Persian Lamb & Celery Stew (Khoresht-e Karafs)

Khorest-e Karafs, or Karafs for short, is a Lamb & Celery Stew that is ridiculously good. It’s Adrian’s favorite Persian stew hands down and definitely a close contender to my favorite Persian stew, Gormeh Sabzi, with lamb, kidney beans, and fenugreek. 

Adrian and I have been making karafs for 8 years now thanks to his aunt Fatteneh who has taken it upon herself to pass down the Assassi family recipes to future generations. While Fattaneh lives in Australia, we’re fortunately able to connect with her every other year or so when she flies out to Santa Barbara for the holidays. When she does, we love nothing more than catching up with her life in Australia AND soaking up every second that she spends in Adrian’s dad’s kitchen.

Back when we first learned how to make karafs, I followed Fattaneh around like a detective and questioning her almost like she was a criminal. “Fatteneh, what did you just add to the pot?!” super worried I was about to miss something for my handwritten recipe. Then she’d tell me, “it’s just a bit of turmeric, salt, and pepper.” “How much?” I’d ask, always one to quantify things.

Since then, we've mastered how to make Abgoosht, Gourmeh Sabzi, Bademjan, Fesenjoon, and a couple different dips and desserts.  Bademjan and Fesenjoon are definitely next for the blog, but I bet you'd give anything for Fattaneh's incredible eggplant and garlic dip, but you're going to have to be wait!

Below is a picture from our first trial of karafs in 2008. My food photography is a little (A LOT) better now, haha.

Back in 2008, Fattaneh was a superstar as far as her patience was concerned because I really did ask a lot of questions. I personally know that pesky questions can be more than a little annoying when you’re trying to get dinner on the table, so I'm beyond grateful for sharing her knowledge and talents with us! Fortunately now, we have this recipe down to a T, and I’m so excited to share it with you today!

I've pretty much transcribed everything I wrote down from Fattaneh’s cooking lesson in the recipe below. I’ve gone back every year or so to rewrite it for clarity, and revalidated it when we were cooking with Fattaneh this last Christmas. But if there’s anything that doesn’t make sense, or could be said better, be sure to send me a message! 

Persian Lamb and Celery Stew (Khorest-e Karafs)

Time: 1 Hour, 20 Minutes
Serves 6

1 cup canola oil, divided
1 large yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
1 ¼ lb boneless lamb shoulder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1 medium bunch celery
1 bunch flat leat parsley, finely chopped
1 tbsp dried mint leaves
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tbsp tomato paste

To Serve
Steamed basmati rice
Toasted pita bread or lavash

Sabzi (Persian Salad)
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1” pieces
1 bunch radishes, halved
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch tarragon leaves

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat ¾ cup oil on high heat and add onions, sautéing until golden brown. Add lamb pieces and stir. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and stir until lamb is a pinkish brown. Add water to lamb level and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat ⅓ cup oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat and add celery pieces. Fry until coated generously with oil, about 3-4 minutes, but do not let celery get soft. Add celery to the stew while it continues to simmer and cover. To the same sauté pan, add parsley and more oil if needed, and fry until cooked down, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in mint. Add mixture to stew. Cover and simmer until lamb is tender, about 30 more minutes.

Once lamb is tender, add lemon juice and tomato paste and simmer until the stew has reduced appropriately, about 10-20 more minutes. Season with salt to taste.