I remember the first time I made ghormeh sabzi. I had just moved into my own house and my father had given me a pressure cooker for my birthday. I decided to use it to make ghormeh sabzi.
The problem was I had no idea how to use a pressure cooker, and I managed to take the lid off before the pressure had been released.
Big mistake! It exploded and hit the ceiling, showering the entire kitchen, myself and my dog with a bright green sauce – it looked like Popeye had been through the kitchen in a tornado of spinach. Thankfully, over the years, I have worked out how to use my pressure cooker and it hasn’t happened since.
There are literally hundreds of versions of ghormeh sabzi out there, however my dad’s version is still my favourite. I have adapted his recipe a little – I hope that he will approve.
So, what is ghormeh sabzi?
If you ask any Persian, they will tell you that ghormeh sabzi is an iconic herb stew, akin to an English roast dinner in its significance. It is often called the national dish of Iran. It’s packed full of fresh herbs and can be made with either lamb or chicken. It is unlike any other dish, stew or tagine that I have ever tasted. It is fresh, with sharpness and warmth at the same time.
In my version, instead of using lamb chunks I prefer to use whole lamb shanks, as the bones add flavour. My dad and uncle eat the marrow out of the bones which to this day makes me feel queasy.
I always cook it at least 24 hours before eating it as it tastes so much better when the flavours have had the chance to mature. If you have never tried it, have a go at making it. It is worth the effort and with all the spinach in, it is great for you too.
Cooking time: 4 hours
Preparation time: 30 minutes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium white onions, diced
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon of turmeric
6kg of lamb shanks or 3kg of diced lamb. I use shanks and slice the meat after, leaving the bones in for flavour
1 bag of fresh spinach, finely sliced
3 big handfuls of chopped or dry sabzi (a mix of parsley, leek, coriander and fenugreek)
3 dried Omani limes, pierced (buy online)
2 tins of kidney beans
A pinch of salt and pepper, to taste
Add the olive oil to a big stewing pot over a medium heat or a pressure cooker.
Fry the onions and garlic until clear.
Add the turmeric and fry for a few minutes, stirring continuously to get rid of the bitterness before adding the meat.
Add the meat and fry gently until browned, then add the chopped fresh spinach and fry for five minutes, stirring the whole time.
Add the sabzi and the lime and continue to stir.
Once you start to smell the herbs cooking, add water up to a third of the pan.
If using a pressure cooker, cook on full until the pressure hits and it starts to hiss, then put it on low for 30 minutes. If using a pan, cook slowly for two hours, then add the kidney beans.
Leave overnight and reheat the following day if possible.
Serve with polo ba tahdig, meaning ‘rice from the bottom of the pot’ and salad Shirazi, a Persian blend of tomato, cucumber and herbs from the ancient city of Shiraz.
Rebekah Jones was born in the UK to a Persian father and an English mother. A self-taught cook and a Persian food enthusiast, Rebekah has a passion for bringing Persian and Middle Eastern food into people’s homes while showing just how accessible and delicious it is.
Rebekah is the host of regular Supper Clubs and Pop Ups and she is the writer of the ‘My Little Persian Kitchen’ blog. This recipe is adapted from My Little Persian Kitchen, Rebekah's first book.