One of my great finds of 2017 was Sabrina Ghayour’s Ghormeh Sabzi. A rich Iranian stew of lamb with fenugreek/methi and red kidney beans, the ghormeh sabzi recipe felt oddly familiar, but still foreign at the same time. Growing up, mum used to make us a stew of mutton, coriander, methi or fenugreek, mint and spinach. The base of this was onions and the meat was nicely browned on all sides before the greens were added in. This was our Hara or Green Mutton, and we would substitute the mutton for chicken quite often. Curd or tomatoes were often added to this gravy, which added a pleasant sourness that goes well with meats.
The idea is the same for Ghormeh sabzi-it is aromatic from herbs both fresh and dried, and hearty because of the beans, but it is definitely more sour, and uses dried limes. This magical ingredient adds a more potent lemony flavour to the entire stew and once powdered is an almost-exact replacement for sumac.
Dried limes are very popular in Ottolenghi recipes and he uses them in a particularly surprising way where he pierces the lime and drops them into the cooking water for rice, which adds an instant brightness to the final result. This flavour isn’t very far from our own Limbu ki achar or Indian preserved lemons, but it is definitely more potent. Plus, a little goes a long way with dried limes. For my ghormeh sabzi, and as per my lemon tolerance, two limes were enough to flavour the entire stew. You can buy dried lime powder from Urban Platter or the whole dried limes from here.
Adapted from a superb Sabrina Ghayour recipe, this Ghormeh Sabzi gets its flavour from dried black limes. Remember that less is more when it comes to this stew and start with two black limes and adjust. This stew tastes better the next day as the lemon sits in and the flavours containue to intensify.
Mutton 1 kg, preferably a mix of qorma and nihari cuts
Turmeric 1/2 tbsp
Onions 3, roughly chopped
Coriander 100g, chopped with stalks
Parsley 100g, chopped without stalks
Methi 1 large handful fresh, leaves only
Kasuri Methi 3 heaped tbsp
Red kidney beans or rajma 350g (parboiled in salted water)
Dried Limes 2-3
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil 3 tbsp
Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat. Drizzle in 3 tbsp of vegetable oil into the saucepan and when hot, add in the onions. Fry the onions in the oil until translucent. Next, add in the mutton, turmeric, some salt and pepper and work it around the pan for two minutes till it almost begins to stick.
Add in the fresh methi, coriander, parsley and kasuri methi. Again work the mixture well ensuring that nothing sticks to the bottom and burns. Season again with salt and pepper. Add in the rajma or red kidney beans. Prick two black limes with a skewer and add to the pan.
Cover with enough water to just cover the meat. Reduce the flame and let this cook for 2 hours, checking on it every 20 minutes and stirring. You’re aiming at a thicker gravy so it’s okay to dry it out a bit.
Once the gravy is done, give everything a good toss, bruising the limes a bit to release more of their flavour and check for salt. Season again if necessary. Check if mutton and beans are done. Serve this with basmati rice.
I’ve also included here another recipe for the Methi/Green Chicken we make quite often at home. Wintertime methi is really very good and you should try making both.
You can make this one pot Methi chicken in a pressure cooker too, but it tastes much better if made in a kadai.
Chicken 1/2 kg breasts, bone-in
Onions 2 medium-sized, finely chopped
Garlic 4 cloves
Ginger 2-cm piece, freshly grated
Green chillies 3-4, chopped
Tomatoes 2 medium-sized, finely chopped
Fresh Methi 1 1/2 cup, only leaves
Coriander 1/2 cup, only leaves, no stems
Spinach 1/4 cup, only leaves
Garam masala 1 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil 3 tbsp
In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over a medium-high flame and when hot, add in the chopped onions and let it cook till translucent.
Add in the garlic, ginger and chillies and saute for a minute more.
Add in the chicken, the turmeric, a bit of salt and red chilli powder and work the chicken around the pan with the heat still on medium high. Do this for two minutes at least. Stir constantly and well till the chicken starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
Quickly add in the methi and work the mixture a few more times until the mixture starts to look dry-ish again.
Add in the tomatoes, the spinach, coriander, some garam masala and a teaspoon of salt. Add a bit of water, and work the mixture again, stirring well.
Bring everything up to a good simmer and lower the flame. Put a lid on and let this cook for 15 minutes undisturbed.
Check to see if the chicken is done after 15 minutes, adjust the salt and serve.