One of the most popular dishes for Iranians is the Iranian Lamb and Herb Stew, which they call Ghormeh-e Sabzi. This dish is a splendid testimony to the Persian love of herbs and fragrance, and is a harmonious melange of texture and flavor. For an equally fulfilling vegetarian option, double the kidney bean portion to make up for the absent lamb. When the Persians were invading the lands of Israel, they brought also this dish to the people. When they finally left, they left behind the recipe. Today you can eat this in Iranian restaurants.
It takes about 3 hours to make this dish and of course, it has its many customizations, as you can see on the images and all of them taste wonderful thanks to the herbs and fragrance of this dish.
115g/4oz/heaped ½ cup dried red kidney beans, soaked overnight
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
1 handful of chives, finely chopped
1 handful of fenugreek leaves or 1 tbsp dried fenugreek
1 handful finely chopped dill leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
2 handfuls of parsley leaves
2 handfuls of coriander/cilantro leaves
400g/14oz boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 2cm/¾in cubes
4 whole dried black limes (limu amani), pierced with the tip of a knife (optional)
juice of 2 lemons
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chelow Rice, to serve
Greek yogurt, to serve
Put the red kidney beans in a deep, heavy-based saucepan and cover with water.
Bring to a rolling boil over a medium heat and continue to boil for 10–15 minutes, until the beans are tender but with a slight bite to them. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish over a medium heat.
Add the onion and leek and fry for 5 minutes until soft and golden.
Add all the herbs and stir well, then cook for 10 minutes until fragrant, stirring often.
Increase the heat to high, add the lamb and stir well to coat with the onion and leeks, then cook for about 2 minutes until the meat is browned on all sides.
Add the drained kidney beans to the pan, cover with water and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to low, then cover with a lid and simmer for 1½–2 hours, or until the beans are soft, the meat is tender and the sauce reduced and well blended.
When the stew has been simmering for about an hour, add the dried limes, if using (any sooner and they will turn the stew bitter), pushing them down into the liquid.
They will tend to pop back up, so try to cover them with a few pieces of meat to keep them submerged.
Just before serving, season the dish with lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and mix well.
Although these are known by Armenians as missahatz, by Turks as lahmacun and by the Lebanese as lahm b’ajeen, the basic idea is the same: spread meat on bread. The best flatbread pizza I’ve ever had, second to this recipe of course, was at an Armenian bakery called Furn Ikhshanian, in Zokak el Blat, a district of Beirut. The reason for this was their paper-thin and crispy dough. Flatbread pizzas belong to the Manaquiche family, and while Manaquiche are considered a breakfast food, they are enjoyed throughout the day, and there is a predominant after-club culture of tucking into these after a heavy night out! They’re best when washed down with some savory yogurt shake. And you know what? They are also available in Israel! At the markets and at certain (Lebanese and Turkey’s) restaurants.
Spiced Lamb flatbread Pizzas – missahatz
Spiced Lamb flatbread Pizzas – lahm b’ajeen
Spiced Lamb flatbread Pizzas – lahmacun
In order to make such pizza, it will take about 40 minutes, and that of course on the size and how much customization you want to apply. As you will see looking at the images, there are many different possibilities you can apply.
2 large onions, very finely chopped
4 large plum tomatoes, very finely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
400g/14oz finely minced/ground lamb
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp hot chilli flakes
2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 Arabic Bread dough
plain/all-purpose flour, for dusting 3 tbsp pine nuts
Undressed Herb Salad
Savoury Yogurt Shake
Put the onions and tomatoes in a bowl. Note that they must be chopped almost to a paste.
Sprinkle the paste with the salt and set aside for 5 minutes, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Put the well-squeezed tomatoes and onions in a bowl with the lamb, sprinkle with the cinnamon, allspice and chilli flakes and drizzle with the pomegranate molasses, then mix well.
Preheat the oven to 250˚C/500˚F/Gas 9.
Divide the bread dough into 4 balls of equal size (about 125g/4½oz each) and dust the work surface with flour.
Roll out each ball to about 30cm/12in in diameter (the dough should be paper thin).
Using your fingers, gently spread one-quarter of the meat mixture evenly and thinly across each piece of dough.
Sprinkle the pine nuts over the pizzas.
Transfer the pizzas to perforated round pizza crispers and bake in the oven for 5–7 minutes until the edges of the pizzas are golden and crispy.
Alternatively, use baking sheets to slide the pizzas straight onto the oven shelves.
Serve with Undressed Herb Salad, Harissa and Savoury Yogurt Shake, with lemon halves for squeezing.
Kafta is the Middle East’s version of hamburger meat. It can be shallow-fried, molded onto skewers for barbecuing or baked with vegetables, as here. I prefer the texture of the kafta when it’s mixed by hand, but if you want to use a food processor, create the paste first in it before adding the meat. Pulse for 2 minutes, but be sure not to overwork the meat or it will be tough.
The time it takes to complete Baked Kafta is about one and half hour and you can use it for anything you like. Actually, the Baked Kafta is a type of meat ball. One chef used the Baked Kafta for in his spicy soup.
1 large onion, very finely chopped, plus 400g/14oz/1¾ cups onions, cut into
2 handfuls of parsley leaves, very finely chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, very finely chopped
500g/1lb 2oz minced/ground lamb or beef
1 tbsp sea salt, or to taste
1½ tsp ground allspice
2 tbsp olive oil
600g/1lb 5oz/4 cups tomatoes, cut into ½cm/¼in slices
heaped tbsp tomato purée/paste
Put the chopped onion and the herbs on a chopping board and continue chopping until the mixture forms a fine paste.
Transfer the paste into a large bowl, add the meat and 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the allspice.
Knead the mixture with your hands for 1–2 minutes until well mixed.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F/Gas 6.
Generously grease the base and sides of a 6cm/2½in deep, 35cm/14in diameter, baking dish with the oil.
Spread the meat mixture across the base of the dish to a thickness of about 1cm/½in.
Cover the entire meat layer with tomato slices, then season with another teaspoon of the salt.
Next, form a layer of onion slices and then potato slices.
Sprinkle with the remaining salt and allspice.
Dilute the tomato purée/paste in 6 tablespoons water, mix well and drizzle the mixture over the potato slices.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.
During the last 10 minutes of cooking, remove the foil, then change the oven setting to grill/broil (or heat a separate grill/broiler and move the dish into it).
Grill/broil on high for a few minutes or until the potatoes are golden and crispy.
This dish is Iraqi and variations are by definition a default So many Israeli Arabs make their own version of this excellent dish. It’s important to use large onions because the layers have more surface area, making them more suited for stuffing and rolling. The number of onions required will vary depending on how many layers you can get out of each onion.
If you like them more meltingly soft, you can cook them for a little longer. The dolmas are easy to make, but you do need to make sure the onions are blanched enough to be very pliable. The stuffed onions are usually cooked with other dolmas, such as Vine Leaves with Bulgur, Figs & Nuts but never cabbage leaves, as they’re too similar in appearance to onions, potentially confusing diners.
In several restaurants you have this dish and in almost all the restaurants the chef makes a change or doesn’t keep himself on the original recipe and it’s also not needed.
This recipe takes about 2 hours to make and it’s a bit complicated (26 steps). With other words, you need to follow the instructions carefully. And this recipe if fully open for any customization you can think of.
250g/9oz minced/ground lamb
55g/2oz/¼ cup short-grain white rice or risotto rice
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp dried mint
1 tbsp tomato purée/paste
1 tbsp pine nuts (optional)
about 1 tbsp sea salt, plus extra for seasoning
4–5 large white onions
1 tbsp tamarind paste
juice of 1 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
Greek yogurt, to serve
green salad of your choice, to serve
Put the lamb, rice, spices, mint and tomato purée/paste in a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper.
Toast the pine nuts, if using, in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes until golden and fragrant, shaking the pan often.
Add the toasted pine nuts to the lamb mixture and mix well to incorporate.
Half-fill a large saucepan with water, sprinkle in the salt and bring to the boil over a high heat.
Meanwhile, slice off the tops and bottoms of the onions.
Without cutting right through them, cut the onions in half length ways, stopping about halfway through each one.
Remove the skin, then gently remove the root strands and any shorter layers that will be too short for stuffing and rolling.
Set these aside for use in the stuffing later. You should have 5–6 outer layers per onion to work with.
Once the water reaches the boil, add the onion layers that are suitable for stuffing, then reduce the heat to low, cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the onion layers begin to soften and come apart.
You want them to be pliable enough so that they are easy to roll.
Remove the onions from the pan using a slotted spoon, reserving 480ml/16½fl oz/2 cups onion broth.
Set aside until cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, finely chop a small onion’s worth of the reserved shorter onion layers.
Add the chopped onion to the meat mixture and mix well. (Any leftover onion layers can be transferred to a zippable bag and kept in the refrigerator for use in other recipes, or finely chopped and frozen.)
Once the blanched onion layers have cooled, gently separate the layers, being careful not to tear them.
Working with one layer at a time, place a spoonful of the stuffing into each onion layer (the size of the spoon will depend upon the size of the onion) and roll tightly, following the curve.
If you are preparing the dish ahead, you can freeze the stuffed onions at this point, if you like.
Transfer the stuffed onions to a deep, ovenproof, heavy-based pan, about 32cm/13in in diameter, and layer them snugly, seam-side down.
Put the tamarind paste in a bowl and stir in most of the reserved onion broth.
Add the lemon juice and season with salt, then pour the mixture over the onions.
Put a heatproof plate on top of the mixture to prevent the onions from moving around and losing their shape.
Put the pan over a medium–high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hour or until the onions have softened, the rice is tender and the juices have somewhat reduced.
Remove the lid and the plate and cook, uncovered, for a further 15 minutes.
During the last 10 minutes of cooking, change the oven setting to grill/broil (or heat a separate grill/broiler and move the pan into it), then grill/broil the onions on high for 5 minutes until they are golden brown and lightly charred, adding some of the remaining reserved broth if they appear to be drying out.
Serve with yogurt and a green salad.
Instead of stuffing the whole thing in an onion, you can also stuff the onion in the lamb or serve it next to it.