Khoresh ‘eh Karafs – Persian Celery Stew

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Plain Persian rice or polo is almost always paired with a type of khoresh, thus forming a formidable entity known as polo-khoresh. Just think of the pair as the Brangelina A-list power couple of Persian cuisine.

There are many different types of khoresh – one more delicious than the next – and according to my mom, they are “one of the easiest things ever to make. ” Easy for you to say, mother!  But seriously, it’s true that typically, the hardest part of making a delicious Persian stew is the prep work. I guess khoresh, easygoing and magnanimously forgiving of faults, makes up for Persian rice being such a temperamental … let’s say diva.

A very delicious khoresh, one that I recall being on heavy rotation in our household, chock full of herbs and with that typical Iranian food signature flavor of bright tangy notes plus savory succulence is khoresh ‘eh karafs or celery stew. True to my mother’s word, it is  easy to make. Just chop chop chop; sautée; simmer. Basically.  Pretty much.

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In a stunning display of brevity, I’ll now cut short the banter and point you to the recipe where all is explained. I will only add one other thing:  this is worth making. Trust!

 Khoresh-Karafs

Ingredients

  • 1 pound stewing meat (lamb, beef, or veal) washed, pat dried, and cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 stalks Celery – cut into 2 – 2 1/2 ” pieces
  • 1 cup chopped parsley = 1 small bunch (washed, dried, and finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint (or sub 3 sprigs of fresh mint, finely chopped)
  • 1 medium or large onion (chopped or sliced)
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or minced
  • 4-5 limoo amani aka dried limes (or sub 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced (optional – my mother’s signature touch even when she uses limoo amani)
  • a few pinches of  turmeric
  • a pinch or two of saffron dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
  • a pinch of cinnamon (optional – my mother’s signature touch)
  • salt and pepper and olive oil

Notes re the celery:  a)  Pick pale green stalks that are ripe and tender and not too tough, or too dark green in color.  b)  The tender leaves and very delicate inner stalks of the celery, finely chopped (2-4 tablespoons) will be a wonderful and quite delicious optional addition at the end of step 3 below.   (In the Azarbaijan region of Iran, people customarily use the baby celery leaves instead of parsley because it’s milder in flavor.)  c) Cut celery either into 1″ pieces, or, 2″ inch pieces which are then cut into matchstick-shaped halves.

Note re limoo amani:  Traditionally, this stew does not require limoo amani but it is a delightful optional ingredient.  Delightful in that it adds a mild, refined, yet distinct tangy sourness to the khoresh; and once cooked, the limoo itself can be eaten.  For the uninitiated, proceed gently when eating the limoo amani as its flesh is quite sour and sometimes even bitter — be sure to cushion it with rice and stew in a given spoonful.

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Direction

  1. Rinse the limoo amanis; puncture each thrice with a fork.  Set aside for now.
  2. In a roomy pot, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil till sizzling hot. Add onions, turn heat to low, and caramelize onions till significantly reduced in size.  A minute or so into this, sprinkle with salt, turmeric and pepper.  (The caramelization & bulk-reduction of onions if done right can take 8- 10 minutes.)
  3. Once onions are done, add meat and garlic, stir a few times, then season with a bit more salt and turmeric and pepper, and continue to saute.  Once meat is slightly browned (it is no longer pink/red) add 2 cups of tepid water to the pot and bring to a boil.   Then lower heat and simmer, covered, for a total of 45 minutes (if using veal) or 1 hour (if using beef or lamb) or until meat has fully cooked.  15 minutes into this, add the herbs and celery as prepared below:
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet till sizzling hot, reduce to medium heat and saute celery, parsley, and fresh mint for 2-3 minutes, adding a tiny pinch of turmeric and salt for color and seasoning.  If you are using dried mint instead of fresh mint, saute celery and parsley on their own and add the dried mint at the final minute.  If you are using the optional 2-4 tablespoons of chopped up baby-celery-stalks and leaves, saute those at the final minute as well.
  5. After meat has stewed on its own for 15 minutes, add sauteed herbs, dissolved saffron, the limoo amanis, and one cup of tepid water to the pot. Continue to cook on low heat.
  6. At some point while stew is simmering, taste and adjust seasoning.   If there’s not enough broth, add a cup or more lukewarm water. Don’t overdo it or you’ll end up with a watery stew.  If by mistake your stew is too watery, simmer until broth is reduced.
  7. Once stew has cooked completely (45 minutes to one hour depending on type of meat) do a final tasting and adjust to taste.
  8. Final step:  combine juice of half a lemon and a pinch of cinnamon and mix into the stew. This is optional — but a signature of my mother’s cooking.

Serving

Pour khoresh ‘eh Karafs into a roomy bowl and serve hot.  Khoresh on rare instances may be served with bread but it is really meant to be served with perfect fluffy Persian rice.  Typically, either self-served or dished out by the host/hostess, each person at the table gets at least two ladles of khoresh to pour over their plate of rice and tadig.  Second helpings are inevitable and encouraged.

If you don’t want to eat it with rice, guess what?  It’ll be delicious with bread and yogurt as well.  So no problem.

All types of khoresh, including khoresh ‘eh karafs, will keep for a maximum of 48 hours in the fridge and can be frozen as well.

Make it, and enjoy it, and noosheh jaan!

Note to new readers: The Persian Rice 101 series explains the intricate process of making polo with clear, detailed descriptions, pictures and comprehensive tutorials.   For more info check the relevant following posts:

  1. Persian Rice 101 | An Introduction to Polo & Tadig
  2. Persian Rice 101 | Tools & Trade Secrets
  3. Persian Rice 101 | Rake, Wash, Pray
  4. Persian Rice 101 | How to Make the Perfect Persian Rice

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43 thoughts on “Khoresh ‘eh Karafs – Persian Celery Stew

    • Thank you Radhika joon! You remind me that I have to research vegetarian recipes for Persian khoresh (which are inevitably made with some type of animal protein) BTW, totally enjoyed your guest post blog on Fae’s blog!

  1. I have never met a meal which stars the celery, this looks wonderful. I think I’m going to enjoy browsing your site. And I love your illustrations for your cover image 🙂

    • Hi there! I like how you put it: “a meal which stars the celery” … that’s very good billing for this khoresh, I like it! I just tippy toed over to your blog and wow, instant fan.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Wow, that looks unbelievable delicious! I love how your taste vocabulary makes such great use of under appreciated ingredients, like celery! I’ve been behind on my reading, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed all of the great things you’ve been cooking up!

    • I would love to personally brag about using celery but it’s such a common khoresh – tastes kinda sorta like that rhubarb stew.

      it always cheers me up to hear from you!

    • It’s so funny I’d never thought of stew as comfort food or soul food but you’re right … it is soul food. Wonderful observation.

    • Oh he will approve! And ask for second helpings! Willing to wager ; )

      do let me know if you give it a try & nooshe jaan

    • What a thing to bring! ; ) I’m assuming she grew them herself?

      It’s food fit for a Chubby Princess is all I will say

      • Really? That’s so charming. Either way, you’d be a captivating princess I’m sure of that!

  3. This is fabulous! I’m really going to make this. It would be so refreshing to use some different spices for a change. In your top photo…the round “items” is that the limoo amani? I imagine I would have to do your recommended substitution of lemon juice. I’m feeling very inspired by this recipe!

    • Yes, exactly, those are the limoo amani! You can find them online you know – I mean you could definitely substitute lemon juice but it’s fun/delicious to use limoo amani.

      I’d be tickled pink for you to try this khoresh. Do let me know how it turns up if you do make it.
      Good luck with the remodeling!!!

      • I bookmarked it and making the list as “we speak”. You will be the fourth to know how it turned out for sure! …(after me, my hub and son!) Thanks on the remodel… completely tore out our entryway / stairs and reconfiguring…didn’t have a clue how much goes into this type of labor. New respect for all those hardworking carpenters out there!

      • Yay! And 4th is a ranking that is just and that I can live with. ; )

        All the work will be worth it at the end with the shiny new entryway. Maybe take pictures of the process for a before and after post?

      • Men and Women and a string of Christmas Lights: Interesting gouhhtt here. I think it is usually true, but I don’t think it should be. 5 Surprising Ways to Improve Your Marriage in 2011: Some great ideas here. Leave A Comment 2010 Daily Generous Husband Tips. All Rights Reserved.Also see The Generous Wife and The Marriage Bed.

  4. Oh wow, I used to make this all the time and here’s another one I forgot about. So happy to see this recipe. There are so many stews I need to make. It’s such a delicious stew. Love it!

    • There are so many Persian stews! like 10 really popular ones and then so many others. Looks like you got to sample most. I know Persian food in your hands will be even more delicious than it is normally. And that’s no ta’rof.

  5. I love celery so much and it looks so pretty with the parsley. I want to try a vegan version of this using home made seitan. My question is, how do you dry the limes or is this something I should buy in my local middle eastern market?

    • Patty, I plan on posting recipe of how to make it at home but it’s a long drawn-out process so meanwhile, yes buy them at the mid east market or order online. And Iranians basically almost always just buy them ready-made. I’m so incredibly curious to find out what you’ll make of the khoresh. Do let me know, OK? & Noosheh jaan of course!

      • I’ll look for those and I bet I’ll really like them. Google translate failed me on “Noosheh jaan.” Please remind me what that means? Will let you know how the khoresh turns out. I’m thinking of reposting yours and adding my vegan alternative recipe. Maybe in a few weeks when it gets cooler.

      • Nooseh jan means “good appetite” but its literal translation is more florid: “may it nourish/pleasure your soul/being” … Iranians are quite poetic! 😉

  6. Another beautiful post Azita! Wow… I love the fact that this recipe has celery as the ‘star’ ingredient. I have to admit that I hardly ever buy or eat celery; I do like it, and it’s an essential part of mirepoix but I’ve never used it as a central ingredient! I need to change that, right now, with this khoresh! In terms of the limoo amani, could I substitute preserved lemon with your mother’s squeeze of lemon juice? I’m wondering if the flavour profile is similar to the limoo amani. Thanks for the work that you put into educating us Azita. It’s always a privilege to read your posts! xxxx

    • Laura, I had to Google mirepoix. I had never heard of it before – very interesting.

      Re limoo amani: you can definitely substitute it with 1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice – or maybe a bit more or less to taste. The idea is to have a bit of tangy flavor in every spoonful of khoresh but not so sour that one would pucker up. Hope you’ll make it. Nooshe jaan!

  7. My azizam and I made your recipe tonight and it was delicious! Thank you. Although he preferred to leave out the limoo, cinnamon, substituted organic lime juice instead of lemon juice, and used dried parsley and dried mint. We also added cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes to give it a kick.

    • Dear alinda, I’m delighted to read that you and your azizam (love that!) made this khoresh and that it was to your liking. Thank you so much for sharing the details — I am intrigued by the idea of adding cayenne pepper to Persian stews- specially as it’s being touted for its health benefits. I’d recommend that you do try it once with the limoo amani – it gives such a nice tangy kick of flavor to food.

      Noosheh jaan! ps if you and your azizam ever want to write a guest post about a Persian recipe, just give a holler!

  8. Hi Azita, My mother-in-law taught me to make this Khoresh, but I have never put the cinnamon in. I do put it in other Khoresh recipes, (ghemeh, bademjune, lubia polo…) but never in this one. I think I will try it next time and see how it tastes!!

    Thanks!!

    JJ

  9. Hi Azita, I just wanted to let you know that I tried out the vegan version of the celery stew today, by substituting lightly fried tofu for the meat in your recipe. It turned out delicious though I would reduce the lime juice next time. I am looking forward to trying out ash eh anar next 🙂

    • I’m so glad to hear that Ahila jan! That sounds great. I think down the road I will try to post vegetarian versions of the stews. Tofu sounds like a good substitute for the meat then – specially lightly fried the way you improvised it. Good to know! Re lime juice: yes it’s really a question of taste and can be adjusted accordingly. Anyhow, thank you so much for letting me know and I hope that it was nush ‘eh jan! 🙂

  10. Azita! We made this last night and I have to say that I can’t have enough celery on this. Such a great way of making shine the celery flavor on a dish!

    Matt also adventure into making persian rice, and it was (for our uninformed and amateur standards) really good. Hope your trip is going well! Saludos!

  11. Pingback: Khoresh Aloo Esfenaj | Persian Spinach & Prune Stew | Fig & Quince

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