Azerbaijani Beef With Chestnuts and Sour Plums

Turshu Kourma

As Zemfira and Tarlan Ahmadov from Baku, Azerbaijan, showed Lindsay Sterling in Portland, Maine. Photos by Tiffany Converse.

Cooking Time: 2 hours
Serves: 4-6
Note: Persian dried golden prunes, also known as sour plums, are can be found at Middle Eastern markets. They do have pits so warn your guests. Great substitutes that are pit-free and taste great are dried apricots sliced in half, dried cherries, or dried cranberries. The cherries are my favorite because their flavor is both sweet and sour like the original golden prunes.

Note: She served this with yellow rice, a fresh vegetable platter, and pickled vegetables. 

Ingredients

  • 1 pound cubed beef (stew meat)
  • 2 onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ghee 
  • 1 cup Persian sour plums (substitute dried cherries, apricots, or cranberries)
  • about 40 fresh chestnuts from produce department 
  • or 20 prepared (peeled and cooked) chestnuts from a jar or Cryovac-ed

Equipment

  • large pot
  • knife
  • cutting board
  • 2 large saute pans, at least one with lid 
  • medium saute pan
  • mixing spoon
  • medium bowl
  • large bowl
  • spoon
  • strainer and pot or slotted spoon
  • 1 tsp (or eyeball it)

Instructions

1. If using prepared chestnuts you can skip this step. If using fresh chestnuts, make an "x" with a knife in the base of each chestnut, and then boil for five-seven minutes. Preferably sit with a loved one as you two then peel off the hard shells and dark skins together.

2. Cook beef cubes covered in salted water for an hour and a half or 15 minutes in a pressure cooker.

3. Soak dried fruit in a dish of water (wash any salt off sour prunes if there is any). 

4. Remove beef from broth with a slotted spoon or strain beef, reserving the both.

5. In large saute pan (with lid) on medium heat, saute onions nearly covered in oil and sprinkled generously with turmeric, until they cook down to half their original size.

6. In another large saute pan, saute meat on high heat in a small amount of oil for about ten minutes to brown the sides. Remove meat and put the meat in with the onions on medium-low.

7. Strain the dried fruit. In the large saute pan you used to saute the meat, saute the dried fruit in a teaspoon of ghee for five minutes on medium, and then add the fruit to the with the meat and onions.

8. In the same pan you used to saute the dried fruit, add another teaspoon of ghee and sautee the chestnuts until they're golden. Add the chestnuts to the onions and beef.

9. Now continue to cook all the ingredients together on medium-low for about 45 minutes mostly with lid on, occasionally turning the contents gently, and adding spoonfulls of beef broth here and there to keep everything moist and together but not saucy.

The Ahmadovs (right and center) share their favorite dishes from Azerbaijan.

Serve beef and chestnuts with Azerbaijani yellow rice, fresh vegetable platter, and pickled vegetables if you wish. 

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