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Persian sour chicken stew (Khoresh morgh-e torsh)

Persian cuisine is abundant with lovely stews, an extension of the Persian love of soup. This stew is from northern Iran, the province of Gilan, and is characterized by the cooking style in the region. This includes the use of sour orange juice, verjuice or lime juice, and the abundant use of herbs, more than in other parts of the country.

Verjuice is a French seasoning, the juice from unripe grapes. It is usually a light yellow liquid that is quite easily available internationally, but hard to find if at all in India. It has a naturally tart flavour that is more rounded than lime juice, which is a good substitute.

This stew reflects this in its luxurious flavours. The lovely scent of saffron is accompanied by aromatic herbs and turmeric. The chickpeas add a lovely nuttiness and bite and the soft chicken has absorbed all the flavours. This is a lovely stew, with soft, rounded flavours and one that you will go back for seconds.

This is a beautiful book packed with most of the well-known Persian recipes. The instructions are simple and you are guaranteed to fall in love with the tahdig once you master this art. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a great starter book on Persian cuisine. For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1 large bone-in chicken, cut into 8 segments

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup yellow split peas (chana dal), soaked in 4 cups water overnight

2+3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons white wine

1 large onion, finely diced

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 leek, cut into thin half circles

1/2 cup cilantro, minced

1/3 cup parsley, minced + for garnish

1/3 cup mint, finely minced

4 tablespoons dill, minced

1/4 cup verjuice or juice of 1 lime

A generous pinch of saffron

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 cup water, or as needed

Rub the salt on the chicken and set aside till needed.

Rinse out the dal and bring it to a boil in 4 cups of water. Scoop off the scum from the top. Simmer gently for 30 minutes till the dal is cooked but still retains a firm shape and bite. Do not overcook the dal. Remove from the heat and set aside with the cooking liquids.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a frying pan and fry the chicken, three pieces at a time till browned all over. Do not overcrowd the pan or the chicken will stew rather than fry. Set the fried chicken aside. Remove the pan from the heat and add the wine, using a rubber spatula scrape off the burnt bits and the bottom of the pan. Pour the liquids over the chicken and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil in a large pot. Add the onions and fry on medium-low heat till the onions are lightly golden. Add the garlic, turmeric, and leeks and cook till the leeks are soft. Add the herbs, cilantro, parsley, mint and dill, and cook till the herbs are completely wilted about 1 minute.

Add the chicken and juices, saffron, and 2 cups water and bring the mix to a boil. Simmer closed for 20 minutes. Stir the pot occasionally to make sure the spices and herbs are not sticking to the bottom and burning.

Open the pot and add the cooked chickpeas and the cooking liquids. Simmer for an additional 15 minutes. By this time the chicken should be very tender and falling off the bone. Mix in the lime juice, 1/2 lime at a time. Taste for salt, and saffron. Adjust seasonings. You are looking fr a very flavourful sauce.

Serve hot with a parsley garnish and pita bread or rice.

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