Last year a dear friend gave me the best cook book for my birthday. This is the book I had dreamt of for a long time as a student abroad when I missed home cooked Iranian food. Unfortunately as much as I searched, all the books I found weren't great. It happened to find me a bit later in life but either way I'm glad it did! It's called The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia, and is filled with healthy versions of the traditional dishes without compromising on the flavour and topped with some very creative modern additions which are influenced by the Iranian/Persian pallet. And even better yet, for all the meat dishes she has a vegetarian option which suggests what you can substitute the meat with!
This dish takes some time to make and the longer you cook it and let it rest for the more delicious it will taste, so I would suggest making it on a day where you know you won't have much going on and are willing to spend the most part of it in the kitchen. Please don't let this put you off because it's definitely worth it! This is Louisa's take on a very traditional dish with some minor adjustments by me and I do hope you enjoy this as much as we did.
Note: the book says it serves 4, however it could definitely serve 6.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
3 large aubergine, diced sea salt 1 tbs coconut oil 1/2 cup split peas 8 cups water 4 tbs olive oil 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced 6 medium vine tomatoes, roughly chopped 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses (unsweetened) 1 tbs honey/liquid sweetener of your choice 3 cloves garlic, minced 4 cups vegetable stock Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
Spread the aubergine onto the prepared baking tray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Bake for 40 mins stirring gently every 10 or so minutes to prevent them from sticking. When the aubergine is nice and soft, remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature.
While the aubergine is cooks, put the split peas and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about 40 minutes. Drain and season with 1 teaspoon salt.
Heat the olive oil in large deep pan over medium to high heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until it starts to darken, then cook slowly over low heat for about 30 minutes, until it's dark brown and about half the original volume. Add the aubergine, tomatoes, turmeric, cinnamon, pomegranate molasses, liquid sweetener, garlic, split peas, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered for 1 hour. Uncover and simmer for 15 minutes, until the stew is thick.
Turn off the heat and let the stew rest for 15-30 mins. Season with salt and pepper and serve with brown basmati rice and if you have some, iranian pickle (torshi).