Gondi Nochodi

This recipe may look like Matzah ball soup, but it is actually a Jewish Persian dish, very popular among Persian Jews.  It is made of ground chicken and chickpeas.

Gondi, is perhaps the single most unique food to the Jews of Iran. While Persian Jews have over the centuries adopted the Persian cuisine in their kitchen (kosher style, of course), Gondi has been one of their few culinary innovations that they can claim as their own.

It is usually served as an appetizer together with Sabzi – raw green vegetables including tarragon, basil, mint, and radishes. In our home, we used to eat it as a main dish.

Ingredients:
5-6 oz roasted chickpea (found in Middle Eastern grocery stores)
1 lb ground chicken breast
2 large onions, shredded
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp black pepper
¼ cup canola oil or rendered chicken fat
4 tsp rose water (found in Middle Eastern grocery stores)
Homemade chicken soup (recipe follows) or 8 cups of good chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:
In a food processor, grind the roasted chickpeas only until they turn into crumbs. Be careful not to over grind it. You don’t want chickpea flour. You may find chickpea already coarsely ground in Middle Eastern grocery stores. Do not buy chickpea flour. It is too powdery.

Place the chickpea crumbs in a large bowl. Add all other ingredients except for the chicken soup, and mix well by hand, until mixture is well combined.

In a large saucepan, bring the chicken soup to a boil. If needed, add salt and pepper.

Make plum size balls of the chickpea mixture, and add them gently, one by one, to the soup. If the balls stick to your hands, use a small bowl with water to wet your hands lightly.

Lower the heat to medium and cook for about 30 minutes.

Place 1-2 balls in a soup bowl, add some soup and serve.

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Chicken soup

2 lb chicken bones (necks, backs) or other parts
8 cups water
1 large onion, quartered
1 small bunch cilantro
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼ inch rings
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbs chicken soup powder

Place the chicken in a large saucepan. Cover with 8 cups of water and bring to a boil. Using a large spoon, clean all the foam formed on the water.

Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, carrots, cilantro, and spices and cook for about an hour, covered.

Discard of the cilantro. You may use the soup as is to cook the Gondi dumplings in, or you may strain it, and have a clear broth for the Gondi.

Gondi is served with a plate of fresh green herbs such as basil, tarragon, mint, and sliced radishes.IMG_2324

Tas Kabab

Another dish from my childhood, Tas Kabab, is a wonderful Persian stew that I forgot about as I grew up and went about my life. My mother used to make it a lot and we loved it. I’m not sure if she learned it from my grandmother, but I don’t remember grandma making it in this version. It could very well be my mother’s interpretation. There are various recipes out there for Tas Kabab, with at least one that I would like to try and make one day, but I’ve decided to start with Mom’s recipe as it brings good memories.

I made it last week for my family and the feedback was so great that I’m making it again today.

And it was very easy to make, too. So, I guess we are adding a new dish to our home cooking repertoire.

Ingredients:
4 tbs oil
2 large onions, peeled
4 large potatoes, peeled
8 skinless chicken thighs, bone in
5 medium tomatoes
4 Omani limes
3tsp turmeric
Salt
Black pepper

Preparation:
Slice the onions, the potatoes and the tomatoes and place each one of them in a separate dish.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Arrange some of the onions at the bottom of the pot in one layer. Arrange a layer of the potatoes on top of the onion. Try to use as much of the potatoes as you can.

Place the Omani limes in a small Ziploc bag. Close the bag and smash the limes until coarsely smashed. Sprinkle half the amount on the potatoes in the pot.

Sprinkle the potatoes with 1 tsp turmeric, some salt and some black pepper.

Place the chicken thighs in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tsp turmeric, salt and pepper and rub it in well.

Arrange the thighs as the next layer in the pot.

Top with the rest of the onions, the sliced tomatoes and the rest of Omani lime.

Cover the pot, lower the heat to medium low and cook for 45 minutes. Then turn the chicken upside down, cover the pot and cook for 45 more minutes.

Serve with some good bread to dip in the sauce and enjoy.

Middle Eastern Herb Omelet

If you are following my blog, you may have already noticed by now that herbs and greens are used abundantly in Persian cuisine, and in addition to being cooked, they are also consumed raw as accompaniment to cooked food.

One very simple dish that is unbelievably delicious is khagineh, or herb omelet, which is eaten as part of a light meal, and is traditionally served with good rustic bread or pita, yogurt and fresh vegetables.

Iraqi and Kurdish Jews in Israel also make this herb omelet, known in Kurdish, Iraqi, and Arabic by the name of Idjeh. In Israel you can come across this omelet served in a pita in some of the street food eateries, usually served with tahini, tomato, and pickles. Yum!!

In addition to making herb omelet at home every once in a while, it became one of the dishes we always make on Passover. It was traditionally eaten in my family during Passover and my mother loved using a wet matzah to make a sandwich roll with the omelet. So that’s how I eat it.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cups chopped fresh herbs of choice (green onions, parsley cilantro, basil. dill, mint, etc.)
8 eggs
Salt and pepper

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion and sauté until golden.

Add the chopped herbs and sauté for 5 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with salt and pepper. Pour the eggs on the sautéed herbs, cover the pan with a lid and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the lid, place a large tray over the pan and turn the pan upside down to transfer the omelet to the tray. Place the pan back on the stove and slide the omelet back. Cook for 1-2 more minutes and transfer to the serving tray.

Halebibi – Persian Rice Pilaf

Halebibi is one of my childhood Shabbat dishes. I remember eating Halebibi at my Iranian grandparents’ house, when we visited them on Shabbat. Unlike other Jewish ethnic groups, Iranian Jews in Israel have a wide repertoire of Shabbat dishes, so we never knew what we would get to eat at my grandparents’ house. Not that it really mattered, because we loved it all. Halebibi, however, was one of the kids favorite Shabbat dishes, because in comparison to the rich flavored and sophisticated Persian dishes, Halebibi was simple and comforting.

The recipe below is very similar to the one my Naneh (grandmother in Persian) used to make, only it has some more complexity of the flavor added by the coriander seeds and the sour grape juice (found in Middle Eastern stores). I prefer this version over my grandma’s, but if you like mild flavors, you may omit the coriander and use water instead of the sour grape juice.

Ingredients:
2 cups rice
1 ½ lb chicken drumsticks
3 cups water and 11/2 cups sour grape juice (or 4 ½ cups water)
1 tablespoon chicken soup powder
1 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup oil
1 tsp whole coriander seeds
2 onions, sliced

Preparation:
Place the rice in a bowl and cover it with hot water. Mix the rice and discard of the water. Repeat the process two more times. Transfer the rice to a strainer, and rinse under running water. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine 2 ½ cups water with the soup powder. Add the chicken and bring to a boil. Add the tomato paste, turmeric, salt and pepper. Lower the heat and cook for about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add to the pot 1 ½ cups of sour grape juice (or water) and the rice, and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all liquids are absorbed in the rice, about 30 minutes.

In a large sauté pan, heat the oil and sauté the coriander seeds for 2 minutes. Add the onion and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the cooked rice, the remaining ½ cup water, and the chicken, and cook covered, over low heat, for 50 minutes.

Plate the rice on a serving platter and place the chicken pieces on top. Serve hot and enjoy!

My Mother’s Shefteh

One of the dishes I remember fondly from my childhood is what we called at home shefteh. Shefteh in Persian, like kofta or kofteh in Indian, Arabic, Turkish, and Greek means ‘meat balls’

I always thought shefteh was another Persian dish that my mother learned to cook from my father’s side of the family, but I don’t remember ever seeing it anywhere else but in our home. I just learned this morning when talking to my mother, that this dish is actually her own creation.

She remembers that my Persian grandmother used to make a dish called shefteh which consisted of meatballs and potatoes in some yellow turmeric sauce. My mother, who didn’t want the potatoes, created her own version of the dish which actually turned into a soup.

It consists of meatballs in tomato broth, with carrot, zucchini, and herbs. The main spice in the soup is hawaij, a Yemenite spice mix for soups and stews that can be found in kosher and Middle Eastern stores or could be easily made at home.

I remember my mother making shefteh every once in a while, and for me it was always a treat of the comfort food kind. In fact, I took so much liking to this dish that after I got married shefteh became the dish I’ve made every year for the meal that precedes the Yom Kippur fast.

And here I am again, right before Yom Kippur, making that wonderful dish that I always wonder why I forget about all year round. My shefteh though, never comes out as good as my mother’s. So, I feel very fortunate this year to have my mother over from Israel, so she can cook the shefteh and work her magic on it. I’m sure there are some dishes out there that may resemble this dish in some ways, but this shefteh is apparently unique to our family, which makes me even more eager to share it with the world.

Ingredients:
For the soup:
3 tbs oil
1 onion, diced
1 ½ heaping tbs tomato paste
1 ½ heaping tbs hawaij
3 heaping tbs chicken soup powder
8 cups water
3 medium zucchinis, cut into 1inch cubes
3 large carrots, cut into 1inch cubes
4 stalks celery, sliced
1 cup parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

For the meatballs:
1lb lean ground beef
1 tbs salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cup plain breadcrumbs
1 onion, diced
½ cup parsley and cilantro leaves, chopped

Preparation:
Heat the oil in a large pot and brown the onion on medium high heat. Add the tomato paste and the hawaij and stir well for 30 seconds to enhance the flavors but be careful not to let it burn.

Add the water and the chicken soup powder, stir well.

Add the zucchini, carrot, and celery and bring the soup and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, in a medium sized bowl, mix the meat with salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, onion and leaves. Form oval or round meatballs of about 2-inch-long and add to the soup.

Add the cilantro and parsley. Adjust the salt and pepper and cook for 30 more minutes.

The shefteh can be served as a soup on its own or served over rice or couscous.

Khoresh-e-Sib

Apple Khoresh

Apple stew or Khoresh-e-sib in Persian, has a fun flavor. It has a gentle sweetness to it but it’s also sour. It has a flare of cinnamon and other spices, but none of them is dominant, so the result is a balanced, mild, but very interesting dish.

As in all Khoreshes, the dish is not about the meat. The meat is just one of the ingredients that help contribute to the combination of flavors and to the final result. For this reason, the amounts of meat in khoresh are less than you’ll find in other stews.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup yellow split pea
3 tbs oil
1 large onion, chopped
1lb boneless chicken thighs (or beef, lamb), cut into thin strips
1 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ cinnamon
1 cup water
2 tbs lime juice
3 tbs brown sugar
½ tsp turmeric
5 tart apples, peeled and cored
2 tbs oil

Preparation:
In a small saucepan combine the split pea with 2 cups water and cook for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a medium pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add the chicken and sauté for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, pepper, and cinnamon.

Add 1 cup water, lime juice, sugar, and turmeric. Simmer for 15 minutes over low heat.

Cut each apple into 8 wedges. Heat two tbs oil in a skillet and fry the apples, turning them until they are golden brown on all sides.

Preheat oven to 350F.

In an ovenproof dish place the cooked chicken. Pour the split pea on top and arrange the apples on top of the peas. Cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Serve over white basmati rice.