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and very finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp pure clarified butter (the health-conscious could use vegetable oil instead)
  • 1/8 tsp ground turmeric
  • 750 ml water (could use beef stock instead if you want a richer taste)
  • 150 g (3/4 cup) yellow split peas
  • 4 small whole dried limes
  • 1/4 tsp saffron, ground (see here)
  • 3/4 tsp ground dried rose petals (optional; if not available, could use 1 tsp rose water instead)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

 

Method

  1. Place a 20cm deep casserole pan on medium-high heat (gas mark 4). Warm up the pan, then add 1tbsp of the clarified butter and turn the pan to cover all the surface.
  2. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes until golden brown.
  3. Add the meat and fry for 10 minutes until brown and the juices have cooked down. Add the turmeric and stir, cook for another minute.
  4. Cover the meat with the water and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low (gas mark 1), cover and cook for 2 hours. (Note: after the first hour, stir the stew, check the water level, and if not enough to cover the meat, add 50 ml of hot water).
  5. Meanwhile, wash the yellow split peas in water a few times, then cook in a small pan over medium heat, removing the foam on the top. Drain and set aside.
  6. After 2 hours, poke the limes with a fork/knife (two holes each), add them to the pan  and stir. If needed, add a little bit of water to cover the meat, put the lid back on and cook for another 30 minutes till the limes slightly soften and release their aroma.
  7. Towards the end of the cooking time, add the peas. Boil some water. Add the saffron to a small mug and pour the hot water on top and cover. Let it brew for a couple of minutes. Then add along with all the other spices and seasoning. Stir and take it off the heat.

 

Serve with thin-cut chips/french fries on top and rice. Recipes to follow…

Bon appetit! (or as we say in Persian, NOOSHE JAAN!)

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