Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ghormeh Sabzi - my favorite Persian dish!

My aunt and uncle live in Montreal and my childhood long weekends and breaks from school were spent visiting them. I always looked forward to seeing them, going into the city, and eating the delicious food they always made. My aunt is Iranian (and a fantastic cook) and makes all sorts of delicious foods that I have no idea even where to start if I were to want to make them, but there is one in particular that I just absolutely love. Ghormeh Sabzi. It's a green stew that you can make with chicken, beef, lamb, whatever meat you wish, or even vegetarian, plus greens, obviously, and kidney beans. I beg for her to make it everytime I visit, but since I am barely on the east coast these days, I haven't had it for years, so I decided it was time I try making it myself. I found a recipe online and had her edit it to be more like hers, and tried it out. The result? A grand success! She has always served it with basmati rice cooked with saffron, and with tahdig, which is a crusty layer that forms on the edge of the rice if you do it right. I also made this (it's a favorite of mine), and so I'll include recipes for both.

Ghormeh Sabzi
Serves 4

Ingredients: 1 bunch parsley, 2/3 bunch cilantro, 4-5 scallions, 1 medium onion, olive oil, 2 t turmeric, 1 t cumin seeds, salt & pepper to taste, 1.5-2 lbs chicken (or desired meat), lime juice, 1 lime, 1 can kidney beans (unsalted if possible).

Directions: Rinse, dry and finely chop all greens. When you think they are chopped enough, chop them for a few more minutes, then you'll be good. :) Only use the green part of the scallions, save the tips for another recipe. Alternatively, you can use all of the scallion but use only about half of an onion. Put all of the greens together in a bowl and put to the side. Chop the onion finely and add to a saute pan with 2 T of oil, cook over medium heat for a few minutes. Add turmeric and cumin seeds to the onions and continue to stir and cook. Dice the chicken and when the onions begin to brown, add it to the onions. Now depending on how you would like to cook it there are 2 options. Option one is on the stove in a few hours, option 2 is in a crock pot during the day.

1. Move the ingredients to a big pot. An enameled cast iron or other heavy pan is best, but whatever you've got. If it's a good pan, you can just saute the onions and chicken in this pan. Continue to cook until the chicken is browned on all sides. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, 1/4 - 1/2 cup of lime juice and 1 lime, quartered. If you have access to a store that carries them, use dried limes. Add the greens, stir. cover and let cook on medium low heat for at least an hour. Add the can of beans and stir. You can drain the beans or not, depending on the consistency you would like. I drained mine. Add salt and pepper and stir all ingredients. Cover and cook again for at least another hour. When getting close to serving time, remove the cover and let the stew cook down until it is not too soupy. Though it's called a stew, I like it best with little 'broth'.

2. Once the chicken has browned on all sides, add to crock pot. Add 2 cups of water and the greens. Add 1/4 - 1/2 cup of lime juice and 1 lime, quartered. If you have access to a store that carries them, use dried limes. Set to low and cover. Let cook all day. About an hour to half an hour before serving time, add beans to the mix and continue to cook. If there is more liquid than you would like, transfer the dish to a pot as described in option 1 and let cook uncovered until it has cooked down to the consistency of your liking.

Ta da! That's it! Now for the rice...

Saffron Basmati Rice with Tahdig
Serves 4

Ingredients: 2 cups basmati rice, 1 T olive oil, 1 t milk, 1 T butter, 1 pinch saffron.

Directions: Boil 2 cups of water. Add olive oil, milk and butter to a heavy pan over medium heat. With those ingredients warming, move the pan around so that the oil coats (or makes contact with) the whole bottom of the pan and up an inch or two on the side. Add saffron to a pyrex measuring cup and pour the boiling water over it until you reach the 2 cup mark. Pour in 2 cups of water (not the boiling water) to the oiled pan and let sit uncovered to warm. Before the water boils, add the rice. Shake the pan a little to settle the rice. Pour the saffron water into the pan, cover and turn heat to low.

Cook the rice for 15-20 minutes. Do not stir the rice at anytime. About 10 minutes into cooking, put a dish towel or paper towel between the pot and the cover, make sure it doesn't get close to the flame if you have a gas stove. What works well is to use a dish towel and just tie the corners together so you've essential wrapped the cover. This allows steam to escape so that a better crust can form.

Check the rice every few minutes starting at about 12 minutes and see what the edges look like. If you are doing the full 2 cups of rice it may take more than 30 minutes to cook, but you want to keep checking it just to be sure. You should be able to see a bit of a crust forming. If you can't tell, use a spatula to kind of pull the edge from the pan and see if there is a crust. You want a deep golden. When ready, run a spatula around the edge of the pot between it and the rice. Take a large plate and put it over the pot, quickly flip upside down. If the seal worked well, it should slip right out, carefully pull the pot straight up so that it leaves the rice cake intact on the plate. If nothing happens, flip it back over and run the spatula around again, a little more aggressively (ie, try to get the spatula down to the bottom of the pan a bit, not just the sides). If it still doesn't release when you flip it, then use a firm spatula to make a slice across the middle and try to just carefully scoop it out, almost like a piece of pie or something. I usually sprinkle the crust with a little salt if you like. If the crust turned out of the pot, then cut it like a cake and serve 'slices'.

Use basmati rice and if you have time, rinse the rice with cool water in a mesh strainer a few times. A lot of people soak the rice for 20 minutes or so also, but I only do that if I have a lot of time on my hands, so I usually skip that step. If you soak the rice, use a little less water when cooking it. Use a 1:2 ratio, so if you use 1 cup of rice add 2 cups of water. I usually cook 1/2 c rice and 1 c water when its just me.

Serve a slice of the rice and then serve the sabzi over the rice (not on the crust though!). Enjoy!


  1. Elspeth, this is awesome! And it's so interesting that the rice is really close to how a friend from Ecuador cooked his rice - according to him, how they always made rice in Ecuador.

  2. I want some of this-probably the entire dish!

  3. i am totally going to make this sometime
    - jennie

  4. Ummmm... you need to add fenugreek to the herb list. Not sure that I have ever had it without it. That should be the main ingredient. Good job on the rice! Makes me want to make a pot for dinner tonight. The bottom of the rice is called tadehk. Emphasis on the K sound at the end. We usually have it with stewed beef. Quick tip- cook stew with a dried lemon. And when it is time to let the pot rest, finish with a small spoon of lemon juice. Good Work!

  5. I can't read anything..the text is bad :)