Fresh herb stew with lamb and dried lime

Fresh herb stew with lamb and dried lime

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

This is one of Persia’s most famous khoresht dishes — a slow-cooked stew–sauce to serve with rice. When made well, it is a stunner, combining sweet, slow-cooked lamb with tangy dried limes, creamy kidney beans and a veritable mountain of fragrant fresh herbs, including the distinctive fenugreek. Fresh fenugreek can be found in Middle Eastern stores in the summer months. You can substitute crushed fenugreek seeds quite happily all year round, but use them cautiously as they have a tendency to overwhelm if you use too heavy a hand.


Quantity Ingredient
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 leek, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
450g lamb, cut into 2 cm cubes, (from the shoulder)
1 cup coriander leaves
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup chervil sprigs
1/3 cup dill sprigs
1/3 cup fresh fenugreek leaves, lightly crushed
or 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
100g dried kidney beans, soaked overnight and drained
2 large dried limes, lightly cracked
1 litre good-quality chicken stock
100g spinach leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
Persian chelow, to serve
thick natural yoghurt, to serve


  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan or casserole dish over a low heat. Add the onion and leek and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and fry for another couple of minutes.
  2. Add the lamb to the pan and brown over a highish heat for a minute. Add the herbs and fenugreek leaves or seeds and stir well. Stir in the kidney beans, dried limes and stock and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans and lamb are very tender. As the limes soften, squeeze them against the side of the pan to extract the juice.
  3. Towards the end of the cooking time, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the spinach briefly. Refresh in cold water, then squeeze very firmly to extract as much liquid as you can. Chop the spinach finely, and stir it into the stew to revive the rich green colour. Allow to bubble vigorously for 5 minutes until the sauce is lovely and thick. Add lemon juice and salt to taste and serve with plain chelow rice and plenty of yoghurt.
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