The culinary landscape of Iran is as diverse as its rich history, and among the myriad of dishes that have captured the hearts of both locals and travelers, Kuku Sibzamini stands out. This delightful potato fritter, akin to a thicker version of the Spanish tortilla or the Swiss rösti, is an embodiment of simplicity meeting flavor.
Kuku Sibzamini, when translated, means ‘potato kuku.’ The term ‘kuku’ in Persian cuisine typically refers to dishes that are somewhat similar to the Italian frittata, made primarily with whipped eggs combined with various ingredients. And in the case of Kuku Sibzamini, potatoes take center stage.
The Making of Kuku Sibzamini
Preparation: 20 minutes, plus cooling
Cooking: approximately 45 minutes
- 1 medium onion
- 20 g/¾ oz fresh parsley
- 30 g/1 oz fresh coriander/ cilantro
- vegetable oil for frying
- 250 g/9 oz lean minced/ground beef
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon powdered dried lime
- 1 teaspoon tomato purée/tomato paste
- juice of ½ lemon salt and black pepper
- 1 kg/2¼ lb medium potatoes
- 2 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-based frying pan/skillet and fry the onion until golden. Add the minced/ground meat, turmeric and lime powder. Mix thoroughly and fry for 5–10 minutes, stirring frequently, to brown the meat lightly. Add the chopped herbs, tomato purée/tomato paste and lemon juice. Mix and fry for another 5 minutes on a medium heat; season to taste. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, wash the potatoes and boil in their skins until tender. Peel the potatoes and mash them until smooth, adding salt and pepper to taste. Set aside until they are cool enough to handle.
Take a heaped tablespoon of mashed potato. Shape it into a ball. Stick your thumb halfway through the ball to make a hole. Stuff 2 teaspoons of the meat mixture into the hole and cover with the mash. Pat it down to make a round patty approximately 8 cm/3 inches in diameter and about 2 cm/¾ inch thick. You should end up with 8 to 10 patties. Sprinkle the flour over a clean work surface and cover the patties on all sides with a light dusting of flour.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a frying pan/skillet (preferably non-stick) and gently lower the patties into the hot oil. You may have to cook them in batches, depending on the size of your frying pan/skillet. Fry for 5–6 minutes; do not move them too much or they will disintegrate. Use a spatula to turn them over and fry for another 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan, preferably cast-iron, and toss the quartered onion in the oil for a couple of minutes, until lightly golden. Add the lamb shanks and turn to seal on all sides. The meat should not be browned at this stage.
Add the turmeric and stir to coat the shanks evenly. Drain the split peas and add to the pan, then add the dried limes.
Pour the boiling water into the pan and stir well. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Simmer gently for approximately 1½ hours until the shanks are nearly cooked (you should be able to separate the meat from the bone with a fork) and the split peas are al dente. Keep the heat low and keep the lid on the pan to retain as much of the liquid as possible.
Drain and add the potatoes and the tomato purée/tomato paste to the pan and stir to mix. Leave to simmer very gently until the potatoes are cooked, approximately 30 minutes. Season to taste.
Add the red kidney beans and simmer for a further 10–15 minutes. Add the lemon juice and simmer for another 5 minutes. Just before serving, add the liquid saffron and mix well.
Serve with warm flat bread such as pitta or lavash (very thin Persian bread) with a side dish of yogurt and fresh herbs.
Source: New Persian Cooking: A Fresh Approach to the Classic Cuisine of Iran by Jila Dana-Haeri