This rich and fragrant stew is one of the national dishes of Iran and epitomises the Persian love affair with green herbs. Traditionally made with lamb, my vegetarian version has an incredible depth of flavour harnessed from the addition of earthy chestnut mushrooms and emerald green spinach, making it a hearty and filling main course. For economy, I recommend buying your herbs from Asian or Middle Eastern stores where they are often much cheaper than in the supermarkets. Dried limes can also be found in Middle Eastern or Asian stores, as can fenugreek leaf which can be found in the Asian sections of some larger supermarkets where it is sometimes labelled as ‘methi’ (its name in hindi). Serve this sumptuous green stew with rice and a crunchy salad.
200g spinach, finely chopped
100g parsley, finely chopped
85g coriander, finely chopped
35g chives, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tin red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaf
500ml vegetable stock
4 dried limes
2tbsp lemon juice (plus some more, added to taste)
300g chestnut mushrooms, halved
1 tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper
Sunflower oil for frying
Place all the herbs, spinach and spring onions in a dry frying pan and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes to evaporate their water. Stir every so often so they don’t stick to the bottom of your pan. After 10 minutes, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the herbs for a further 10 minutes.
While the herbs are cooking, take a large saucepan and fry your onions in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.
When your greens are ready, add them to your saucepan along with the red kidney beans, turmeric, fenugreek leaf, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Add 500ml of vegetable stock and then pierce the dried limes a few times with a fork and add them too. Simmer the stew with the lid on for 30 minutes
When the stew has been cooking for 25 minutes, fry the mushrooms in a little vegetable oil over a high heat until they have browned on all sides. Add them to the stew and stir through 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Press each dried lime against the side of the pot so that they burst and then mix well to bring all the flavours together. Leave to cook for a final 5 minutes and then adjust the seasoning to your taste adding a bit more salt, pepper and lemon juice if you’d prefer. A note before serving – you can either scoop out the dried limes or leave them in for aesthetic effect but perhaps advise your guests not to eat them as they can be a little bitter. Whilst I love them, they can be an acquired taste when eaten whole and their flavour will have already infused the stew by this stage. Enjoy!