Submitted by Amy Proulx and Hassan Javaheri of Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
Shab-e-Yalda, the night of the winter solstice, is a celebration for Iranians. The best summer fruits are saved for the party. Here in America, we just go shopping for fruit.
Traditional peasant food is perfect for winter. Abgoosht, a lamb and vegetable stew simmered for hours, first becomes delicious broth, and for the next course, a dip for fresh bread.
Traditional working man's food in Iran, this dish would be made in the early morning, left on the charcoal stove to simmer long throughout the day, then eaten later for lunch or dinner. It is best served with fresh bread — barbari or lavash if you can get it. Fresh herbs, such as mint, parsley, dill, garlic and chives, chopped fresh onion, creamy plain yogurt and assorted pickled vegetables, (torshi-liteh and shoor) round out this hearty peasant meal.
We run a local Christmas tree farm in Niagara. (Yes, Iranians can grow Christmas trees!) It is lovely to tuck a pot of this on a wood stove and come back to a hearty meal after working in the wintery bush. The recipe also works perfectly in a slow cooker.
Serves 8 hungry people
2 pounds stewing lamb or beef
2 large onions, diced
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 28-ounce cans chopped tomatoes
2 15-ounce cans white kidney beans
4 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon advieh khoreshi (found in Iranian grocery stores) or substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground coriander and 1 teaspoon ground cumin
5-8 limo amani (dried limes), slightly smashed (to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
In a very large stock pot, gently brown the meat, along with the onion and olive oil, just until the meat is slightly browned and the onions softened. Add the tomatoes, beans and potatoes and add enough water to cover everything. Add the spices and dried limes, cover and simmer over low heat, around 2 hours. Check for the water level and top off if necessary.
To serve, first pour off the broth for the first course. This is eaten with chunks of bread tossed in, "tileet," for good measure.
For the second course, once the broth is eaten, place the remaining meat and vegetable mix in a large bowl. Now for the fun part: Take a potato masher and go at the mixture, mashing vigorously until it becomes a well-mixed paste. The paste is served as a dip or spread for more of the fresh bread. The pickles, herbs and yogurt, with all their tart freshness, balance out the hearty meat mixture.