The Short & Sweet Story of Yellow Plums & Red Ball
The other day I came home with a red ball and yellow plums. I got the bouncy ball from a deli and found the juicy yellow plums in a card box carton outside another deli with a sign above it that read: “Plums From Our Garden. 6000 Toman per kilo.”
If you’ve kept up with the current state of Iranian currency you know that the yellow plums were priced at less than a pittance. A lady was rummaging through the carton filling her shopping bag. “Are these plums any good?” I asked. “All I know is that everything they bring from their garden is good.” the lady replied. That was all I needed to know. I bought a cold bottle of water (summertime walking expeditions in Tehran are no joke) and 1/2 kilogram of the perfectly round yellow plums and right there and then resolved to make a yummy Persian plum khoresh with it. Specifically, to make a chicken with plums stew, (خورش آلو با مرغ) a delicious Persian khoresh that made its literary debut in a graphic novel called “Poulets aux Prunes” aka “Chicken with Plums” by Marjan Satrapi, the Iranian graphic novelist who I personally credit with singlehandedly reviving the graphic novel genre in the U.S. with the publication of Persepolis, her dazzling autobiographical graphic novel.
The Makings of Chicken with Plums Persian Stew (خورش آلو با مرغ)
Usually, dried bukhara plums are used for this stew but the yellow plums spoke to me — and not even in prose but poetry — and there’s no reason we can’t substitute fresh plums for dried plums for this stew. To wit, while this chicken with yellow plums stew is not the most photogenic food I’ve ever shared with you, I can tell you that it was positively the most amazingly delicious thing I’ve had in a long time. I made enough for 4 servings and meant to just eat my share and freeze the rest but dear reader, I ate more than half of it in one sitting and I’m only mildly ashamed to admit that I then used my fingers to wipe the bowl clean as well. YUM!
I assure you that you will do the same with your own aloo morgh khoresh and your fingers. It’s also delightfully straightforward and easy to prepare. Let’s go check out the recipe!
Recipe: Chicken with Plums Persian Stew| Khoresh Morgh ‘o Aloo (خورش آلو با مرغ)
4 servings | Main Course
- 1 large chopped onion
- 2 Tablespoons frying oil (I use olive oil)
- 1 tablespoon turmeric
- 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into large bite-sized chunks
- a soupcon of ground saffron dissolved in 2 tablespoons of hot water, optional
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 limes, juiced, or 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 tablespoon salt (I don’t use pepper but feel free to use some if you want)
- 1/2 kilogram (approximately 30 small yellow plums)
- Wash chicken, pat dry with a clean kitchen towel or with paper towels. Cut into big bite-sized chunks.
- Sauté the chopped onions in the frying oil of your choice until golden & softened, add the turmeric and sauté for a few more minutes.
- Add the chicken and sauté until it changes color on each side.
- Pour saffron dissolved in hot water over the chicken. (Nice but optional.)
- Combine water, lime juice, add sugar, cinnamon, and salt — stir to dissolve. Pour this broth over chicken, then cover and let simmer for 15 minutes.
- While chicken is simmering, wash plums, removing stems and leaves.
- Add the plums to the chicken, bringing it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Ideally, you should end up with a thickish saucy broth. If you feel the stew needs more water, add up to 1/2 a cup of water and simmer till achieving the saucy consistency. If, however, your stew has too much liquid, take off the lid, turn heat up all the way, and cook until excess liquid evaporates, and if you do so, make sure to keep a watchful eye during this process to avoid burning the stew by mistake.
- Do a final taste test and adjust the sweet and sour flavor of your broth with sugar and lemon juice to your liking.
You can also use dried plums for this recipe. However, you will need to soak them in water for 15 minutes to moisten and plump them.
I did not use any tomato paste because I’ve recently become a devotee of making Persian foods in the classic style of times of yore when all of Iranian cooking was done sans tomato paste. Feel free, however, to add 2-3 spoonfuls to yours during step #5 if you do like the flavoring and coloring of tomato paste.
Some people garnish the khoresh aloo morgh with barberries but honestly, I don’t see the point. But that’s just me. Feel free to sprinkle some barberries (soaked, rinsed, sauteed lightly and very briefly in frying oil) if that would rock your culinary boat.
First of all, have a spittoon ready because we are not de-pitting these plums before cooking so you’ll need to spit (as decorously as possible) the pits while enjoying this marvelous Persian khoresh. OK, I’m kidding about the spitton, but just be forewarned that there will be pits and that is OK. Perhaps just don’t break this particular bread on more formal occasions and in mixed company.
Serve this yummy yummy good for your tummy khoresh piping hot in a roomy serving bowl. It is absolutely imperative that you eat it with Persian rice. Persian khoresh is meant to be eaten with Persian rice. 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 A-list power couple of Persian cuisine. So whilst you can enjoy this delicious plummy sweet and tangy Persian stew on its own, please do yourself a favor and have it with rice as it is meant to be and do not deprive yourself of the blessed delight that is the combination of soft fluffy rice soaked with the yummy sauce of the khoresh’s broth.
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Make it and enjoy it and: Nooshe Jaan!