Caution: you must be an onion lover to proceed!
Name a culture, and you will quickly realize how many dishes start with some member of the onion family. Onions and all of their relatives are cherished and celebrated in Iranian culture. The onion family includes red, white and yellow onions, green onions, garlic, leeks, garlic chives and shallots. And in Iran, you also have Museer, which is an Iranian variety of shallot that most closely resembles elephant garlic, as well as Tarreh, which is a cross between American leeks and green onions. In the US these ingredients are available dried at Persian markets.
Just about every dish in Iran starts with and includes some member of the onion family. It is customary to have fried or caramelized onions prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator to start off the dishes. Still more dishes are finished off with gently fried garlic, mixed with herbs, as a finishing garnish.
This dish celebrates the art of stuffing vegetables, which in Farsi we refer to as Dolmeh. Thinking of stuffed grape leaves? Yup, that; as well as stuffed peppers, eggplants, potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes and so on!
In this dish, the onions are stuffed with rice, herbs and either beef or lamb, and slowly cooked in a rich broth to create a tenderized and sweet perfection.
A coming together of ingredients in creative ways to improve the overall experience of the dish.
- 4 large onions, yellow or white
- 3 tablespoons ghee, butter or olive oil
- 1/2 Lb ground beef or lamb
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves, ground
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup rice, rinsed
- 1 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
- 3-4 cup broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable), divided. Adjust as needed
- 1 fresh lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon grape molasses, or sugar
- Peel the outer layer of the onion skins, trimming the root ends to make them flat. Cut off the tops of the onions in order to access the layers inside. Keep the tops.
- Using a spoon and/or a paring knife begin hollowing out the center of the onions. Leave at least 2-3 outer layers intact. Collect the center pieces, dice, and set aside.
- Place the hollowed onions in a large pot and add enough water to cover them entirely. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes to gently soften the onions. Remove onions from the water, drain and set aside.
- In a large pot, saute the previously chopped onion centers in ghee for about 10 minutes.
- Add the ground beef and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add salt, pepper, all of the dried spices, tomato paste and rice and continue to saute for an additional 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of the broth, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, cover and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped parsley, cilantro and mint, stir and set aside.
- Begin stuffing the onions with the filling and place them back in the large pot. Once all the onions are stuffed, arrange any remaining filling around the onions in the pot. Place the onion tops on the stuffed onions.
- Pour in 2 cups of broth, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
- Mix the lemon juice and grape molasses.
- Remove the onion tops and pour in the molasses and lemon mix over each onion. Place the onion tops back on and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes or until the onions have fully softened. Add more broth as needed and adjust the seasoning.
- Sprinkle a handful of chopped fresh herbs on top and serve hot.
- Serve with a side of pickled vegetables, yogurt and bread.