Shabe Yaldā, an Iranian festival, celebrated on the ‘longest and darkest night’ of the year, falls on the night of the Northern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, which corresponds to the night of December 20 or 21, each year. On Shabe Yaldā, friends and family gather together to celebrate until well after midnight, over good dishes, fruits, sweets and nuts. In earlier times, around korsi. Yaldā is also celebrated in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kurdistan, and Uzbekistan, all nations which happen to be where quince is native of!
This is one of several festivities in which Persian Food Bloggers from all over the world will collaborate and celebrate with our readers, to bring awareness to and highlight Persian cuisine and culture. At the end of this post is “Persian Food Bloggers – Shabeh Yalda 2015 Collaborative Post”. Please check their fabulous recipes for Yaldā Night, especially prepared for your delight!
For this collaboration, I am posting a ‘savory’ version of khoresh’e beh/quince stew (sweet-&-sour) I posted last year. Quince has been cherished by Persians/Iranians for thousands of years, being native to Iran. Quince is also native to the immediate, surrounding (Eurasian) countries mentioned in the opening. I thought, it is appropriate to use an ingredient that is native to the nations which observe this celebration. In Farsi, quince is called beh. It is used in stews and some regional soups. High in pectin, it is also made into jam, preserves and puddings. It is used in confectionery, and also, syrups are made to be used in a refreshing summer drink. It can be added in small quantities to all kinds of food items because of its very pleasant fruit perfume (such as in apple pie!). Quince has many health benefits, including a gel prepared from the seeds soaked in water, which is used for throat and vocal cord inflammation, as well as for skin rashes and allergies. Today’s largest producers of quince are Turkey, followed by China, Uzbekistan, Morocco and Iran at 5th.
Stew Meat: When good cuts of meat are on sale (I prefer chuck-roast-cross rib cut), I buy 9Kg/ 20 lbs and trim/cut/sear/simmer them. Since the meat cooks to about half its weight/size, it yields 10 plastic storage boxes/bags of about 545 g/ 1.2 lbs each (liquids included) to freeze.
Needed for this recipe:
• 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
• 1 small onion, diced
• 900 g/ 2 lbs stew beef cut in 5cm/2″ cubes
• 1 bay-leaf
• 2 cups hot water
◊ In a medium sauce pan, add oil and on high heat, as soon as oil is hot, add cut onions and stirring constantly, sauté for 2 minutes. Add meat and sear all around. Add water, bay-leaf, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 1.5~2 hours, until meat is done, but not over-cooked. There should be ½ cup of liquid left . Set aside for next step of cooking or pack to freeze for further usage.
Caramelized onion: In my opinion, crispy caramelized onions are “the” secret taste of more dishes than we can imagine. It is best to make them when sweet onions are in season. Store several bottles of them in the freezer (if not “crispy” caramelized, because they stick together, best to store then in 1~2 Tbsp individual packets).
Recipe → Crispy Caramelized Onion.
Khoresh'e Beh • خورش به • Quince Stew (Savory)
Recipe by: Fae’s Twist & Tango (fae-magazine.com)
• 545 g/ 1.2 lbs cooked stew meat/beef with liquid (recipe above)
. . – lamb, veal or poultry may be used
• 2 ~ 3 well-rounded Tbsp crispy caramelized onion
. . (equivalent 1 large onion, caramelized in 3 Tbsp oil)
• 1/32 ~ 1/16 tsp ground saffron, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water
• 50 g/ ¼ cup yellow split-peas, must be slow cook type (optional)
. . – boiled for 15 minutes, scoop out the foam as boiling (or overflows), and drained
• 680 g/ 1.5 lb/ 2 large quince
For the seasoning sauce:
• 1½ Tbsp tomato paste
• 1 tsp hot pepper paste
• 1 tsp chicken base (I use this brand’s low sodium)
• ½ tsp turmeric
• 1/8 tsp advieh  or 1/16 tsp cinnamon
• ½ tsp salt
• ground black pepper to taste
• ¼ cup verjuice
• 1½ cup boiling water
 There are varieties of advieh (Persian spice mix) available on-line or at Persian specialty markets. The mix used for this recipe is a special blend by ZozoBaking.com. Ingredients: rose petals, black & white cumin, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg.
DIRECTIONS◊ Into a deep oven-safe dish (I use round 25cm x 7.5cm / 10″x3″ Pyrex with a lid), add cooked meat with its broth in the center, sprinkle one-half of crispy caramelized onion all over, drizzle saffron water, spread cooked yellow split peas, and set aside.
◊ Wash the quince very well and pat dry. Quince has a tough core. It is difficult to cut right into the center, especially if it is not as juicy as desired. The easiest way to deal with this is to hold the quince on a cutting board, leaving the core intact and cut in tic-tac-toe  style. Leave the peels on. Cut into 2cm / 7/8” thick wedges.
◊ When fried, quince tend to burn fast and splash lots of oil. For safety and to avoid the mess, follow these steps: In a deep, non-stick pot (I use 23cm x 10cm), add 2 Tbsp oil. Layer the quince wedges on the their sides. Turn on the heat to medium-heat and watch them fry. As soon as one side is golden, turn off the heat and wait for 1½ minutes. When the frying has settled, flip the wedges and turn on the heat to medium-heat and let the other side fry to golden. Turn off the heat and wait until the frying has settled to take them out and place them around the cooked meats.
◊ Position rack in middle of oven and preheat to 200°C/400°F.
◊ In a small/medium bowl, combine and dissolve all the ingredients for the seasoning sauce and pour all over the ingredients in the dish.
◊ Cover the dish tightly with foil/lid and bake for 1 hour. Take out of the oven and let sit for 20 minutes, for the boiling to stop and the ingredients to absorb most of the liquid.
◊ When ready to serve, sprinkle on the other one-half of crispy caramelized onion.
Served with Persian rice / polo.
~ Noushe jan • نوش جان ~
A few important points in making an outstanding Persian khoresh:
♦ Don’t skimp on oil… use as much as needed for frying/sautéing. Boiling oil also cooks and adds flavor. It can be skimmed off before serving.
♦ Brown/sear onion and meat very well.
♦ Adding 1/16 ~ 1/8 tsp of ground saffron, dissolved in 1 Tbsp hot water, will substantially add to taste.
♦ Don’t use too much water for cooking, just enough to steam and condense. –Simmer on low heat for a long time. This helps flavor fusion of ingredients.
♦ Best if stew is made a day in advance and refrigerated for taste to meld.
♦ Almost all stews can be frozen. Exception: If stew includes potato(es), potato pieces to be removed before freezing.
♦ There are red  stews (using tomato paste) and green  stews (using herbs). Garnishing red stews sparingly with caramelized onion before serving not only further enhances taste but visually enhances the dish.
 Slang: ‘red’ and ‘green’ are used to specify types of stews or mixed rices, using tomato paste vs. herbs respectively. This concept also helps host/hostess plan an event menu and serve a balance of reds and greens.
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Persian Food Bloggers’ Shabe Yalda Recipe Round-up
More Yalda related posts
Bottom of the Pot → Zereshk Polo – Barberries and Rice
Family Spice → Pomegranate Mulled Wine for my Shab-e Yalda
Persian Mama → Sholeh Zard شله زرد – Persian Saffron Rice Pudding
Turmeric & Saffron → Shami Haveej/Carrot Shami Kabab with Sweet & Sour Tomato Sauce
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