Obviously, the most popular Persian food we know in the US is kabob but in reality Persians only make them for special occasions or when they’re going to the nature to camp or picnic.
Stews play a big role in defining Persian cuisine. Here’s some good information from Wikipedia;
“Khoresh Persian: خورش is a generic term for stew dishes in Persian cuisine. The word is a substantive of the verb xordan (Persian: خوردن) “to eat” and literally means “meal”. The word is often misspellt Khoresht (Persian: خورشت) in writing, which is attributable to linguistic hypercorrection. An alternative, although rare spelling, is Khorisht.
It generally refers to different stews in the Persian cuisine, and is typically served beside polo (rice). In Persian cuisines there are many different Khoresh with many unique ingredients. Vegetarian Koreshs are not uncommon. Iranian stews use liberal amounts of saffron to give a distinctive and fragrant taste. The most popular Khoreshs are Khoresh Gheymeh, Khoresh Ghormeh Sabzi and Khoresh Fesenjaan. These stews feature in Mesopotamian cuisine also.”
One of the most popular Persian stews is called “khoresht baademjaan”. Literary translated, khoresht means stew and baademjaan means eggplant. The original recipe has chicken in it which is great but I wanted to try a veggie version this time. This recipe serves 2 to 3 people but feel free to double it for more guests.
Eggplan Stew & Rice
- 2 big Chinese eggplants
- 2 big tomatoes
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon raw grapes (optional)
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed saffron
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup chopped onions
- 1 full cup basmati rice
- Vegetable or olive oil as needed
- Cut the tomatoes and eggplants in any form or shape you like as long as they are not too long or too thick
- Grill or sauté the eggplants and tomatoes. (The eggplants should be golden before you take them off the stove if you’re sautéing them)
- Heat up some of the oil in a separate medium size pan and sauté the chopped garlic and onions with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt, half of the saffron, black pepper, and turmeric
- Boil 2 cups of water with 1 teaspoon of the sea salt and 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a medium pot on high heat
- Add the rice and let it boil (make sure the temperature is right so the water doesn’t spill) until it absorbs the water and the rice is soft in the outside but hard in the center when you press it between 2 fingers (below picture)
- Turn down the heat, cover the rice and let it cook for about 10 minute on low heat
- Add the sauté tomatoes and eggplants to the mix of garlic, onions and other ingredients you already sautéed
- Add the tomato paste, raw grapes, and 1 and 1/2 cups of water and let it simmer for about 10 minutes
- To make saffron rice, when rice is ready, mix the remaining of the saffron in 2 spoons of hot water in a small bowl, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the rice and mix them to get a beautiful light orange color
- Mix the saffron rice with the rest of the rice in the pot and serve it
To release saffron’s flavor, it has to be crushed and soaked either in a couple of tablespoons of hot water or in a stew. Here’s a video I created to show you how it’s done.
The salad is a mix of chopped Persian cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions with lemon juice, olive oil and some dried mint. It’s something like salsa without the heat and just the flavors.