Celery stew with saffronPosted: 3 May 2012
This past winter (hopefully passed!) I had my sister in law over for a week or so. One day she volunteered to make celery stew for lunch while my husband and I had a long rough day out. I happily approved and we came home to a dizzying fragrance of steamed rice and perfectly settled hot stew with remotely detectable sent of fresh herbs and saffron. At first I thought the thrill I felt upon sensing this welcoming food had to do with not having to cook when you are hungry, but rather coming to a homey and ready to be served meal. But when we started the meal I discovered that her method for making this particular stew was completely different than mine, and I must admit far too superior to it – to my taste anyway. The proof to this last claim is that I followed her recipe and came up with the exact same delight.
The celery stew’s recipe that I used to follow for years results in a “green” stew because unlike most of Iranian stews, for this one I do not use tomato paste. However, my sister in law made a brightly reddish celery stew by using a bit of tomato paste as well as saffron. These two ingredients are the major source of difference. Also, celery stems are sorted cut and fried differently, resulting in chewier and fresh tasting celery stew. So, here is my happily adopted new recipe from the scratch:
Ingredients(serving 4 ): Veal or beef , 400 gr., cleaned, washed and cut in small pieces. Celery 1 head. Onion, 1 medium, thinly sliced. Tomato paste, ½ tbsp. Saffron powder ½ tea spoon. Fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp. Turmeric, 2 tea spoon. Cooking oil, 4 tbsp. Salt and black pepper to taste. (optional: Fresh mint and parsley, 1/2 bunch each)
Method: In a large pot heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté onion until slightly golden. Add meat and fry with onions for 5-6 minutes. When the color changed, add turmeric and fry another 2 minutes. Add tomato paste, then cover with hot water, add salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until tender.
Preparing celery: Cut across the base of celery stalks and properly wash individual stalks. Now you need to de-string them! Use a flat side knife, and simply grab string at each stalk and pull toward the opposite end of it. Do this for all stalks. Cut off the leaves and take out the heart of the celery, where stalks are much lighter in color and more tender. Chop leaves and tender stalks and set them aside. Slice the rest of your stalks in equal width and length (of about 1 and half inch).
In a frying pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and fry the stalks first – not too long thought, just enough to get them a bit more tender. You should not lose the green of the stalks altogether (Let’s say about five minutes over medium heat). Add the chopped leaves and fry briefly. If you used parsley and mint, fry them along with celery leaves. Set aside. Once meat is half tender enough (not over cooked), add fried celery, turn to low heat and let it settle for about 20 minutes. Just a few minutes before serving, add lime juice. Then dissolve saffron in 1 tbsp of hot water and add to the pot. The stew should not come to a boil at this point or the scent and taste of the saffron will be demolished. That’s it. These small details make a world of difference in the look and taste of the celery stew cooked my sister-in-law’s style! Oh, by the way this stew like any other is served hot with plain rice.