x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

These tangy and tart Iranian dishes are rich in flavour

Recipe Qormeh sabzi is one of Iran's most popular dishes, while fesenjan uses pomegranate molasses as the magic ingredient.

One of Iran's most popular dishes, this tangy casserole recipe wakes up the flavours of slowly stewed lamb and beans by adding fresh green herbs to the pot shortly before serving. The recipe varies widely: beyond the herbs listed below, you can also use dill, celery leaves and spring onions, while some people prefer to cook these along with the spinach. If you can find dried limes, these also make a great alternative to lime juice, stewed along with the meat and removed before serving.

500 grams cubed lamb 1 tin red kidney beans or 200 grams dried kidney beans, soaked in water overnight 1 onion 2 leeks 2 teaspoons turmeric 3 bunches fresh spinach 2 heaped tablespoons coriander leaf 2 heaped tablespoons flat-leaved parsley 2 heaped tablespoons chives 2 heaped tablespoons fenugreek leaves 350 ml water juice of 5 limes 4 tablespoons oil Peel and chop the onion to a fine hash. Heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed casserole and add the chopped onion. Cook until it is slightly translucent, then stir in the turmeric. Cook the onion for another two minutes, then add the cubed meat, frying it until nicely brown all over. Add the water and bring the pan to the boil. If you are using dried, pre-soaked kidney beans, add them now. Cover, reduce the heat and leave to simmer gently for 75 minutes, or until the meat is tender. If you are using tinned kidney beans, they should be added about 40 minutes into the cooking time, so that they don't become too mushy. Chop the leeks into thin rings, then sweat them until soft in a frying pan with the remaining two tablespoons of oil. Trim the spinach and herbs of stalks, chop them finely and add to the leeks. Cook them briefly over a low heat, until the leaves soften and just start to leech their liquid. Stir the spinach, leeks and herbs into the meat, pour in the lime juice and simmer for a final 10 minutes. Serve the dish (garnished with a few extra chopped herbs) with buttered, steamed rice, and perhaps a side dish of yoghurt with cucumbers and mint. Serves four.

Pomegranate molasses is the magic ingredient that makes this Iranian celebration dish so delicious. A tart, fruity syrup made by boiling down pomegranate juice, it's generally available in shops stocking Lebanese and Syrian groceries. If you have trouble finding some (it can also be bought online) then substitute half the stock for pomegranate juice, and add the lime juice from the chicken marinade. I personally like this dish nice and tart (it cuts through the richness of the walnuts), but many people prefer it slightly sweeter, so the amount of sugar you use should be at your own discretion.

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces 200 grams walnuts 500 ml stock 150 ml pomegranate molasses 2 medium onions, finely sliced juice of 4 limes 2 teaspoons sugar ½ teaspoon turmeric ½ teaspoon cinnamon ½ nutmeg salt and pepper olive oil Place the chicken in a flat dish and pour over the lime juice, coating the meat thoroughly. Refrigerate and marinate for an hour or so. Meanwhile, put the walnuts in a blender and grind to a fine rubble. When it's ready, remove the chicken from the juice and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat some oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and fry the chicken until nicely brown, then set aside. Reduce the heat to medium and sweat the onions gently in the same pan. When they have softened slightly (after three to four minutes) add the spices, stir them thoroughly to coat the onion, then cook for two minutes more. Pour in the stock and give the bottom of the pan a good scrape to dislodge any dried-on juices. Add the browned chicken, sugar, ground walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Bring to the boil then leave on a moderate simmer for 25 minutes, until the chicken is tender and the walnuts have shed some of their oil. Correct the seasoning and serve with buttered rice. Serves four.