This is one of the many eggplant dishes in Persian cuisine, but perhaps one of the most recognizable and popular ones! There is a playful balance of deep earthy eggplant and tomato flavors and the tartness of the sour grapes.
The very special and unique ingredient in this dish is “Ghooreh”, which showcases Iranians’ love of all things sour. Ghooreh is the Farsi name for unripe sour grapes. Once harvested, they are then juiced, frozen, or dried into a powder. These elements are used anywhere acidity is called for.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 pounds lamb shanks with bone in
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 6 fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided, adjust as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 6 tablespoons verjuice (unripe sour grape juice), or fresh lemon juice, adjust to your taste
- 4 tablespoons Ghooreh, unripe sour grapes
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, adjust as needed
- 3 medium Asian eggplants, or 2 Italian peeled, and quartered lengthwise
- In a large dutch oven, saute the lamb shank with 2 tablespoons of oil for 5 minutes on medium-high heat, turning a few times. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the onions to the dutch oven and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
- Add garlic and turmeric and saute for 2 additional minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
- Return the lamb, add tomatoes and water, cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 60 minutes.
- While the lamb cooks, toss the peeled and quartered eggplants with 1 teaspoon of salt.
- In a large frying pan, saute the eggplants over medium-low heat with oil to lightly brown the eggplants on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- After the lamb has been cooking for 60 minutes, add salt, pepper, verjuice, and Ghooreh. Stir and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
- Arrange the partially cooked eggplants on top of the stew and gently press them down to submerge them into the stew.
- Cover and cook over low heat for another 30 minutes. Lamb should be tender at this stage.
- Remove from heat, adjust for seasoning and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- Gently transfer the stew into a serving dish without disturbing the eggplants too much so that they maintain their integrity.
- Serve the stew with Persian saffron basmati rice.