Make Ahead

Vegetarian Ghormeh Sabzi for times of plague

April 17, 2020
1 Ratings
Photo by ChristineB
  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 2 hours
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

My partner is Scottish-Iranian and was sad to miss out on Norooz fare this year. This is an adaptation of the famous herb stew, khoresh e ghormeh sabzi, for these lean times. We found that the addition of vegetable bouillon and beurre manié - mashed butter and flour in equal parts - was a perfect substitute for the flavour and richness normally imparted by chunks of lamb or beef in the khoresh - apart from the absence of chunks of meat themselves I really wouldn't have noticed that this was vegetarian. If you want to make it vegan then feel free to use any vegan butter substitute.

We normally make the stew with a mixture of fresh parsley, dill, cilantro, spinach, spring onion/leek greens and chives in addition to the dried herbs. On this occasion, we have been finding it hard to get fresh herbs but fortunately, my partner has picked up foraging for wild greens as a new corona-hobby. All of our fresh greens this time were found in our immediate vicinity in the Scottish countryside, but these plants are quite easily found in cities too (at least they are in London and Glasgow!) We used a mixture of nettles (careful to use gloves when picking and handling raw!), wild garlic, and ground elder for this batch of Ghormeh, and honestly didn't notice a difference in taste or texture from our usual combination of store-bought herbs and greens! To be perfectly honest, we have no idea how much of each we used, though I suspect we used more nettles (similar taste to spinach) than the others, but the total volume was 7 cups after finely chopping in our food processor.

Feel free to adjust all quantities to your own taste - the recipe is very forgiving! The preparation of this stew is not an exact science, but rather what we have found works best for us, tasting as we cook. If you have any comments or suggestions, we'd love to hear from you!

Also! The recipe could easily be made in a slow cooker. Just follow the instructions up until the point of using the pressure cooker setting on the instant pot, but instead cook on medium heat for 6 hours, or until the dried beans are creamy throughout. For stovetop cooking, I would soak the beans overnight before cooking in a large pot over low heat on the stove. Alternatively, you could of course use canned beans, and add them, drained, to the stew, before simmering over low heat on the stovetop for an hour or so, or until the flavours have melded together. —ChristineB

What You'll Need
  • 7 cups finely chopped fresh mixed greens and herbs (spinach, parsley, dill, cilantro, wild garlic, nettles - the world is your oyster!)
  • 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek
  • 3 tablespoons mixed dried herbs (our mix includes dill, chives, parsley, and cilantro. Avoid thyme, oregano, and rosemary, which don't belong in this dish.)
  • 4-8 Persian dried limes, pierced with a knife (we used 8, but ours are small and a bit old, and we also like it quite sour!)
  • 1 pound dried kidney beans (we used a mix of red and white)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable bouillon
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons softened butter (salted or unsalted is fine - whatever you have to hand)
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Set instant pot to sauté. Add 2 tablespoons oil and sauté onion, seasoning with a pinch of salt, until cooked through but not yet browned.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the fresh and dried herbs and sauté, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, dark in colour, and the excess moisture has evaporated. The herbs should significantly decrease in volume. Judge this by the appearance and smell, but this normally takes 10-20 minutes.
  3. Add the turmeric and generous amount of ground black pepper to the cooked onion and cook for one minute, then add dried limes and beans and stir to coat in the oil and turmeric. Continue to cook together for 2-3 minutes more.
  4. Add the cooked herbs to the instant pot, as well as vegetable bouillon, then fill with water until the mixture is covered by 2 inches. Set to high pressure and cook on the pressure cooker setting for 90 minutes. (We found it was necessary to cook for this long to soften the beans, since the limes add so much acidity to the cooking liquid.)
  5. This is the ideal time to start making your rice! We recommend saffron rice with a tahdig. (Samin Nosrat's recipe is pretty foolproof, or give her "Persian-ish rice" which is a Genius Recipe here a try)
  6. When the instant pot finishes, either wait for the natural release or do a manual release to remove the lid. The stew will be quite thin and watery at this point. If it seems under-seasoned, feel free to add more salt or vegetable bouillon. If you've erred on the side of caution with the dried limes, and it is not acidic enough to your taste, add fresh lime juice to taste (or whatever acidic thing you have in your cupboard!)
  7. Set instant pot to sauté, and bring it to a simmer. Mash the softened butter and flour together into a paste, then stir the paste into the simmering stew. It should thicken nicely within a minute or two!
  8. Serve hot, accompanied by a generous amount of rice! Noosh-e jaan! (Bon appetit!)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • michelle.oxsen
  • EL

2 Reviews

michelle.oxsen June 22, 2023
Loved this. I used spinach, cilantro, green onions and parsley for my greens. I was lazy and used one pot, putting the minced greens in with the translucent onions. It worked well but I've never had any version of this dish so I'm not sure if that was a bad call? Either way, I'm excited to eat leftovers for lunch now.
EL May 10, 2021
Amazing and delicious! I made it vegan by leaving out the butter. The dried limes added so much flavor. Thanks for a simple and tasty recipe.