Ghapeli Polo – Rice with beef and garbanzo beans

قاپلی پلو

This dish finds its roots in the province of Kermanshah, located in the western region of Iran. At its core, it is a simple one-pot meal that starts with slow cooking of the beef and the garbanzos. Along the way, onions and simple spices are added to develop more depth and flavor. Once the beef and beans have become tender and succulent, rice is added straight into the pot and cooked until all of the moisture has been absorbed.

I first became aware of this dish only weeks ago when messaging with a friend, Masoumeh Khanoom, who is also one of my Instagram followers. Khanoom in Farsi is a polite and formal reference placed after a first name or before a last name to refer to a woman.

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Khoresh Gol Kalam – Beef and cauliflower stew

خورش گل کلم

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.

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Anar Bij – Meatballs in pomegranate and herb sauce

اناربیج

Anar Bij is a hearty and flavor-packed dish from Gilan province in the Caspian Sea region of Iran. Delicate meatballs are gently cooked in a creamy walnut sauce that is then flavored with fresh herbs and pomegranate molasses. Tart flavors, aromatics, and a hint of sweetness combine to make this dish another poster child of Persian cuisine!

If you are familiar with Persian cuisine you will notice similarities between this dish and the highly popular Fesenjoon, a stew of chicken cooked in walnut and pomegranate sauce. Two things set this dish apart, however: the chicken is replaced by meatballs, and fresh herbs create an added depth of flavor.

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Shami – Herb and meat patties

شامی

Shami is often referred to as a meat patty, though realistically it is more about herbs and ground walnuts than it is about the meat. Throughout Iran, you will find a multitude of Shami varieties using different types of meat, often with added chickpeas, yellow split peas, or red lentils.

This version from the Caspian Sea region was one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up. Though I had no idea of the effort that went into preparing them, I knew there was something very special about these patties. There was nothing ordinary about them: Mom used her finger to poke a hole in their centers, so they came in a form you’d more often associate with a bagel or a donut. And all the herbs transformed the meat into something incredibly tasty, rich, and aromatic. I can still remember the scent that would emanate from the kitchen, signaling that mom was cooking Shami again!

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Kabob Kubideh – Grilled skewered Kebab

کباب کوبیده

However you spell or pronounce them, Kebabs, Kebobs, or Kababs are meat dishes that take pride of place alongside other dishes in Persian cuisine. They are typically small pieces of seasoned whole or ground beef, lamb, chicken or seafood that are generally skewered and grilled.

Mention “Ka-bob” (the Farsi pronunciation) to an Iranian, and it inevitably evokes deep and sentimental memories and associations to this widely popular element of Persian cuisine. Kebabs are prepared and served throughout the cities, whether at a posh establishment, a local food cart or a grand bazaar. The sights, sounds and aromas of Kebabs being grilled are all so familiar, and Kebab houses are often referenced as landmarks for giving directions.

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Aash-e Anar – Pomegranate soup with meatballs

آش انار

This is Aash-e Anar, another of the popular and well-loved members of the Aash family, with many enticing and creative seasonal variations.

Aash has always been front and center of Persian cuisine. This is a Farsi term used to describe a thick style of soup that often combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat. 

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Kufteh Pesteh – Meatballs with pistachios and pomegranate

کوفته پسته

Yes indeed, this is another Kufteh (meatballs in Farsi) in the long line of meatballs in Persian cuisine. Except this one is just jam packed with incredible and unique flavors that are enhanced with the addition of fresh herbs and sparkling arils of pomegranate and the crunch of the much beloved emerald green colored Iranian pistachios.

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Kufteh Berenji – Rice and fava bean meatballs

کوفته برنجی

Kufteh is the term Iranians use to describe meatballs. However, unlike meatballs from most other cultures, Persian meatballs are not primarily about the meat! As a matter of fact, most Persian meatballs incorporate many other elements. A variety of grains including rice, as well as a wide range of beans and lentils, fresh herbs, nuts and dried fruits, and even whole hard-boiled eggs, find their way into this traditional dish.

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Kabob Tabei – Pan-fried kebabs

کباب تابه ای

However you spell or pronounce them, Kebabs, Kebobs, or Kababs are meat dishes that take pride of place alongside other meat-centered dishes in Persian cuisine. They are typically small pieces of seasoned whole or ground beef, lamb, chicken or seafood that are generally skewered and grilled. What makes Kebabs so tasty is the addition of spices and lengthy marination in grated onions.

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Cotlet – Meat and potato patties

کتلت

Cotlet is a meat patty that in my humble (albeit Persian) opinion ranks quite a few notches above the good old hamburger.  Many cultures have their own version of meat patties and this is the Persian one.

Ground meat of your choice, typically beef or lamb, is mixed with boiled potatoes, eggs, grated onions, the usual salt, pepper and turmeric, and selected spices, and then fried to a crispy perfection. Each region and household has its own special mix of spices – Advieh in Farsi – for addition to Cotlet to create welcoming, warming and comforting flavors.

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