Vegetarian khoresht karafs, celery stew, makes a great meatless Monday dinner and is a perfect meal for vegans and vegetarians. This stew is typically made with lamb and served over fragrant basmati rice, but this meatless version is just as tasty and filling as its meaty counterpart.
I made this vegetarian khoresht karafs using my authentic recipe and just left the meat out and added garlic. To add protein, you can use any meat substitute you like. If you like tofu, use firm or extra firm tofu because they hold their shape better and make sure to press out all the liquid so that they crisp up nicely when fried and better absorb the flavors of the stew. For a complete instruction on preparing tofu check out my vegetarian khoresht kadoo recipe. Cooked garbanzo beans, white beans or red kidney beans also work well with this recipe.
The fastest and easiest method to clean herbs like parsley, dill and cilantro is to leave the rubber band or twist tie on the bunch and just twist the stems off with your hand or using a knife cut across the rubber band or twist tie discarding the stems. It’s perfectly fine to use the younger and more tender stems. If you see any tougher stems while washing or chopping the herbs simply remove them. This is much more efficient than picking each leaf off the stem. Now cleaning mint requires more work because mint usually has tougher stems. The best way to pick the leaves is to gather the smaller clusters and pinch them off or just strip the larger leaves off the stems.
After cleaning the herbs soak them in a large bowel of water and let the dirt settle to the bottom of the bowl. I repeat this process until the bottom of the bowl is clean, usually 3 times. This has become my habit and no matter how clean the herbs are I still have to soak them 3 times but you don’t have to!
Once the herbs are drained coarsely chop and fry them for about 10 minutes.
To prepare the celery, cut both ends off the bunch and separate the stalks. Then either soak the stalks in cold water or rinse them under cold running water to get rid of all the dirt stuck to their root ends. Next stack as many as you can comfortably hold on a cutting board and cut either straight across the stalks or at a diagonal about 1/2 to 1 inch apart depending on your desired size. I usually remove the tougher and more stringy outer stalks and use the rest of the celery as well as the leaves.
To create a real tasty stew, fry the onions until slightly golden. Then add the chopped garlic, seasoning and dry mint and cook the mixture for few minutes before adding water and Persian limes limoo amani. Even though fresh mint is used in this stew, I like to finish cooking the onions with dry mint because its flavor is concentrated and more pronounced not to mention its amazing aroma when fried.
Once the sauce is ready, add the celery and herb mixture and cook for 40 minutes or until the celery is tender. Half way through cooking, gently press the Persian limes limoo amani against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon to release their juices into the stew, but don’t break them open because their seeds can make the stew bitter.
If using saffron, tofu or cooked legumes stir them in toward the end of cooking. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve vegetarian khoresht karafs over fluffy and aromatic basmati rice.
Vegetarian Khoresht Karafs
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hour 20 min
Ready in: 1 hour 40 min
Yields: 6 servings
1 large onion peeled and chopped
8 tablespoons olive oil divided
3 garlic cloves peeled and chopped (optional)
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon dry mint (optional)
Pinch of ground saffron (optional)
4 Persian limes limoo amani pierced with a fork or ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 cups water
1 head of celery cleaned and cut into ½-inch pieces
3 bunches fresh parsley cleaned and chopped
2 bunches fresh mint cleaned and chopped
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add parsley and mint, cook for 10 minutes, stir occasionally. Add celery and cook for 10 more minutes.
While the celery and herbs are cooking, heat the remaining oil in a medium-sized pan. Add onions and cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat until slightly golden, stir occasionally. Add seasoning, garlic and dry mint and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
Add the celery and mint mixture, Persian limes and 2 cups of hot water, cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes or until celery is tender.
Taste and adjust the seasoning. If using saffron, it’s best to add it toward the end of cooking.
Serve over fragrant basmati polo.