To Be Or Not To Be; Asked The Eggplant

by Marjan
Finally, I will be sharing with you an epic Persian comfort food recipe, Khoreshte Gheymeh, which is an earthy stew of caramelized onion, veal or beef, cinnamon, saffron, turmeric, yellow split peas, dried lime and topped with shoe-string potato fries. Where does the eggplant in the title play in? Within this post, I will actually be delivering two traditional Persian recipes: Khoreshte Ghaimeh and Khoreshte Ghaimeh Bademjoon, one stew with eggplants and the other without.


When made with attention and love,  Khoresht Gheymeh is one of my favorite stews (Ghormeh Sabzi is number one!). Khoresht Gheymeh in farsi means stew of 'finely chopped' or 'little pieces'; hence, contains cubed small pieces of beef, yellow split peas and fried potatoes. Khoresht Gheymeh Bademjoon (eggplants) is made with the same base, with the addition of fried eggplants. Not to be mistaken for Khoreshte Bademjoon, which is a delicious fried eggplant stew made with sour unripped grapes (the recipe with you earlier this summer).
Nutritious, high in protein, fiber, and selenium this classic dish sparks deep love and emotion for most Persians. What makes it comfort food? A dash of cinnamon, caramelized onion, saffron, in an earthy stew of split pea and beef topped with fried potatoes served along with aromatic Persian white rice. So much so, this stew is rarely served at weddings or celebrations, rather following religious or funeral services. But don't let that dampen your spirit and stop you from making this stew! A stew topped with shoe string fried potatoes is a fun, happy, uplifting comforting food for me! Should I ever get married, I will serve this stew for dinner and dance the night in bliss!

Serves 4-6

Two options are given below:
Classic Gheymeh (stew with yellow split peas only)
Gheymeh Bademjoon (stew with yellow split peas & eggplants)

Ingredients:

1 lb. veal shank with bone ( cut veal off the bone and cube into small bites; save bone) or beef stew chunks chopped into small cubes; veal of course is more tender and delicious and beef stew chunks is easier
1 1/2 large onion ( or 2 medium size onions); chopped into fine pieces
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups hot water
3/4 cup yellow split peas AND/OR 3 Japanese eggplants; depending on which stew preparing
4-5 small dried limes (limoo amani; sold in Persian markets)
1/8 teaspoon ground saffron
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 organic Roma tomato; sliced into 4 thin slices each (optional; for Gheymeh Bademjoon)
6 small Japanese eggplants (for Gheymeh Bademjoon)
4 potatoes; cut thin into shoe string style fires
vegetable oil

With a thin, pointy sharp knife, very carefully puncture 2-3 holes in dried whole limes and soak in hot water.

If making Khoreshte Gheymeh Bademjoon: peel eggplants, remove top and bottom ends, cut in half lengthwise long. Lightly sprinkle with salt all surfaces and place eggplants in a large colander for 30 minutes. It will sweat out bitter liquid. With a kitchen towel, wipe and remove liquid.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, bring to frying temperature 1/2 cup of vegetable oil. Once hot, very carefully add eggplants and fry all sides until golden brown (approximately 6-8 minutes each side). Remove eggplants from oil and place in a metal strainer with a plate under it to drain out excess oil.

Wash and rinse yellow split peas. In a medium size pot, add peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt and enough water to cover top by 2 inches. Over medium low heat, cook split peas until al-dente (usually 10-13 minutes). Occasionally gently stir for uniform cooking and check frequently peas as boiling; if over cooked, it will quickly crumble and turn into soup and if under cooked it will be hard to eat. Peas should not fall apart or be crushed; therefore handle them gently to remain whole. Strain cooked peas in colander and rinse with cold water to halt cooking.

In a large, stainless steel deep pan sauté onions in 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil until golden brown; stir frequently preventing edges from burning, deliver uniform caramelized onion. Add turmeric, salt, pepper and tomato paste; stir together all ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Add cubes of veal and bone (or beef cubes); sauté for additional 5 minutes. Carefully pour 3 cups of hot water and dried limes (strain lime and toss liquid; use only lime). Cover with lid and over low heat, simmer mixture to cook for an hour.

If serving Persian rice, prepare now following this recipe.

In a large non-stick frying pan, over medium heat bring to frying temperature 3/4-1 cup vegetable oil. Dry shoe-string cut potatoes with kitchen towel and add to oil. It is best to fry potatoes in 2-3 batches preventing potatoes from sticking together and render uniform frying. Be careful not to splash oil or have wet potatoes as it will cause serious burns. Stir and fry potatoes until uniformly golden. With a slotted spoon, remove fries and transfer to a large plate and sprinkle with salt; keep in a warm oven.

If preparing Gheymeh Bademjoon, preheat oven to 315° F. To stew, add yellow split pea, cinnamon & saffron; taste for additional salt and add if needed. In a casserole, lay fried eggplants lengthwise to cover entire dish. Remove bone from stew; using a sharp, small, thin ,flat utensil, remove bone marrow and add to stew; discard bone. Using a large spatula, spoon entire stew over eggplant mixture. Gently lift sides of eggplants allowing stew to blend uniformly and for eggplants not to be completely drowned in stew. Place slices of tomatoes over stew, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper; bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Prior to serving, carefully remove casserole dish from oven; sprinkle shoe-string fries over stew and serve with rice.

If preparing Classic Gheymeh with split peas only, after an hour of simmering stew, add strained peas. Continue to simmer over low heat for additional 30-40 minutes.  Remove bone from stew; using a sharp, small, thin, flat, utensil, remove bone marrow and add to stew. Discard bone. Prior to serving add saffron and cinnamon; taste for additional salt and add if needed. Using a large spatula, spoon entire stew in a serving casserole dish or large serving bowls. Top with shoe-string fries and serve along rice.

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