Mint and parsley are used as the base for this classic Persian stew. And with the addition of rhubarb, this Persian Celery Stew (Khoresht Karafs ba Revas) has even more flavor and tang.
Stews are the staple of Persian cuisine. Everyone loves ground beef kabob (koobideh) and chicken kabob (joojeh kabob), but those meals are not served everyday. Stews, rice and soups are a central part of the daily Persian family meal.
And one my family’s favorites is Persian Celery Stew (Khoresht Karafs). Don’t be surprised that a stew heavily laden with vegetables would be a favorite among kids and adults. It is a very delicious adn fragrant stew.
For most Americans, when you mention a stew, you think of chunks of beef, potatoes and carrots in a thick beef sauce. Persian stews are quite different, but something very special. Almost all of them feature a vegetable like eggplant (khoresh bademjan), herbs (gormeh sabzi), okra (khoresh bamieh), squash (khoresht kadoo) and of course, celery.
Many Persian stews have a tomato base, while a few use an herb base. They almost always include a meat, usually beef or lamb. But many people lighten it up by using chicken, fish or even omit meat and make it vegetarian.
For the meat base in this recipe, I chose to use beef, cutting up London broil into 1-inch chunks. It can also be made with beef or lamb shanks. If using the shanks, you will need to cook the meat a little longer than listed below.
Herbs used in khoresht karafs
In Persian cooking, herbs take center stage. We use herbs as a side to our kabob or eat them with cheese, sabzi khordan. We even bake them with eggs to make a delicious herb crustless quiche, kuku sabzi.
For Persian celery stew, the herbs used are parsley and mint. I almost always use fresh parsley and fresh mint when I make my stews because they are more flavorful and aromatic than their dried counterparts. Sometimes I do not have enough herbs then I add in a bit of dried along with the fresh.
Many middle eastern markets sell herb packets to make these different dishes, using only dried herbs. But trust me, their flavor is different. It’s fine to use in a pinch, but once you use fresh and taste the difference, you won’t go back.
When I am making the herb based Persian stews, I like to sneak in some healthy greens for my family to eat. This can include spinach or kale. You do not want to use too much though, because you want the herbs to shine in this dish. You also do not want to use any strong flavored or bitter greens as they can alter how the stew tastes.
Adding rhubarb to khoresh karafs
Khoresh karafs is traditionally a celery stew. But it can be prepared a couple of different ways. One way is to add rhubarb to the stew. Persians have a love affair with lemons and limes and all things sour. Most stews use dried limes for tang and flavor, and this dish is no different.
Rhubarb is equally tart, so when it’s in season, I like to add a few stalks to my Khoresh Karafs for extra zing. Rhubarb melts quickly as it cooks, so when you need to add it during the cooking process depends on your preference of texture.
My husband likes to bite into the individual pieces of sour rhubarb, so I add them in the last 20 minutes of cooking. Sometimes less if I am using frozen rhubarb. My family likes it just enough to get hot and soften slightly. You can cook it longer for it to melt more into the stew, distributing its sour flavor throughout the dish more evenly. It’s all up to you.
Another way to serve khoresh karafs is with artichoke hearts. I use frozen artichoke hearts and not the oily marinated kind. Once the stew is done, I transfer it into 9×13 oven safe dish and top with the artichoke hearts. Let it bake for 20-30 minutes at 350ºF and then serve.
Can I make Persian stews in advance?
Some stews are a bit labor intensive because the herbs have to washed and prepped before it goes into the stew. But because Persian stews are typically made with herbs and vegetables , they taste even better the next day, and the day after that, etc… Many people make their stews at least a day before you serve it, for better flavor.
This works wonders when you are prepping for a big family gathering. Leftovers can also be frozen and reheated at a later time. Just remember that the vegetables will not be as firm as they were when you first cooked them.
How to serve khoresh karafs
And of course, when it comes to serving any Persian stew, it is always over steamed basmati rice. And when I am talking about basmati rice, I am talking about white basmati rice. Some Persian stews taste equally delicious over brown basmati rice, but I think the nuttiness of brown rice doesn’t pair well with the sourness of celery and rhubarb.
- 2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp all-purpose flour (optional)
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- 2 cup beef broth
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 dried limes, quartered
- 3 cup parsley, packed
- 3/4 cup fresh mint, packed
- 2 bunches celery, chopped into 1/4-inch slices (about 11 cups)
- 2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into 1/4-inch slices (optional)
- 1/2 tsp ground saffron
- In a large bowl mix together stew meat 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/4 tsp turmeric and 2 tsp flour until meat is coated evenly.
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add 1 TBS olive oil.
- When oil is hot, add chopped onions.
- Cook until onions start to soften, approximately 7 minutes and add 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric.
- Cook for a 2 minutes, then raise the heat to medium-high, add stew meat and brown all sides, approximately 7 minutes.
- Stir in beef broth and lemon juice.
- Using a wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits of meat from the bottom of the pot.
- Add dried limes to the stew, reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 2 hours, stirring the stew every 30 minutes.
- Using a food processor (or chop finely with a knife) chop parsley, mint and spinach.
- Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 TBS olive oil.
- Sauté chopped greens for 5 minutes then add to the meat mixture
- Add another 1 TBS olive oil to the hot skillet and sauté the chopped celery.
- Season celery with 1/2 tsp salt then add to the stew, along with ground saffron.
- Cook stew covered over low heat for another 45 minutes.
- If using rhubarb, stir in chopped rhubarb during the last 20 minutes of cooking.
Serving Suggestions: This is one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day. Serve with basmati rice.
Cooking Tips: This dish can also be made vegetarian by omitting the meat and substituting whole mushrooms. Also use vegetable broth instead of beef.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Serving Size:2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 150mgSodium: 1014mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 52g