Ghormeh Sabzi – herb and bean casserole with lamb

(Iran’s favourite national dish. To feed 6 hearty/8 modest eaters)

There is a sort of unwritten agreement amongst Iranian housewives that this dish should be served in every household at least once a week. As far as I know it isn’t actually written into the statute books, but I sometimes wonder.

When it’s blowing a gale around Persepolis we like nothing better than to tuck ourselves up around a roaring log fire and recount epic tales of the Persian heroes of old (although a video may be nearer the mark): and that’s the sort of evening when we just have to have ghormeh sabzi, one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods.

The dish is quite stunning – if you have made it correctly, it should in fact be a rich green in colour, and the aroma wafting from it should be enough to get them queuing down the street



  • shoulder of lamb, trimmed of as much fat as possible (the sheep is a very badly designed animal and it is impossible to remove all the fat), and cut on the bone into 3cm chunks (a nice butcher will do this for you)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 8-9 dried limes, washed and pricked in several places
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 400g kidney beans soaked and cooked (or 2 cans of the same)
  • 1 bunch each of fresh coriander, parsley, chives, spinach and fenugreek, washed, drained and chopped
  • salt and pepper


Place the lamb, onion and dried limes into a pan of water, sprinkle the turmeric on top, bring it to the boil and set it to simmer. After an hour, stir your casserole a bit, and then fry off the herbs in a little oil, stirring constantly so that they cook through thoroughly (5-7 minutes should do the trick); if they are not properly fried they will clump once you add them to the main dish. Add the herbs, stir the ‘khoresht’ well, and add some seasoning. Set to simmer again, keeping an eye on the liquid level. Twenty minutes before you wish to dish up, stir in the kidney beans.

Altogether we like our stew to bubble away for a couple of hours, but it will be edible after about one and a half. The finished dish should have a thick, rich green sauce and the meat should be falling off the bone.

Serve with plain white basmati rice (sacrilege to contemplate anything else, I am told), and wedges of onion, raw garlic and a pot of thick plain yoghurt.

Cheat’s Guide…

Now washing and sorting all those herbs is a pretty time-consuming business and even the most dutiful Iranian housewife is not above the occasional short cut. So you can use dried herbs if you wish – just soak them first and then fry them, or if you are lucky enough to have an Iranian store near you look out for frozen pre-chopped herbs, frozen chopped and fried herbs or even the whole sauce thing in cans. Not that we are endorsing such scheming in the kitchen, you understand…