Khoresh Aloo Esfenaj | Persian Spinach & Prune Stew
You may recall that Khoresh is the quintessential pillar of Persian cooking – a genre of food that encompasses an eclectic variety of tastes and flavors. More elaborate and sophisticated than a typical stew, khoresh is a slow-fusion combination of meat (or poultry or fish) cooked with fresh or dried fragrant herbs and vegetables, or fresh or dried fruits, grains, or legumes.
This recipe is for a type of khoresh known as aloo esfenaj – although some call it the other way around: esfenaj ‘o aloo. It is made with lots of esfenaj (spinach) and also plenty of aloo (plums.) Typically, the type of plums used for the khoresh aloo esefenaj are dried yellow ones known as aloo bokhara , but prunes (dried black plums) are a common substitution, specially outside of Iran where aloo bokhara are not easily found.
My mother reports that my grandmother used to often make khoresh aloo esfenaj — and it is one of my mom’s favorites. It is one of my favorites types of khoresh as well. There’s something undeniably luscious about the combination of cooked prunes, spinach and meat — with that signature flavor profile of Iranian food of being harmoniously savoury, tart and sweet all at once.
As notoriously complicated as Persian rice is to make, Persian stews make up for it by being quite forgiving and easy going, and this delicious khoresh is no exception. In the spirit of keeping things short and sweet, let’s click our heels and head straight over to the recipe.
- 1 pound stewing meat, cut into 1″-1 1/2″ cubes( preferably lamb or veal, beef may also be used but Iranians in general do not cook with beef)
- 2 pounds (washed, stemmed, coarsely chopped) fresh spinach
- 8 ounces pitted prunes (rule of thumb: allow 4-5 prunes per person served)
- 1 large onion (finely sliced)
- a few pinches of turmeric
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice ( more or less according to tartness preference/taste)
- a tiny pinch of saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6-8 tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 3-4 tablespoons of oil in a roomy nonstick pot over medium high heat till sizzling hot. Add chopped onions. Saute till golden (approximately 10 minutes) while stirring occasionally. Add meat. Add turmeric, salt and pepper. Sautee for 5-6 minutes till the meat is no longer pink/red. Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover pot with lid, reduce heat to medium low and simmer cook till meat is cooked. (Approximately 45 minutes for veal or lamb, up to an hour for beef.)
- While meat is cooking, saute chopped spinach in 3-4 tablespoons of sizzling hot oil in a nonstick skillet, stirring frequently, until the spinach’s liquid is expelled and it reduces in bulk (approximately 5-6 minutes.) Season with salt and a pinch of turmeric. Set aside. Rinse and dry prunes. Saute prunes in a tablespoon of sizzling hot olive oil for no longer than a minute in a nonstick skillet. Set aside.
- Once meat is almost done, remove lid, turn up the heat till the stew is boiling. Add spinach, prunes and fresh lemon juice. Sprinkle with saffron and cinnamon. Stir once with a wooden spoon to mix. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover lid and simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes.
- Once done, taste and adjust seasoning with salt and lemon juice to taste. Transfer stew to a deep serving bowl. Serve hot.
Khoresht ‘eh aloo esefenaj is (like all the other types of Persian stew) is traditionally meant to be served with a bed of fluffy Persian rice. Alternatively, however; you may enjoy this Persian stew over a bed of quinoa, or, with flat bread.
Hope you liked the recipe! And you guys, don’t forget to keep in touch with me while I’m away via Facebook and Twitter. or Instagram. Miss you and I’m waiving hello – as I tuck into a delicious cholo kabak – all the way from Iran!