Long before the humble cauliflower became a trendy superfood, Iranians were cooking it into stews (Khoresh), egg-based dishes (Kuku), and even pickles (Torshi).
Like many Iranian stews, this is an especially simple dish with only a few ingredients. Nevertheless, there are certain culinary techniques that bring out a spectacularly deep range of flavors.
First, it’s important to saute the onions until they are golden in color and rich and sweet in flavor. Then, after gently sauteing the meat, turmeric is added to contribute even more flavor and color to the dish. Persians also believe that turmeric removes any “gaminess” from animal protein. Along with the turmeric, tomato paste is added to the meat and onion mixture and gently sauteed to establish a depth of umami flavors. Finally, both salt and pepper are added later, so as to avoid toughening or darkening the meat.
Khoresh Gol Kalam is traditionally made with animal protein, but it can also be a great plant-forward dish. My favorite plant-based proteins are beans such as garbanzo, cannellini, white navy, or flageolet, along with tofu and tempeh.
A word or two on cauliflower:
Essentially low on carbs and naturally gluten-free, cauliflower is now being marketed to replace flour or rice. It offers a notably mild flavor that can be integrated into many dishes that would traditionally use grains or flours.
Cauliflower has found its way into pizza crusts (both store-bought and home-made), various forms of pasta, and even baked goods. And I think that is great!
When preparing cauliflower, cutting through the entire length of the vegetable leaves behind many small bits and pieces. Next time you work with cauliflower, try making small incisions into the stems and separating the florets by hand to have whole pieces without all the crumbly bits.
Khoresh Gol Kalam
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 tablespoons oil, divided
- 1 pound beef, chuck or round, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 cups water, adjust as necessary
- 1 cauliflower, separated into individual florets
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, adjust to your taste
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
- 1/4 teaspoon ground saffron, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
- Saute the onions with 4 tablespoons of oil on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the beef and continue to saute on medium-high heat for another 5 minutes.
- Once the onions and beef have picked up some color, add turmeric and tomato paste and saute for 2 minutes to build more flavor into the dish.
- Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Lower the flame, cover and cook for 60-75 minutes or until the meat is tender.
- While the beef is cooking, select a large frying pan to saute the cauliflower florets.
- Saute the caluliflower with 2 tablspoons of oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until lightly browned.
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Once the beef has cooked for 1 hour, add the sauteed cauliflower, lemon juice, salt, pepper, cinnamon and saffron water.
- Gently stir, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. This would be a good time to check the liquid level and adjust as necessary. The stew should be reasonably dense and not watery.
- Adjust for seasoning, remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Serve the stew with Persian steamed basmati rice and a platter of fresh herbs.