Spinach & Plum (Prune) Persian Stew

By • January 24, 2014 0 Comments

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Author Notes: Khoresh is the generic name of a genre of food that is the quintessential pillar of Persian cooking and encompasses an eclectic variety of tastes and flavors.

Inevitably translated as "stew", khoresh is certainly stew-like or stew-ish but it is more elaborate, delicate, and dare I say sophisticated than stew. It is a slow-fusion combination of meat or poultry or fish cooked with fresh or dried fragrant herbs and vegetables, or fresh or dried fruits, grains, or legumes. A signature flavor of Persian cooking is a combination of sweet, savory and tart - and as such, a tart ingredient such as pomegranate juice, pomegranate syrup, sour grape juice or fresh lemon juice is a frequent ingredient in many types of Persian khoresh.

Spinach and plum stew is traditionally made with fresh spinach and dried yellow plums known as "aloo bokhara" that are soaked and then pitted before cooking. Prunes, however, are a common substitution for the yellow plums and the preferred ingredient by some. My grandmother made this spinach and prune stew often in winter and my mother counts it among her favorites. I can see why. It is a delicious and savory herb-infused green stew, with a delightful hint of tartness, balanced by the succulent meat and sweet taste and luscious texture of the cooked prunes. As with all other types of Persian stew, best served hot and over a bed of steamed Persian rice. Quinoa, wild rice, cous cous or flat bread may be substituted for the Persian rice instead.
Fig and Quince

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Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound stewing meat, cubed into 1" - 1 1/2" pieces (lamb or veal. Beef may also be used but Iranians in general do not cook with beef.)
  • 2 pounds fresh spinach (washed, stemmed, coarsely chopped)
  • 8 ounces prunes (or 2 cups - rule of thumb: 4-5 prunes per person served)
  • 1 large onion (finely sliced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (more or less according to tartness preference)
  • couple pinches turmeric
  • tiny pinches saffron (optional)
  • pinches cinnamon (optional)
  1. Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil in a roomy nonstick pot over medium high heat till sizzling hot. Add chopped onions. Saute till golden (approximately 10 minutes) while stirring occasionally. Add meat. Add turmeric, salt and pepper. Sautee for 5-6 minutes till the meat is no longer pink/red. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover pot with lid, reduce heat to medium low and simmer cook till meat is cooked. (Approximately 45 minutes for veal or lamb, up to an hour for beef.)
  2. While meat is cooking, saute chopped spinach in 3-4 tablespoons of sizzling hot oil in a nonstick skillet, stirring frequently, until the spinach's liquid is expelled and it reduces in bulk (approximately 5-6 minutes.) Season with salt and a pinch of turmeric. Set aside. Rinse and dry prunes. Saute prunes in a tablespoon of sizzling hot olive oil for no longer than a minute in a nonstick skillet. Set aside.
  3. Once meat is almost done, remove lid, turn up the heat till the stew is boiling. Add spinach, prunes and fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with saffron and cinnamon. Stir once with a wooden spoon to mix. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover lid and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.
  4. Once done, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice to taste. Transfer stew to a deep serving bowl. Serve hot.

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