In the West, we have the burger with all its glorious variations. In Iran, we have the Shami with many regional influences. Shami resembles a donut, with a hole in its center.
In the North of Iran, there is the green Shami, in which the beef patty is packed with fresh herbs and creamy walnuts. This variety, however, integrates spices into the meat, which is then mixed with cooked yellow split peas and processed in a food processor to create a smooth and creamy texture. Finally, it’s fried to golden perfection!
Fear not, though! While herbs are not integrated into this patty, all Persian food is accompanied by a platter of fresh herbs to bring a refreshing lightness and a life force to the table.
- Food processor
- 1 pound beef or lamb, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 6 cups water, divided
- 1 1/2 cups yellow split pea
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs
- 1-2 tablespoon rice flour or all purpose, as needed to bind the patties
- 1 cup oil, safflower or sunflower for frying
- 1 bunch leafy greens, such as lettuce, arugula or spinach
- 1 bunch fresh mint, basil, tarragon, parsley and cilantro
- In a medium sized pot, combine the beef, onion, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, turmeric and 2 cups of water and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the meat is cooked and tender. Once cooked strain well and set aside.
- While the meat is cooking, wash the yellow split peas and place in another medium sized pot with 4 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil while watching for some foam forming on top. Remove as needed.
- Cover and cook over low flame for about 30-40 minutes or until the split peas are tender.
- Drain completely and add to the bowl with the cooked meat.
- Place the mixture of cooked meat and yellow split peas in a food processor and pulse until the mixture is reasonably creamy and smooth.
- Remove from the food processor and transfer back into the mixing bowl.
- Add the remaining salt, spices and eggs and flour and mix well by hand.
- Taking a small amount of the Shami, about 4-5 tablespoons and form into a round ball. Flatten into the size of your palm, and poke a hole in the center. Set aside until ready for frying
- In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, add sufficient amount of oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Place the patties into the oil and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, flipping once.
- Repeat until all the patties have been cooked and adding oil as needed.
- Arrange the Shami on a platter and garnish with a medley of leafy greens and fresh herbs.
- Serve with flatbreads or Persian steamed saffron basmati rice accompanied by a side of yogurt.
- Adjust the amount of rice flour, if the mixture was too wet and needed additional binding.
- I save the broth from cooking the meat and the yellow split peas and use it later in the week as soup stock.
- The meat patties can be prepared ahead and kept in an airtight container overnight until ready for frying.