Khoresht-e Aloo Esfanaj (Dried Plum & Spinach Stew)
As complicated as making Persian rice (polow) may seem, cooking stews have a generous margin of error. The low cooking temperature makes for a slow fusion of flavors specific to Iranian food and aloo (prunes, dried black plums) adds a fruity twist to the cooked meat in this recipe.
The other day, while teaching my friend how to say spinach in Farsi, esfanaj, I realized how similar the two words sound. No? He didn’t think so either, but in Farsi the letters ‘p’ and ‘f’ are interchangeable sometimes. Now, try saying espanaj. See my point?
I looked it up, and spinach is thought to have originated in ancient Persia, introduced first to India and ancient China and later to Mediterranean countries where it became popular very quickly, since it came early in spring when other vegetables were scarce. Interesting huh? Yes, I know. I am turning to the father-in-law character in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who thought everything was invented by Greeks. Well they used to be huge empires and kinda a big deal waaaay back then. They have since regressed…just a tiny bit. (Sarcasm intended)
As you will see, this recipe uses a generous amount of spinach. Don’t worry, it cooks down.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 2 med. garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- salt & fresh ground pepper
- 1 lb stewing meat (lamb, beef, etc.), cut into 1 inch cubes
- 20 oz fresh spinach, stemmed & coarsely chopped
- 1 cup pitted dried plum (4-5 per person)
- 2 Tbs, lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
- 1/3 tsp cinnamon
Time~ 1 hr min
- In a pot over med. heat, saute the sliced onion in enough oil/butter ’till slightly browned (~10 min). Add minced garlic and cook (1-2 min). Stir in turmeric and ground pepper ’till fragrant (~1 min).
- Add the meat and brown on all sides (~ 5 min). Add enough hot water to cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to med.-low. Simmer with the lid on ’till the meat is thoroughly cooked (~ 30 min).
- Stir in spinach, prunes and fresh lemon juice and salt. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover lid and cook on med.-low for an additional 15 min.
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
Serve warm over rice.