Monday, April 27, 2009

CSA week 20 - Khoresh karafs

Khoresh is a type of Iranian stew and karafs is Persian for celery. Wait, hold on, I've just did a bit more research and I'm going to say that khoresh just means stew. The term is used across the Middle East and there's so much variation in recipes that I can't really pin down what would make one stew a khoresh and another not. That said, if you look up Iranian khoresh, this recipe is what you'll turn up.

The particular version I used is from here as it's a little more complicated than the other versions I found. I probably should have made this a bit sooner as the week in the refrigerator has made the CSA celery a little rubbery, but the flavors are so close to the beet soup I made last week that I wanted to put a little space in between.

1 teaspoon saffron
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large onions, roughly chopped [I'm low on onions so I used one and one shallot]
1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 pound stew beef cut in 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
1 large celery bunch with leaves [Our CSA celery went beyond 'large' to 'huge' so I only used three quarters of it.]
3 cups chopped herbs--a mix of parsley, cilantro and mint [I'm well off mint, at least combined with saffron, so I went half and half with parsley and cilantro.]
Juice of 1 lime [or Iranian dried or preserved limes which I haven't got]
1 Tablespoon tomato paste

1. Using a mortar and pestle, grind saffron and sugar. In a small bowl, combine ground saffron-and-sugar mixture with 1/4 cup hot water; set aside for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. In a large shallow saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and onions. Cook until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon turmeric and paprika. Add beef, salt, and pepper. Cook until meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups hot water, and stir to combine. Cover, and cook for 20 minutes. [This recipe calls for two very large saucepans, but I've only got one. Instead of adding the water to the pan, I heated it up in my dutch oven on a back burner and added the beef mixture to it.]

3. Cut celery on the diagonal into 1 1/2-inch pieces. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add celery, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add parsley and mint to cooked celery. Stir in additional salt and pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add celery mixture, lime juice, tomato paste, 1 tablespoon saffron-and-water mixture (saving the remainder for another use [for instance, adding to the rice you're going to serve this with]), and 2 cups hot water to beef; stir to combine. Cover, and cook over low heat for 1 hour [or into the oven at 350 degrees for 2 hours for a more foolproof method]. Serve with Persian rice [or just plain rice if you don't feel up to making fancy rice].

Not a bad preparation for someone not entirely fond of celery as their flavor is rather washed out. The dish is fragrant with herbs and saffron. The celery flavor actually blends in with the parsley and cilantro as another herb. It isn't spicy, but the turmeric and paprika are prominent keeping the stew well localized to Iran and the broth flavorful enough to keep a mouthful of celery palatable. Beyond just that, the flavors do meld well into a tasty and unusual (to me. Your standards of unusual will, of course, vary) whole. Rather better than they melded with beets, at any rate.

If you find yourself stuck with a big head of celery, this is a fine way to use it. But if you're the sort of person who goes out and buys a big head of celery, you might want to find a recipe that plays it up a little more.

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