When I first saw that I had Iran, I though ‘What the hell am I gonna do for that’, then the brain got into gear and I remembered Iran used to be called Persia and I’ve had Persian food before. Admittedly, it wasn’t very good, thanks to the restaurant I visited, but I had the gist of the cuisine.
I knew it had to be lamb and I had visions of something with pomegranates. Finding a recipe with the former ingredient was easy, but with the latter, was not. So, I ditched the pomegranates and went for a herby lamb stew with Persian rice.
But, before we get to all that, here’s a quick note on their involvement in the Olympics… Save for a 30 year gap, Iran has been in the Olympics since 1900 and if it wasn’t 22.44 on a school night I’d spend some time finding out why they had that 30 year gap… can anyone else fill us in? Anyway, Iranians/Persians like to wrestle, lift weights and do taekwondo. I suppose I’d never really thought about it before, but I don’t think I’d have put them down as a wrestling country…
Now, the lamb recipe called for dried fenugreek leaves and dried limes and I had never used either so I was unsure where I would get them (and I’d only heard of dried limes because of some arrogant prick who’d left them in his dish to trick people into eating them on Come Dine With Me a couple of years ago). Thankfully Ozmen supermarket on London Road (Sheffield) stocked both the limes and the leaves, and at very reasonable prices too (certainly reasonable when compared to the prices I’d have had to pay to order the stuff online).
I used this lamb recipe and it was pretty straightforward, although I had to just guess what I was supposed to do with the shallots (I decided to stick them in at the same time as the herbs – I think these recipes are out to get me). The quantity of herbs was a bit of a guess too. I decided to use a whole large bag of spinach and coriander and about half a large bag of parsley (as I don’t like the stuff). I appreciate that this doesn’t really help, just go with big quantities; I did.
As the stew was cooking I was pretty concerned about the amount of citrus in there. I used three dried limes and if you’ve never used them before, you’ll just have to trust me that their flavour is INTENSE. There was the juice of two lemons in there too. Thankfully my fears faded away as the dish cooked and the end result was pretty delicious. The lamb was tender, the herbs were soft (that parsley had lost some of its intensity) and the citrus flavours had settled into the dish nicely.
Persian rice was another concern for me as the second stage of the cooking process involved cooking rice with a bit of butter and no water. Anyway, I trusted this recipe and I was right to do so. I did vary it slightly as I fried off some sliced shallots in the butter as it melted and added some saffron too. This was also a good decision, although I do think I should have fried the shallots for a little longer. Also, next time I’ll either cook the rice in the butter for a little longer, or at a slightly higher heat as there wasn’t much of a crust on the bottom.
All in all, it was a success. The lamb made six servings which means that I’ve managed to stick some in the freezer for another day. Bargain.