Epitomizing Iran’s love affair with green herbs, Ghormeh sabzi is for many people the unofficial national dish—a gorgeous green, slow-simmered stew of braised lamb with cilantro, parsley, spinach, chives, and spring onions; tangy dried limes are vital here, giving the stew its uniquely Iranian flavor.

For the best taste, make sure you get the meat on the bone; ask your butcher to cut it into small bite-size chunks and to trim off all the fat. And when you get home, give the lamb another look and trim off any remaining fat, as the dish can release a lot of oil. The amount of herbs that need chopping might look a bit daunting but it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to do and you can always stick them in a food processor—it won’t affect the taste.

This stew tastes even better the next day and freezes well. Serve it with white rice and a green salad.

Ingredients:

Sunflower oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped 4 garlic cloves, crushed
3 lb lamb shoulder, on the bone, trimmed, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tsp turmeric
Sea salt and black pepper
About 2 cups cold water
1 large bunch parsley, finely chopped
1 large bunch cilantro, finely chopped
small bunch chives, finely chopped
3 cups spinach, trimmed and finely chopped
spring onions, finely chopped
15-oz can of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaf
6 dried limes
2 tbsp lemon juice

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Preparation:

Heat 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil in a large saucepan (one with a lid).  Fry the onion for 10 minutes, until soft, then add the garlic and cook for

2 more minutes. Add the meat, turmeric, and ½ teaspoon of black pepper and brown the meat on all sides. Add enough cold water to cover the meat (around 2 cups), then put the lid on and cook on a medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Add enough cold water to cover the meat (around 2 cups), then put the lid on and cook on a medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, set aside 3 tablespoons parsley and 3 tablespoons cilantro and then place the rest of the herbs, the spinach, and the spring onions in a pan and dry fry over a low heat for 10 minutes to evaporate their water.  Stir every so often so the herbs don’t stick to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil to your pan and fry the herbs for a further 10 minutes.

After the lamb has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the cooked greens, red kidney beans, fenugreek, and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Pierce the dried limes a few times with a fork and then add them too. Simmer, with the lid on, for 50 minutes.

Stir through the lemon juice and the reserved parsley and cilantro. Press the dried limes against the side of the pot so they burst and then stir well to mix the flavors together.

Leave to cook for a final 10 minutes and then taste and adjust for seasoning, adding a bit more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, to taste. You can leave the limes in when serving, but you probably won’t want to eat them, as they can be very bitter. While I like them, they are something of an acquired taste.

Recipe by Yasmin Khan, adapted from The Saffron Tales: Recipes From the Persian Kitchen

Copyright 2016 Yasmin Khan. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury.