Persian Eggplant Stew (khoresh bademjan ba ghooreh) is a classic Persian stew made with fresh eggplant, tomatoes, yellow split peas and pickled sour grapes.
I love introducing Persian cuisine to newbies because it is always welcomed and so eagerly devoured. Whether it is Persian kabob or Persian stews, the simple flavors come together to make an incredible and memorable meal. And the stew I am sharing with you today is equally as special.
As with many Persian stews, they typically feature a vegetable and served with meat and served over a bed of chelo, basmati rice with saffron. The stew I am sharing with you today, khoresh bademjan ba ghooreh, highlights eggplants in a tomato base with yellow split peas and sour grapes.
Why you must try this recipe
One of my favorite Persian stews is this khoresh bademjan. It is a tomato based stew with either beef or lamb that features another one of my favorites: eggplant. Oh. My. GAWD. It is such a delicious stew.
Many people add yellow split peas to the stew, becoming khoresh gheymeh bademjan. As with most Persian stews, the sour component comes from dried Persian limes, limoo omami. I like to make it with gooreh, sour grapes.
Yes, you heard that right. Unripe, green grapes are a favorite among Persians. I go more into detail on this ingredient below.
Let me just tell you that this stew doesn’t have strong spices or crazy flavors. It is not spicy – Persian food is NOT spicy. But these wonderful ingredients give plenty of flavor. It really is a very special dish.
This wonderful stew is a staple dish in the Persian household and is one my favorite Persian dishes. It is fragrant, incredibly flavorful, and is one of my favorite ways to eat eggplant.
As with most Persian stews, it tastes even better the next day. This is definitely a dish that you can make ahead 2 days in advance and just reheat for your dinner party. And for me, making a spectacular dish over the course of a couple days, helps me out a lot.
What is ghooreh?
Ghooreh are Persian sour grapes. They are green and small and more than just unripe grapes, but offer a wonderful sour flavor that is different from lemon juice or dried limes. Persians love all things sour, so we use many different ingredients to offer this flavor profile.
Sour grapes are in season in late spring thru summer and you can find them in middle eastern grocery stores. You can also find ghooreh pickled if you can not find fresh ghooreh. I have used both for this recipe, just drain out the sour grapes before adding them to the stew.
If you can not find ghooreh, you have several other sour substitutes you can use. There are dried limes, in powdered form or whole. If you can’t find these limes, you can also use lemon juice. Ghooreh also comes in dry powder, too, so you can also sour your Persian eggplant stew with this.
If you do find ghooreh and you have extra you can’t use right away, you can either freeze them or pickle them. To pickle them, clean off stems, rinse ghooreh then place in a clean hot jar. Cover with hot vinegar, either white or apple cider vinegar, and let it cool to room temperature. You can store in the refrigerator or hot water can the pickled ghooreh.
Ingredients you need
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- Eggplant: You can use any kind of eggplant you like. If you use the big American style eggplants, cut them into rounds and be careful that they are filled with a lot of seeds. I prefer to use baby and Japanese eggplants as they have less water and less seeds.
- Beef stew meat: You can also use beef shanks or lamb shanks. You can also use chicken thighs.
- Yellow split peas: If you do not have yellow split peas, you can omit this. Some people do not serve this dish with split peas.
- Onion: A simple brown onion is all you need for this dish.
- All purpose flour: I dust my meat with a little flour to help create a crust and thicken the stew. You can skip this or use rice flour, for a gluten-free option.
- Seasonings: salt, pepper, ground cinnamon and turmeric.
- Pantry staples: Extra virgin olive oil, beef broth, tomato paste, and canned diced tomatoes.
- Persian dried limes: Limoo Omani offers a unique sour flavor. I use the whole dried lemons in the soup and crush it up for the meat purée. My husband’s family likes it more sour so I typically serve it with ground limoo omani on the side.
- Sour grapes (ghooreh): You can use fresh or pickled sour grapes.
- Fresh tomatoes: I like to top my stew with cut rounds of tomatoes. You can use Roma or regular tomatoes. This is totally optional.
How to cook eggplant
I had a great conversation with some fellow cooking enthusiasts about how to cook eggplant. Many people complain that eggplant tastes bitter. Other people never cook with eggplant and end up overcooking it until it is a bowl full of mush. Eggplant does require a little extra work before you begin cooking it.
Eggplants by nature are full of water. As it cooks, the water is released into the rest of your dish. You can use any type of eggplant for this Persian eggplant stew, but I personally find the larger American version to contain more water than the smaller varieties. It is this water that gives off its bitter taste.
In order to remove it, I always salt the eggplant before cooking. Once the eggplant is peeled and sliced, salt the cut sides and place on a cooling rack covered with paper towels.
Place paper towels over the eggplant and then place a baking sheet over the eggplant with heavy objects resting on top. The pressure and salt will release the bitter water from the eggplant.
I usually let the eggplant sit like this for about an hour. Then wipe down the eggplant, give it one final press with paper towels and they are ready for baking or frying. Remember, eggplant shrinks considerable when cooked, so keep those slices extra thick.
You can either fry the eggplant on the stove or roast them in the oven. I have prepared eggplant for khoresh bademjan both ways and each method works beautifully. I do find that roasting in the oven dries them out more quickly because it requires less oil, so I prefer frying them.
1. Peel eggplant, but keep stem intact, and cut in half lengthwise. If using larger eggplant, read post on cutting instructions. Salt them and let them sit as I explained above to remove the salt from the eggplant.
2. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and add oil. When oil is hot add chopped onions. Cook until onions start to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes then add salt, pepper and turmeric.
3. In a large bowl mix together stew meat, salt, pepper, turmeric and flour.Cook for a 2 minutes, then add stew meat and brown all sides, approximately 7 minutes.
4. Stir in beef broth and using a wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits of meat from the bottom of the pot. Stir in tomato paste until combined.
5. Add the rinsed yellow split peas and dried limes. Stir in diced tomatoes, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Stew can be refrigerated 3-4 days before serving after this point. Flavor is enhanced the longer it sits.
6. When paper towels are wet after 1 hour, squeeze eggplant dry with paper towels and remove excess salt. Heat large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Fry eggplants in batches until both sides are browned.
Add more olive oil as needed. Drain fried eggplants on paper towels to remove excess oil and reserve.
7. Add cinnamon and gooreh into the stew. Pour stew into a 13×9-inch dish.
8. Add fried eggplant over the stew and top with slices of tomato, if using. Cover with foil and bake at 350ºF in the oven for 30 minutes.
Recipe tips and FAQs
Middle eastern cuisine highlights eggplant regularly, and Persian cuisine is no different. From Persian eggplant dip (kashk bademjoon) to yogurt mixed with eggplant (borani bademjan) to eggs and eggplant (Mirza Ghassemi) and even pickled eggplant (torshi-yeh bademjan va anar), we simply love our eggplant. And this under appreciated vegetable comes in many varieties, too.
You do need to cut the eggplant differently depending on which size you use: the large American versions (cut into rounds), the small Italian sized (halve them lengthwise), and even the long Chinese eggplants (cut them into manageable pieces). I’ve made stews with all of them at one point in time. I peel the skin from the large eggplant but leave it on for the smaller varieties. You can do either depending on your own personal preference.
Like most Persian stews, khoresh bademjan is made with lamb shanks, but you can also make it with beef stew meat or beef shanks. If you do not want to use red meat, you can also substitute it with bone-in chicken thighs. For this recipe, use 4-pounds of chicken thighs. Brown the chicken and then let it cook in the stew until done, about 30-45 minutes.
Traditionally, this stew is made with beef or lamb. But, you can also make this Persian eggplant stew vegetarian, too. As the recipe shows, yellow split peas are included in this delicious stew. If you are not adding meat to it, add ½ cup yellow split peas instead of ¼ cup.
- 9 baby eggplant
- 1 TBS salt
- 2 lb beef stew meat
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 teaspoon all purpose flour (omit for gluten-free option)
- 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 14 oz beef broth
- 2 TBS tomato paste
- ¼ cup yellow split peas, rinsed in water and drained
- 3 dried limes, cut in half
- 14 oz canned diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ cup sour grapes (ghooreh)
- 3 Roma tomatoes, cut into ¼-inch slices (optional)
- Peel eggplant, but keep stem intact, and cut in half lengthwise. If using larger eggplant, read post on cutting instructions.
- Sprinkle both sides with 1 TBS salt.
- Place eggplants over paper towels on a cooling rack and cover with more paper towels. Place a baking sheet on top along with heavy objects and let it sit like this for 1 hour. This will remove the bitter water from the eggplant.
- In a large bowl mix together stew meat, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper, ¼ teaspoon turmeric and flour.
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and add 1 TBS oil.
- When oil is hot add chopped onions.
- Cook until onions start to soften, approximately 5-7 minutes then add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ teaspoon turmeric.
- Cook for a 2 minutes, then add stew meat and brown all sides, approximately 7 minutes.
- Stir in beef broth and using a wooden spoon, scrape up browned bits of meat from the bottom of the pot.
- Stir in tomato paste, rinsed yellow split peas and dried limes.
- Stir in diced tomatoes, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours. Stew can be refrigerated 3-4 days before serving after this point. Flavor is enhanced the longer it sits.
- When paper towels are wet after 1 hour, squeeze eggplant dry with paper towels and remove excess salt.
- Heat large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 TBS olive oil.
- Fry eggplants in batches until both sides are browned.
- Add more olive oil as needed.
- Drain fried eggplants on paper towels to remove excess oil and reserve.
- Preheat oven to 350ºF.
- Add cinnamon and gooreh into the stew.
- In a 13x9-inch pyrex dish, pour stew in.
- Layer fried eggplant over it.
- Layer sliced tomatoes over eggplant (optional).
- Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Serving Suggestions: Serve with basmati rice.
Cooking Tips: You can also substitute the beef stew meat (feature picture) with 3lbs of lamb shanks (with bone) or with 4 lb fryer chicken (cut up). Increase baking time in the oven to 45-60 mins. For vegetarian stew, substitute beef broth with any vegetable broth and increase yellow split peas to ½ cup.
You can substitute dried limes for ¼ cup fresh lemon juice.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 429Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 90mgSodium: 497mgCarbohydrates: 54gFiber: 15gSugar: 21gProtein: 36g
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