Cook something new with Seville oranges: my Khoresht e Nâranj recipe brings together sweet carrots, bitter orange, vegan chicken, aromatic saffron and cinnamon, and tangy barberries. This Iranian stew is served on rice and garnished with almonds.
How to use Seville oranges in cooking
Seville oranges, unlike their sweet cousins, are sour and rather full of pips and pith. Seville oranges are famous in the west for making marmalade and are available only in January and February. However, nâranj, as they are known in Farsi, are a perfect ingredient in Iranian dishes which typically include a sour ingredient to balance out heavier flavours.
How to make bitter orange peel
In Iranian cuisine, nâranj peel is a great ingredient for rice dishes such as Nâranj Polo (orange rice) and Shireen Polo (almond rice). As Seville oranges are only available in winter, here is a method to dry and store its sour orange peel:
- First, ensure you choose organic or at least unwaxed Seville oranges.
- Peel the orange rind off the white pith using a potato peeler.
- Cut into thin julienne strips.
- Leave these to dry on a sunny windowsill or in an airing cupboard.
- Keep dry in a jar.
- When cooking with them, boil and drain twice to get rid of bitterness.
Khoresht e Nâranj
As a citrus marmalade-hater, I was first inspired to cook with Seville oranges in a savoury dish when I found Margaret Shaida’s Persian ‘Orange Stew’ recipe. I began to experiment with the dish and now would like to share my vegan bitter orange stew with you. It is quite simple to make. You just need a little patience to cut the vegetables finely and fry each ingredient individually before adding to the pot. The layers of harmonising flavours in the stew will brighten up your January evening!
If you don’t have Seville oranges, try combining normal orange and grapefruit juices to create a bittersweet taste.
Barberries (zereshk) can be difficult to find in the UK. If you are visiting a city with an international food store, I recommend picking up a couple of packets. Barberries keep well because they are dried and they are light to carry home from a city break. A good replacement in this recipe can be dried goji berries or cranberries.
Without saffron, this dish will lose a key flavour. However, if you really can’t find saffron swap for a pinch of turmeric directly into the pot.
I have veganised this dish with vegan chicken-style pieces. I think this gives the flavour and texture that is most true to the traditional dish but if you prefer to use a non-processed food I would opt for mushrooms.
Cooking tips for Khoresht Nâranj
- Take your time with frying – the onions and carrots should be soft and caramelise.
- Use enough oil – you may need to adjust the amount depending on your pan type and size.
- Set aside a quarter of the orange peel strips and leave out to dry. These can be used in rice dishes. Instructions are above.
- Prepare the rice either according to packet instructions or in Iranian style Tahdig – crispy rice – ته دیگ
If you like this Khoresht, you might like:
- Peel and slice the onions finely. Fry on low heat in some oil for 15 mins. Stir only occasionally.
- Meanwhile, julienne the carrots. Once the onions are soft and starting to brown, move to the deep pot and continue to cook on low heat with enough oil. Put a cinnamon stick in with the onions. Add a little more oil to the frying pan and fry the carrots on low heat. Stir both pans occasionally.
- Prepare the oranges. First, juice them. Then, wash the rinds and peel them thinly with a potato peeler. (You don't want the white pith.) Slice julienne. Boil the slices in water and drain. Repeat once more to get rid of the bitterness.
- In a mug, grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar or salt. Fill the cup three quarters full with boiling water and leave aside.
- Once the carrots are soft, add them to the onions. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the orange peel strips and barberries, if using. Pour in the saffron water and leave to reduce.
- Fry the vegan chicken pieces in the frying pan with more oil. Add to the pot when golden brown.
- Once everything is combined and there isn't too much liquid left, pour in the orange juice and cook for 5 mins. Serve on plain rice with a garnish of almond slivers.