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Khoresht is an Iranian word that literally means "to eat", though it can be used in a culinary sense to indicate foods that are cooked into a stew. There really is no strict definition of what is included in khoresht, although it generally refers to traditional Iranian stews that reflect the cuisine of the area. The stews usually include meat, vegetables and spices such as saffron. The preparation of khoresht can take anywhere from an hour to an entire day, depending on the ingredients and methods used to make it. When served, the stew is frequently poured over a white rice dish known as polo.
Even though there are a large number of different recipes for khoresht, many of the classic ones actually have a fairly consistent set of base ingredients. These include onions, tomatoes or tomato paste, garlic and oil. One distinctive element in many Persian stews is dried lime. These are dehydrated limes that have been crushed into powder and added to the dish like any other powdered spice, although fresh lime juice also can be used.
The main ingredient in khoresht can be nearly anything, although a few are more popular than others. The ghaimeh version uses split peas with lamb, while bademjan is made from eggplants and, sometimes, meat. Baamieh is made from okra and beef, and ghormeh sabzi uses lamb and beans. Other types use mushrooms, pomegranate seeds or veal and apricots. The combinations are as varied as the available ingredients.
Most khoresht begins with a pan coated in hot oil. The onions, garlic and any other aromatics are fried until they release their flavors into the oil. If meat is being used, it is placed in the pan and browned. Any starchy components, such as potatoes, are added to the pan and cooked, as well. Lentils, split peas or beans also are added to cook for a moment if they are being used.
One factor that helps give khoresht its distinctive, rich flavor is that each of the ingredients is cooked before being added to the stew liquid. This allows each to develop a deeper taste and texture. This also is achieved through the use of spices such as mint, parsley and saffron, which impart unique flavors.
Once all of the ingredients have heated in a pan, water or another liquid is added and the khoresht is allowed to simmer for hours until some of the ingredients have melted into the stew. The thick stew can be served by itself in a bowl or topped with yogurt or fried potatoes. It also is commonly found spooned over white rice.
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