I remember when the Ottolenghi books first came out, there was some excitement (at least in this household) about the dried Iranian limes. They were difficult to find, but finally I tracked some down. I can’t recall where I found them at last, probably at a shop that had an extensive rack of spices.
These days, they are much more common (thank you, Ottolenghi), and I discovered that there are both black dried limes and the lighter coloured, beige dried limes. The dried limes impart a citrusy, smoky flavour with a slight tang to food, lifting them from ordinariness to something spicy and tangy. The flavour is bright and limey while also being earthy, funky and grounding. The black limes are slightly more smoky in flavour than the lighter coloured ones.
One of the recipes I would look at longingly in those days was the Iranian Stew, and yet, all these years later, I had not made it. Until today. And it is quite amazing. The vegetables are simmered in a broth of tomatoes, onions, herbs and dried limes, before being baked with barberries in the oven. It produces an amazing plate of vegetables with a thickened sauce and an amazing, bright, citrusy flavour.
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. In this case, track down those dried limes in Middle Eastern shops or purchase online if your local providore does not stock them.
It is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Similar recipes include Sautéed Butternut and Spinach with Roasted Mushrooms and Roasted Garlic, Braised Tomatoes with Herbs, Sesame Potatoes, Vegetables with Indian Flavours, Dried Lime Tea, and Persian Tea with Rose Flowers, Lime and Persian Borage.
Browse all of our Stews and all of our Dried Lime dishes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.
Persian Stew with Winter Vegetables
1 large onion, finely diced
0.5 tspn ground turmeric
1.5 tspn cumin seeds
1 Tblspn tomato puree (or 1 pureed tomato)
1 kg waxy potatoes 1kg, peeled and chopped into 4cm chunks
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 4cm chunks
3 Iranian limes, pierced 2-3 times
1 green chilli 1, slit one side from stem to tip
4 medium tomatoes, quartered
150g spinach leaves
300g Indian or Greek yoghurt
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Place a large casserole on a medium heat and sauté the butter, onion, turmeric and cumin for 10 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes.
Bundle the herbs together and use some string to tie them into a bunch. Add these to the dish along with the potatoes, squash, limes, chilli, sea salt to taste and 1 litre of water, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are semi-cooked.
Stir through the tomatoes, spinach and barberries, crushing the limes gently to release some of the juice inside, and transfer everything to a large roasting tray. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened a little and the vegetables are soft.
Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving with a dollop of yoghurt on the side, if you choose.
recipe notes and alternatives
This dish is gorgeous with roti, or with Middle Eastern flatbread.