Ghormeh what?! Often one of the most marveled foods in Persian cuisine, ghormeh sabzi is by far my favorite Iranian dish. Traditionally, ghormeh sabzi is made with beef or chicken, and you can totally make it that way if you choose. I opted to a vegetarian/vegan version of ghormeh sabzi that packs all the flavor and nutrition of the herbs without a ton of saturated fat from the beef.
The Origins of Ghormeh Sabzi
I could easily write a book about Persian food (and probably will one day). But in a nutshell, traditional Persian food operates on a seasonal basis. Certain dishes are made in the warmer months and certain foods are prepared in the colder season. Of course, today we have access to a bunch of ingredients and don’t really depend on the seasons. But to ancient Persian nomads and civilizations, eating seasonally was the only way they knew of.
I tried to find out more about the origins of ghormeh sabzi, but didn’t have much luck. Wikipedia
because that’s such a reliable source says ghormeh sabzi dates back to 500 or 1,000 years ago. I have a feeling the dish is probably older than that. I also have a feeling this dish was probably made in the warm summer months, especially towards the end of summer and the start of fall.
Why summer? Think about it. This dish requires A LOT of fresh herbs. In the summer, Iranians probably had more wild herbs than they knew what to do with. The answer was to cook all of these herbs down into a savory stew and add some meat and beans to make the dish more satiating. I wouldn’t be surprised if ghormeh sabzi was accidentally invented by an ancient Iranian woman who simply wanted to use up a bunch of produce and herbs before they spoiled and autumn started.
Tips for Making Ghormeh Sabzi
Back in the day, ghormeh sabzi was one of the most difficult dishes for Iranians to cook. Between cleaning all the herbs, chopping them extremely finely, and letting them simmer for hours, I could understand my grandmother’s frustration as her generation also experienced the luxury of cooking over a wood stove. Thankfully, times have changed and there are a lot of short cuts you can take to make ghormeh sabzi much easier to prepare:
- Don’t Kid Yourself. As much as I want to make an easy ghormeh sabzi recipe for you all, I’m no magician. Please don’t think you can simply come home after work and whip up a batch of ghormeh sabzi in 30 minutes. It’s simply not going to happen. There are however, ways where you can wash and cut up your herbs ahead of time.
- Devote a Saturday to Washing and Cutting Your Herbs. This is perhaps the secret to a working woman’s or man’s ghormeh sabzi. Feel free to double or triple this recipe and chop A TON of greens one Saturday. Sure it’ll be tedious and annoying. But once it’s done you can freeze these herbs in plastic bags where they’ll keep for as long as six months! I don’t know about you, but I’m all for doing a ton of work one day if it means I can save time for weeks or even months on end.
- Make Use of Your Freezer. You don’t have to freeze just the herbs for ghormeh sabzi. Freeze leftover portions of the cooked stew and it will again keep for a couple of months. All you have to do is defrost it in the fridge the day before. As soon as you come home from work, you’ll have instant access to healthy and homemade Persian food. If you do use this method however, be sure you definitely make the vegan/vegetarian version and add meat during the reheating process. For some reason, freezing cooked meat just never tastes quite right.
- It All Comes Down to Personal Preference. Some people make ghormeh sabzi very sour. Some use different types of beans. Ghormeh sabzi has definitely morphed into a regional dish, and I’ve been to several parties over the years where the host’s recipe is completely different from mine. As you learn this dish, don’t be afraid to adjust the seasoning, beans, and even herbs to your taste.