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 and 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.
Ingredients you need
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.
- Beef stew meat: For stew meat, you can use London broil or chuck roast if you cannot find stew meat at your butcher. If you want a bone-in option, you can also use beef or lamp shanks. If using bone-in meat, approximately 4 shanks should work in this recipe.
- Celery: You will use both the greens and the stalks of the celery in this stew.
- Rhubarb: Traditional khoresht karafs does not use rhubarb. The addition of rhubarb adds some more sour flavor. Read more about this in the next section of this post.
- Onion: The base of every Persian stew starts with a brown onion.
- Beef broth: I simmer my stews in beef broth for more flavor. Many people just add water instead.
- Lemon juice: So much sourness in this recipe! Lemon juice add a different kind of sour as compared to the rhubarb or dried limes.
- Dried limes: Persian dried limes (limoo omani) are very distinct in flavor. You can purchase them at middle eastern markets or online. You pierce the whole limes or chop them before adding to the stew. You can also use ground dried lime. If you do not have dried limes, substitute with more lemon juice.
- Fresh herbs: parsley and mint
- Ground saffron: Khoresht karafs is simmered with a bit of saffron. If you use high quality saffron you will need less as it is more aromatic than lower quality saffron.
- Flour: I use a little bit of flour when I brown my stew meat. This is totally optional. You substitute with rice flour if you want a gluten free option, or skip altogether.
- Pantry staples: Extra virgin olive oil (or any vegetable oil), turmeric, salt and pepper.
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.
1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add chopped onions. Cook until onions start to soften, approximately 7 minutes then add salt, pepper, and turmeric.
2. In a large bowl mix together stew meat salt, pepper, turmeric and flour until meat is coated evenly. Raise the heat to medium-high, add stew meat and brown all sides, approximately 7 minutes.
3. 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.
4. Wash the herbs and remove the thick woody stems. Spin herbs in a salad spinner to dry completely. Using a food processor (or chop finely with a knife) chop parsley and mint.
5. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and olive oil. Sauté chopped greens for 5 minutes then add to the meat mixture.
6. Add another olive oil to the hot skillet and sauté the chopped celery. Season celery with salt then add to the stew, along with ground saffron.
7. Cook stew covered over low heat for another 45 minutes. If using rhubarb, stir in chopped rhubarb during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Serve stew over white rice.
Recipe Tips and FAQs
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.
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! 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.
- 2 lb beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- ¾ tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp all-purpose flour (optional)
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- 2 cup beef broth
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 2 dried limes, quartered
- 3 cup parsley, packed
- ¾ cup fresh mint, packed
- 2 bunches celery, chopped into ¼-inch slices (about 11 cups)
- 2 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into ¼-inch slices (optional)
- ½ tsp ground saffron
- In a large bowl mix together stew meat ½ tsp salt, ¼ tsp pepper, ¼ 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 ½ tsp salt ¼ tsp pepper, ½ 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 ½ 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.
Serving Size:2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 392Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 150mgSodium: 1014mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 52g
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