this is a page for

Category: Beef & Lamb

Persian-Inspired Bundt Meatloaf with Pomegranate Sauce

I’m really excited about this Persian-inspired bundt meatloaf recipe. I came up with the idea of making this dish last night and was lucky to have all the ingredients at home. I was a bit anxious about the way it was going to turn out. It would be a waste of time if it didn’t come out in one piece. It did come out in perfect shape and it was incredibly moist and scrumptious too.

There’s good reason for making food with a touch of glamour now. Many of us will be celebrating two occasions next week. There’s Christmas obviously, and Yalda, the ancient festival of Winter Solstice that Iranians celebrate on the evening of December 21st. Two celebrations in one week. Good to beat winter gloom, right? Food will be the centre of both occasions and what’s better than sharing food with loved ones in a festive environment?

stuffed-meatloaf-recipe
Filling the bundt tin with a layer of the beef mixture, then eggs, carrots (I used both orange and purple) and spinach.

We celebrate Yalda with company, food and drinks, candles, games and poetry. Pomegranates and watermelons are Yalda staples. I guess it’s because of the red colour of these fruits. Red is associated with fire and therefore with the sun and light. Yalda, the longest night of the year, is the night that the Sun goes to battle with the powers of darkness. It will win some ground on the first day of winter and gradually bring about more light and longer days and lead to the complete rebirth of nature on the day of the Spring Equinox (which we also celebrate, as our New Year).

Symbolism plays a huge role in the types of food eaten during Persian festivals. The food of New Year (Nowrouz) is usually green, like green rice, and there are plenty of growth and rebirth symbols around in the Nowrouz decorations too. According to some theories Christmas is related to ancient Winter Solstice festivals of the pagans and Mithras, the Sun God of the Romans. Whatever the origins of Christmas, it’s a great time to celebrate and be merry!

Persian-meatloaf-recipe
Cover the eggs, spinach and carrots carefully with a layer of the beef mixture and make sure there are no gaps on the sides.

Back to my meatloaf: I make meatloaf only once in a while and try to make it a bit different every time but I had never made one with pomegranate sauce. This was my first time and I’m so glad I acted on what at first seemed like one of those crazy ideas that spring up to mind when one is too tired of doing the same things over and over again.

Inspiration for this dish came from a gorgeous huge pomegranate that had been sitting on the counter for a few days. The jewel-like seeds (arils) can be sweet, sour, sweet and sour and the colour may range from pinkish white to very dark red. Whatever the colour or flavour it’s always a great thing to cook with. It had to be pomegranates in one form or another this time.

pomegranate-sauce-recipe
Pomegranate seeds, caramelised onions, pomegranate molasses and tomato purée are the main ingredients of the delicious sauce for my meatloaf.

My sauce has pomegranate molasses as well as seeds but I think the seeds were what made the dish one to remember. The scrumptious, slightly sweet and sour, pomegranate studded sauce was really wow! Drizzled on the meatloaf it made such huge change from the ordinary to the festive. Best meatloaf I’ve ever made, seen or had.

luxury-meatloaf-recipe
Luxury meatloaf dressed with the pomegranate sauce and ready to slice.

When I finally took the tin out of the oven and turned the meatloaf out I was surprised by how perfect it came out. No trouble at all. Cakes sometimes give me a hard time but this was as easy as pie! I had made the sauce while waiting for the meatloaf to bake so there was really no last minute work. I just drizzled the sauce on the meatloaf and TOOK PICTURES! I had to make the photography very quick so we could have our dinner before the meatloaf got cold. The rest is history.

Persian-inspired-meatloaf
Slice of bundt meatloaf with pomegranate sauce.

This meatloaf will serve eight people. You can always divide the quantities in half and bake the meatloaf in a loaf tin which will also look stunning when sliced. Serve with some sort of bread and a crisp, green salad. Oh, by the way, this tastes great cold too so you may want to try it on a brunch menu.

PS: Do use lean beef mince (10 to 12%). There’s so much flavour going on in this meatloaf that you really don’t need the extra fat. For loaf tin use half the amounts given below.

Ingredients:

For layering and assembling the meatloaf:

  • 3 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp oil (extra virgin rapeseed is best)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 250g baby spinach, washed and drained well
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2-3 small carrots, boiled and sliced lengthways
  • 4 medium eggs, boiled and peeled

For the mince mixture:

  • 1 kilo (two pounds) lean minced beef
  • 2 egg yolks and one whole egg, lightly whisked
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed well
  • 1 1/2 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp dried mint
  • 1/2 tbsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 large knob of butter to grease the tin

For the sauce and garnish:

  • 180g pomegranate seeds
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 20g butter
  • 400ml of boiling water or low-sodium stock
  • 4-5 tbsp pomegranate molasses (or as required)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Chopped or slivered pistachios to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the chopped onions with a pinch of salt on medium-low heat until caramelised. Divide in half. Remove one half from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add the spinach to the caramelised onions in the frying pan and cover. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Uncover and cook, stirring from time to time, until all the juices evaporate and the spinach looks almost dry. Leave to cool.
  3. Put all the ingredients for the mince mixture (except the butter) in a large bowl and add the pomegranate molasses and half of the reserved caramelised onions. Mix thoroughly.
  4. Preheat the oven to 260C/500F (or full whack) and grease the bundt tin with the butter.
  5. To assemble the meatloaf put less than half of the mince mixture in the tin and press down. Make four shallow holes in the mince to hold the boiled eggs. Lay the eggs in the holes and arrange slices of boiled carrots around the eggs avoiding the sides of the tin. Cover the eggs and carrots with the onion-spinach mixture, again avoiding the sides as much as possible. Fill the sides with some of the mince mixture and cover with the rest of the mince. Press the mince gently and smooth the surface. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the top is beginning to brown. This is a very high temperature meant to seal the loaf so keep an eye on it.
  6. Reduce the oven to 220C/400F and bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and there are no pink juices when you insert a skewer down the meatloaf. There will be a lot of juice from the mince mix that need to reduce. You don’t want it to dry completely or burn though so keep an eye on your lovely bundt loaf during the last ten minutes and cook longer if required. When done an instant read thermometer inserted in the loaf should register 160C.
  7. Remove the tin from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for five minutes. Drain the juices into a small bowl (shouldn’t be more than half a cup) and return the meatloaf to the oven (in the tin, covered with foil) to keep warm while you are making the sauce.
  8. Reserve some of the pomegranate seeds for garnishing and put the the rest with the remaining 1/4 of the caramelised onions in a frying pan and cook for five minutes on medium-low heat. Stir from time to time. Add the tomato purée and the butter and cook for a couple of minutes while stirring. Add the boiling water (or stock if using), the juices from the meatloaf and the pomegranate molasses. Stir and bring back to the boil. Cook until the sauce is a little reduced. Season with salt and pepper if required.
  9. To serve put a dish on top of the bundt tin and holding tight with both hands turn out the meatloaf. Use oven gloves and be very careful not to splatter juices (if not drained properly before) on yourself. Spoon the sauce over the meatloaf and garnish with the reserved pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Serve hot or cold with warmed bread and a leafy green salad.

Persian Aubergine (Eggplant) Stew with Meatballs & Dried Lime

Last night when I realised the only things I had in the fridge were a few aubergines, a handful of cherry tomatoes and some mince, the first thing that came to my mind was an aubergine stew, a cheat’s version, though. The proper one is made with cubed lamb.

What I made is a quick version of the scrumptious Persian gheymeh bademjoon, one of the variants of a fragrant stew of lamb/beef/chicken with slow-fried aubergine called khoresh bademjoon (aubergine/eggplant stew).

Proper gheymeh bademjoon with small chunks of lamb. Gheymeh means small chunk of meat.
Proper gheymeh bademjoon with small chunks of lamb. Gheymeh means small chunk of meat.

Meat plays the second fiddle to vegetables and herbs in many Persian dishes. Have you ever heard of a kilo of herbs going into a dish for six people? Well, that’s quite normal for a Persian dish. For the same reason the name of this stew remains “aubergine stew” whether it’s lamb, beef (chunks or mince or meatballs) or chicken that it’s cooked with. Aubergine is the king and reigns in this stew, quite rightfully!

Aubergines are often paired with chicken. One of the tastiest ever Persian stews is the one in the picture below. It’s made with aubergines and chicken and is flavoured with unripe sour grapes (ghooreh), saffron and cinnamon. Sour grapes sound a bit daunting but their lemony flavour brings out the best in aubergines and chicken.

Aubergine stew with chicken and green sour grapes preserved in brine (ghooreh).
Aubergine stew with chicken and green sour grapes preserved in brine (ghooreh). This is yet another version of the old khoresh bademjoon. It’s called bademjoon mosama which means aubergine with chicken.

Last year I posted a recipe for one of the other quick variants of khoresh bademjoon with chicken breasts and courgettes. That one (in the picture below) became very popular with my readers. For the recipe look here.

A variant of khoresh bademjoon with courgettes and chicken breasts.
A variant of khoresh bademjoon with courgettes and chicken breasts that I wrote about last year.

I’m very lucky the UK, at least the south, is so cosmopolitan. London has so many Persian and Middle eastern groceries I’m never lacking for ingredients. Every time I visit London to see friends I make sure I stock my pantry for a good while. There aren’t any Persian groceries in our town but luckily there are Asian shops where I can find a lot of the ingredients I need and a large array of vegetables, herbs and spices I can’t normally find in big supermarkets.

Some of the ingredients of gheymeh bademjoon.
Some of the ingredients of gheymeh bademjoon.

Supermarkets in the UK usually stock one type of aubergine, the big slightly rounded one, whereas in Asian shops I often find several different types including the lovely sweet and longish ones in the picture above.

I like to peel the aubergines, only partially. Looks good, I'm not sure if it makes much difference in taste.
I like to partially peel the aubergines. It looks good but I’m not sure if it makes too much difference in taste. A vegetable peeler makes the job very easy. You can keep the skin on if you wish or even peel them all the way.

I like to keep this dish a bit on low-fat side and usually make it with olive oil but if you don’t have my scruples about calories do add a big knob of butter to the sauce and use more oil to fry the aubergine slices. Makes it so much more delicious.

Aubergine stews are almost always served with plain Persian rice and obviously with such accompaniments as sabzi khordan (for a picture and non-recipe look here), torshi (vinegary pickles), yoghurt and perhaps a chopped tomato and cucumber salad (salad shirazi).

To serve four you will need the following ingredients:

  • 200g yellow lentils (split peas)
  • 2-3 dried limes (black or regular)
  • 400g lean beef mince
  • 1 small onion, grated
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp mild curry powder
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 5 tbsp oil (I prefer olive oil)
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 medium aubergines
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/8 tsp ground saffron

Method:

  1. Wash the limes and put in a small jar, cover with boiling water and put the lid on. Set aside to soak.
  2. Pick over the lentils and rinse. Put in a small saucepan and cover with water. Brings to the boil, then lower the heat and let cook for about fifteen minutes (cooking time depends on the type of lentils. Asian ones which are larger in size cook fast while the smaller Persian ones take a bit longer to cook). Don’t overcook or they’ll get mushy. They must have a bite in the centre.
  3. Put the chopped onions in a deep frying-pan with 2 tbsp oil. Cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time, until lightly golden. Add the turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the spices are fragrant and onions are golden. Add the tomato past and stir. Cook for two minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Wipe the pan.
  4. Prepare the saffron according to the instructions in How to Use Saffron, the King of Spices with 1/2 tablespoon water.
  5. Put the mince in a bowl and add the grated onion, 1/2 tsp salt and the black pepper. Use your hands to mix well and shape into about fifteen meatballs.
  6. Lightly brown the meatballs in the same pan with one tablespoon of oil. Return the fried onion to the pan with the dried limes. Add about one cup of boiling water and bring to the boil. Cover and cook on medium low.
  7. Put one tablespoon of oil in a lidded frying pan and arrange half the aubergine slices in it in one layer. Put on medium heat and cook, covered for about five minutes until golden brown on one side. Turn, cover again and cook until the other side is browned too and the slices have softened. Repeat with the rest of the aubergine slices and another tablespoon of oil.
  8. Remove the frying pan with meatballs from the heat. Add the lentils and stir. Arrange the aubergine slices and cherry tomatoes in the pan.
  9. Add a little more boiling water and the saffron liquid and grinds. The water must almost cover the aubergine slices. Return to the heat. Bring to the boil, cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes. The sauce should be almost as thick as thin gravy at the end of cooking so adjust with boiling water if required. Serve with rice. Enjoy!

Persian Broad Beans & Dill Rice with Braised Lamb Shanks

It’s officially spring, right? Nothing says spring better than a herby green rice with emerald-green broad beans.

This rice is called baghali polo (broad bean rice) in Persian. It’s an absolute favourite of Persian families and is found in almost any restaurant. In spring when broad beans appear in the markets in their green pods people buy huge bags to shell and freeze for the rest of the year. It won’t be an exaggeration if I say freezing loads of broad beans is one of the main reasons Iranian homes have to have huge freezers!

It takes some effort to shell broadbeans but it's totally worth it!
It takes some effort to shell broad beans but it’s totally worth it.

What gives this lovely rice its characteristic aroma is dill, fresh or dried or even both like in my recipe. Dill is widely used in Persian cooking. According to ancient Persian medical wisdom dill is a “warm” herb and broad beans are “cold” so using the two together balances the dish, making it a healthy one.

Fresh dill (or dill weed) has a lovely aroma when steamed in rice and is thought to "balance" the nutrition properties of broadbeans.
Fresh dill (or dill weed) has a lovely aroma when steamed with rice and is thought to “balance” the nutrition properties of broad beans.

“Warm” and “cold” don’t refer to actual heat at all. It’s the composition of natural elements and nutrition occurring in any given ingredient that gives it it’s “warm” or “cold” character. Too much “cold” will result in tummy discomfort among other things and too much heat in food can cause other problems such as a general feeling of too much heat, and skin problems like rashes.

Dried dill is preferred in some dishes as it's aroma is stronger than fresh.
Dried dill is preferred in some dishes as it’s aroma is stronger than fresh.

The aim is always to balance these elements (I’m giving a very simplified account). The knowledge of these principles is handed down in families and good cooks are always well versed in these principles so they don’t just throw ingredients in a dish randomly, they try to balance nutritious elements in it. Don’t want to bore you with this stuff anymore so better get down to the real business now!

Iranians make this rice with long-grain Persian (the top choice), or since that is quite expensive even in Iran, with imported basmati rice which is more affordable. Good Persian rice from the Caspian Sea rice-growing region is very hard to come by here so I usually use basmati or Thai Jasmine. I have made this dish with Arborio rice too but with a different method. It turned out like a lovely risotto-like dish (picture below).

A fusion version of baghali polo with Arborio rice. Unlike Persian rice that has to be very fluffy, this one is a bit sticky but tastes fab.
A fusion version of baghali polo with Arborio rice. Unlike Persian rice that has to be very fluffy, this one is a bit sticky but tastes fab.

A very Persian thing about making steamed rice is covering the bottom of the pot with sliced potatoes, lavash (a kind of flatbread), or even romaine lettuce leaves. This layer, called tahdig (bottom of the pot) cooks to a golden perfection and is the most prized part of a meal. Real or faked fights (for the sake of a bit of dinner-time fun) often happen over the crispy tahdig.

potato-tahdig
Potato slices keep rice from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan and are a delicious treat (tahdig).

Baghali polo is usually eaten with braised lamb, chicken, pan-fried fish or even with a green herby frittata (kookoo sabzi). I recommend that for vegetarians. My recipe for Kale and Potato Egg Muffins (see the recipe here) can be made like a crustless quiche to be served with baghali polo.

Golden slices of potato (tahdig) from the bottom of the pot.
Golden slices of potato (tahdig) from the bottom of the pot. It’s worth fighting for, isn’t it?

To make enough for 4 persons with very big appetite you will need the following ingredients:

For the rice and tahdig:

  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 3 heaping tablespoons table salt
  • 300g fresh or frozen podded broad beans (double-shelled)
  • 60g dill, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tbsp dried dill
  • 50g butter
  • 1cm thick slices of baking potatoes (about two medium)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin rapeseed oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground saffron

For the shanks:

  • 4 small lamb shanks
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or extra virgin rapeseed oil)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tsp whole green or black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt

 

Instructions for cooking the shanks:

Shanks take longer to cook, so start with those first.

  1. Trim all the fat from the shanks. Put two tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan big enough to hold all of the shanks. Brown the shanks all around on medium heat, sprinkling with turmeric halfway through. Remove to a plate.
  2. Add the rest of the oil to the saucepan and sauté the chopped onions until lightly caramelised. Add the peppercorns, garlic and bay leaf. Cook for a minute or two. Return the shanks to the saucepan and cover with enough boiling water to cover the shanks. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat as much as you can. Braise, covered, for at least two hours or until well-cooked.
  3. Remove the shanks and put the broth through a sieve. Discard the pulp and return the shanks to the pot with the tomato puree and salt. Cover and cook on medium heat until the sauce has reduced by half and the shanks are really falling off the bones. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Instructions for making the steamed rice:

  1. Put the rice in a sieve and rinse under cold running water to wash off the starch until the water runs clear. Put in a bowl and add enough water to cover the rice by about three centimetres. Add the salt and gently stir. Let stand.
  2. Defrost the bean (if using frozen). Pop the beans out of their shells with a gentle squeeze. Set aside for an hour.
  3. Bring a medium size lidded saucepan (preferably non-stick coated) of water to the boil. Drain the rice and add it to the boiling water. Gently stir and cook until al dente (soft with a bite in the centre). Drain in a sieve.
  4. Heat the oil in the saucepan over medium heat until very hot. Arrange one layer of potato slices in the bottom of the saucepan. Use a large spoon or skimmer to gently transfer 1/3 of the rice into the pot, slightly heaping it in the middle. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the fresh dill, the dried dill and 1/3 of the broad beans and repeat until all the rice, broad beans and dill are used up. Wrap the lid in a clean tea towel and cover the pot tightly.
  5. Prepare the saffron according to the instructions in How to Use Saffron, the King of Spices. Set aside.
  6. Melt the butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave oven.
  7. Increase the heat and cook the rice for a couple of minutes on high heat or until the side of the pot is very hot to the touch. Lift the lid, pour the butter evenly over the rice and cover with the lid. Lower the heat as much as you can (using a heat diffuser is helpful) and let the rice steam for approximately 30 minutes after the first signs of steam appear. The rice is ready when you see a lot of steam and there is some caramelisation around the bottom.
  8. When ready to serve use a skimmer to gently transfer some of the white layer of rice to a plate. Add the infused saffron to the rice and mix gently. Put the rest of the rice in a platter and cover the top with the saffron rice.
  9. Now use a wooden or silicon spoon or slicer to lift the potato slices (tahdīg) from the bottom of the pot. Serve with the lamb shanks and the sauce from cooking the lamb. Enjoy!