Herbed Koofteh


I make koofteh 3-4 times a year, perhaps once every season, and every time I serve it I tell myself that I should make it more often but I don’t follow up on that. However, it is such a joy to gather the ingredients, chopping the onions, making the sauce, preparing the vegetables, mixing them all together, making small balls and finally letting them cook slowly. The aroma of fresh herbs, tomato sauce and green peppers fill the room and that is just the beginning of making this delicious and fragrant one dish meal. This koofteh is made with rice, meat and several kinds of herbs.

I must say that my mother would make the same koofteh without the use of tomato sauce and green peppers. One day I added a little tomato paste to the liquid in the pan to give it some color, I liked the enhanced taste and color so much so that now I don’t make koofteh without it. Also, in the authentic Persian koofteh, there are no green bell peppers either but that started as an experiment too. One day I added pieces of green pepper to the sauce and the final product was a mouth watering, colorful and aromatic meal. I usually add the green peppers toward the end so they can keep their beautiful colors and stay a little bit on the firm side. If you are new to Iranian food I strongly recommend making this dish. It makes about 15-20 koofteh balls.


Herbed Koofteh

Ingredients:

1 pound ground meat (beef, lamb or turkey)
1 cup rice, rinsed well
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinsed
2 eggs
2 medium-sized onions (one finely diced for frying and one grated to be used in the rice/meat mixture)
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped fresh dill
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
A few sprigs of fresh mint, tarragon and basil, washed and finely chopped
2 medium-sized green peppers *optional
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon liquid saffron
Vegetable oil

For the Sauce:

1 can of tomato sauce (16 ounces)
1 can of crushed tomatoes (16 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Water

For filling:

Chopped walnut, raisins, barberries (zereshk) or prunes


Method:

  1. Place the rice and the yellow split peas together in a medium-size pot, add 3 cups of water, a tablespoon of oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Remove from heat, drain and set aside to cool. 
  3. In a large pan saute onions in 3 tablespoons of oil until golden brown, add garlic and turmeric. Stir well and saute for another couple of minutes. 
  4. Pour both cans of tomato sauce into the pot, add salt and pepper and also pour in 2-3 cups of water. Cover and simmer on low heat while you make the meat mixture.
  5. In a large bowl combine rice and peas mixture, meat, grated onion, eggs, herbs, salt, pepper, turmeric and saffron and mix thoroughly yet gently. All the ingredients should be well distributed. 
  6. Using a scoop take about 1/3 of a cup of the mixture, round it into a ball, poke a hole in it to stuff the fillings in, close the gap and one by one, slowly place into the gently boiling sauce. 
  7. Place an upside down colander on the pot to let the steam out. 
  8. Cook on medium to low heat for an hour. Adjust seasoning and add more water if needed. 
Serve with yogurt, pickles (torshi) and warm bread.

Enjoy!

Khoresh Karafs - Celery Stew



Celery stew (Khoresh Karafs) is another healthy and delicious Iranian dish. It's a combination of meat, evenly sliced celery, finely chopped parsley, a little bit of mint (preferably fresh), fresh squeezed lime juice and the right amount of seasoning. In my opinion, what makes Iranian food tasty, especially for most of the casseroles and stews (khoreshes), is the slow cooking process and the taking time to let the food simmer in order to bring out the flavors and as we say in Iran, (ja biofteh). Khoresh-e karafs like ghormeh sabzi and fesenjoon will be fully cooked in 1 1/2 to 2 hours. However, it is better to cook them on the lowest heat setting for an additional hour at least. Most of us Iranians agree that the next day khoresh leftovers usually taste better. So, you may want to plan ahead for your next meal and cook them in advance.




Khoresh Karafs - Celery Stew

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

1 pound meat (beef or lamb), washed and cut into cubes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 head of celery, washed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 bunches fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, finely chopped or 2-3 tablespoons dried mint
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 tablespoons lime/lemon juice (can be adjusted to your liking)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil
Water

Method:

  1. In a large pot, saute chopped onions in 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat until they become light golden brown. Add the garlic and saute for an additional 2-3 minutes. 
  2. Add the turmeric and the meat, stir and brown the meat on all sides. Add salt and pepper to taste. 
  3. Then add 2-3 cups of water, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook.
  4. In a large frying pan, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, saute celery until soft, add parsley and mint, stir well and saute for another 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add the sauteed vegetables to the pot, adjust the seasoning, add more water if needed, cover and continue cooking for another hour and a half or when the meat is fully cooked.
  6. Add the lime juice toward the end of cooking.
Serve with rice and salad.

Enjoy!