Iran Yousefi came to Canada from Iran seventeen years ago to raise her daughter in a peaceful secular society where women can succeed on their own terms. Back in Iran, she was a veterinarian and microbiologist. In Toronto, her first "survival" job was in a pizza joint. "I had always wanted to learn how to make pizza, so it was exciting for me," she says.
Seven years ago, she moved to Saskatoon so her husband, Dr. Farzin Kasmaiefar, could re-certify as a family physician. In Saskatoon, it was difficult to find some ingredients needed for popular dishes from Iran such as khoresht ghormeh sabzi (herb stew) and fesenjan (chicken and walnut stew).
"That was quite a change for me, as someone who loves to cook my traditional recipes," she says. For instance, the stew below is traditionally made with a herb called tareh, but here she uses the green part of a leek (the part most other recipes discard).
Fresh fenugreek is also not readily available (although she has found it recently at Superstore). As for other exotic ingredients such as dried lemons, they can be purchased in the new Pars Market on 8th Street E.
Who knows, perhaps a century from now, gormeh sabzi or fesenjan will be just as at home in Saskatchewan as Hungarian goulash or Russian shishliki.
Khoresht Ghormeh Sabzi (Persian Herb Stew)
1 bunch spinach
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch fenugreek or 1 tbsp dried
1 leek, green part only
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 lb beef (450 g) in 1 inch cubes
4 dried lemons or 1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups water
1 can kidney beans, drained
Chop greens quite fine. For the leek, use the tender green part (not the hard outer leaves). Wash greens in a colander and squeeze out excess water. Heat a large skillet on high. Add greens and cook, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated. Add half the vegetable oil and cook until greens are turning brown. The volume of greens will reduce considerably.
Heat the remaining vegetable oil in a stew pot. Add onion and cook until soft. Stir in turmeric. Add meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn up heat and cook until browned.
If using dried lemons, poke each lemon with a fork and add to pot with the water. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Stir in cooked greens. Cover and cook for about one hour.
Half way through cooking add kidney beans and, if using, dried fenugreek and lemon juice. Season with salt to taste. The stew is done when the meat is tender. Serve on rice.
Add a Persian tomato salad and Persian barbari bread.
(This article first appeared in the Saskatoon Star Phoenix.)