A long time ago I met a lady. I suspect we met via Twitter – as I have met many of my good friends – and we tweeted back and forth a lot. One day we had a sofa day at her flat, she cooked me Thai Green Curry, I met her lovely mum, and I think we realised that we thought alike.
No bullshit, no fancy airs, true to our real friends and LOVING the food.
Now, first a thing that I need to get off my chest. When I say ‘loving the food’, we are both damned capable cooks. Hell, she’s a chef, my goodness, you’d think that would mean someone can cook, but it doesn’t always mean they can cook food that makes me WANT it. Sabrina can, and does, with alarming regularity. But she also eats like your average person, too. I see those Haribo and those Scampi Fries.
Not every meal needs to be a gourmet feast, or a from scratch masterpiece. You might think that strange coming from me, as I cook from scratch so much, but that does not mean I am against shortcuts, or convenience foods.
There are days when it’s beans on toast, or shop bought pizza, a takeaway or even a crisp sandwich if I am that tired, and THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT.
I do not, and never will, hold with shaming people’s eating choices. Ever. You may worry about their health, and that’s understandable, but their health is nothing to do with you, plus you have no idea how their particular body works, so keep your opinion and your advice in unless they ask you for that advice. Even then, take it easy, unless you are actually a medically and nutritionally trained Dr.
If your workmates only want a cheeseburger or a Maccy D’s chicken sandwich for their lunch, that is their right to do so. Not everyone cooks, not everyone wants to. Just because you do, doesn’t mean they can, or even want to. Their choice. If they eat one every day, then that is still none of your beeswax, unless they spill it on you or get ketchup on your desk.
Keep your nose out of other peoples lunches, and eat your own.
Onto the recipe.
This is one of Sabrina’s recipes, a veritable Persian staple. She shared it on her website, quite recently, so if you head there, she’ll give you the history of this dish.
TLDR: everyone does it differently, nobody can agree, so do it the way you like. But do try it Sabrina’s way first, because it is truly delicious. Don’t worry about the amount of herbs, they work, and give you such a fresh, intensely vegetal dish. I’ve eaten it almost every day since I made it, and I love it.
Ingredients (plus the way I did it)
1kg lamb neck fillet, cut into ¾ inch chunks (I used leg, as neck fillets were nowhere to be found.)
1 tablespoon of ground turmeric
2 large white onions, roughly chopped
100g coriander, finely chopped, stalks and all
100g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, stalks and all
2 big, generous handfuls of dried fenugreek leaf (methi in Indian shops)
4-5 dried limes (or 6-7 preserved lemons, halved, pips removed)
2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed in a sieve
Salt and pepper
Oil for frying
Preheat a (very) large saucepan over a medium heat, drizzle in a generous amount of oil (it coated the bottom of the pan) and fry the onion until softened. Mine just started to catch around the edges, and wilted a bit.
Add the lamb and seal it, (this takes longer than you think, as there’s a lot of it,) then add the turmeric, season well with pepper and stir well. (Wear a pinny, turmeric does NOT come out of clothing.)
Add the dried fenugreek leaves and coat the lamb well in it, adding a little more oil if needed. (Yes, it is very pungent. Don’t worry about it, the taste becomes a lot more gentle.)
Next, add the fresh herbs and stir fry them until completely wilted so they have turned from a bright vibrant green to a dark and thoroughly wilted almost-forest green, although without letting them burn. (I think this took around 15 minutes for me.)
It is so important to wilt the herbs down properly as this is what will enable the sauce of the stew to have the right consistency, so ignore everything you know about keeping things green and vibrant, this is the Middle East and we do things differently. <---- this cracked me up. It’s true.
Then, season the whole stew generously with Maldon sea salt* (you should check seasoning again about an hour into cooking time) and then prick the dried limes and add them to the pan (if using preserved lemons, add them in just 30 minutes before you serve) and cover the contents with just enough boiling water to barely cover the meat and reduce heat to a low-medium heat and cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
I like to check in on the stew after 20 minutes to ensure its not on too high a heat, before leaving it for the remaining cooking time. Do not be tempted to add more water, a slightly thicker herb sauce is what you want to achieve. If your sauce looks like its drying out, reduce the heat (especially if using gas) but also remember that placing a lid on top of the pan will ensure you preserve/increase liquid volume inside the pan.
I covered mine initially as lamb leg needs a bit more cooking, but did the whole thing on a gas diffuser, and cooked it for about 3 hours, uncovered for the last half hour, which is when the kidney beans went in.
The fenugreek melds in with the other herbs, and the whole becomes a fresh but soft flavour, with the rich undertones of lamb, and the fresh herbs become almost spinach-like.
The colours as you cook and when the dish is finished are simply gorgeous.
I served mine with plain buttered rice, but it is perfectly fine on its own. A spritz of fresh lemon over the dish is good too.
This is definitely something I will cook again, once I’ve worked my way through my freezer stash, though I have to cook it when my husband isn’t around as he really doesn’t like that fenugreek smell. It does hang around a bit, I agree, and I think it’s lovely but I really do understand why he doesn’t like it.
So – go try it! Have fun! Sabrina’s first two books, Persiana and Sirocco, are already out there, and there’s a third on the way soon.
*Maldon has a mild flavour, whilst still having that salt tang.