Khoresh Seeb is a highly adaptable stew whose stars are the firm and tart apples (Seeb in Farsi) that are gently sauteed in butter or ghee and then placed on top of the stew as it finishes cooking.
The base of this dish is made with beef and yellow split peas, patiently cooked in a turmeric and tomato sauce which by itself is often called Gheymeh. Gheymeh is not only served alongside fried or roasted potatoes, but is also used as a decorative topping on various dishes such as Aash.
In early to mid fall when quince is in season, I find myself making this dish with quince instead of apples. In summertime, I may turn to peaches, plums or nectarines. In these cases the stew is no longer Khoresh Seeb; the word “Seeb” is rather changed to whatever fruit you have chosen.
A few words on the yellow split peas. There are different varieties, so you will need to adjust the cooking sequence and time accordingly. Persian yellow split peas, which you will only find in Persian markets, are called Lapeh Dir Paz, which translates to “yellow split peas that take time to cook.” The variety you will find in your local market will cook much faster. So, when I use Persian split peas, I add them right into the stew along with the meat. When using the more accessible variety, I add them much later in the cooking process so as to not have them fall apart and turn into mush. For this recipe, I have used the generally available variety.
As with most Persian stews, the techniques are reasonably simple and straightforward. Yet it takes a trained hand and a patient heart to devote enough time to ensure that the meat is tender and the stew is properly cooked and not watery or runny. There is also the important concept of Ja-oftaadan that I come back to again and again when cooking Persian stews.
This is the idea that the stew needs to sit off the heat for a while after it has finished cooking, allowing the oil to collect on the top of the stew. This highlights the richness of the dish, showcasing the pride of the chef for their Dast Pokht. Dast Pokht (“the hand that cooks” in Farsi) references the skills and knowledge of the cook.
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 4 tablespoons ghee, or olive oil
- 1 lb beef, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 1/2 cups water, adjust as needed
- 1/2 cup yellow split peas
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 2 tablespoons sugar, adjust to your taste
- 1 fresh lemon, juiced
- 1 tiny pinch ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 3-4 tart, firm apples, peeled and sliced
- 4 tablespoons ghee, or olive oil
- In a large pot, saute the onions with ghee over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until they have become translucent.
- Add the turmeric and stir for a couple of minutes.
- Add the beef and saute for about 5 minutes. The beef and onions should have turned a beautiful golden color and become aromatic.
- Add the tomato paste and saute for 2 minutes to bring out the tomato flavors.
- Add the water, cover and bring to a gentle simmer before reducing the heat and cooking the stew for about an hour. The beef should be tender but not fully cooked at this stage.
- While the stew is cooking, saute the sliced apples in a large frying pan over medium-high with ghee until they have become golden in color. Typically this would take about 5-7 minutes on each side of the sliced apples. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- Add the yellow split peas, salt, pepper, sugar, lemon juice to the main pot, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- Place the sauteed apples on top of the Khoresh and gently press them down enough to soak up some of the stew's cooking broth. Continue to cook for 15 minutes.
- At this stage the beef should be fork tender and the yellow split peas cooked but not falling apart.
- Add the saffron water, gently stir without disturbing the apples too much. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
- Serve with Persian steamed basmati rice, a side of yogurt and a platter of fresh herbs.