Grapefruit 3 Ways: Lamb Khoresh with Potatoes & Grapefruit Peel

Note: This is long overdue. Cleaning out photos and recipes archived but not posted yet…

This was inspired by a wonderful gift we received for Christmas a couple of years ago — a bushel of gorgeous ruby red grapefruit from Pittman & Davis, an orchard in Texas specializing in mail order delivery.

Now we LOVE fresh grapefruit, and devoured these beauties in no time — they were sweet and incredibly fragrant. So much so that it made me sad to simply compost the rinds after the fruit were peeled.

What to do, what to do…. I tried grating some of the rind into sugar for a grapefruit scented sugar — it smelled heavenly, but quickly clumped up as the oils from the rind wet the sugar. So that was not a long term solution to preserving our bounty…

The next step was to try preserving the rinds in sugar. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of candied citrus peel. It’s one of the reasons I don’t really enjoy fruitcake — the sticky-sweet candied lemon and orange peel are generally too cloying for my taste. If we were going to candy these rinds, it had to be a drier and less sweet candy peel, one in which the grapefruit flavor came through and in which just enough sugar is used to preserve without taking over.

Basically, the peels were cooked over low heat in a simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) until the water slowly evaporated and the peels had absorbed the sugar and been left coated in a light glaze. Simply Recipes offers a simple candied citrus tutorial that I found very instructive.

The grapefruit peels were blanched after the white pith was removed, just to give the thick rinds a chance to soften and better absorb the sugar.

After the rinds had cooked in syrup for about 1½ hours , they were dried on a rack placed on a cookie sheet and left in a cold oven. Since these were made in winter, our house was very dry and the rinds dried very quickly — in just over 24 hours.

These were great for nibbling, but I knew they would not last by the time summer came around since the weather around metro DC is notoriously humid starting around late May. As much as I enjoyed nibbling these with tea, I began to consider if I could use them in a savory dish. Then I remembered a stew that was on our to-try list from one of our favorite recipe books, “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh Batmanglij. This collection is the same one from which we made the Khoresh with Eggplants. One of the reasons we had yet to try the Khoresh with Potatoes and Orange Peel is that it called for candied orange peel, something we never had in the pantry. With a substitution of grapefruit for orange peel, this was our chance to try this stew.

In addition to the candied peel, this khoresh has another citrus ingredient — one that is unique to the cuisine of Persia and the areas around it. It is whole dried lime, also called loomi, black lime, or limu omani. You may find loomi in Middle Eastern groceries, especially if the grocery serves a Persian community, and sometimes in well-stocked Indian groceries as some recipes from the Parsi communities in the north call for dried limes. Loomi are limes dried whole, and their color can range from light to dark brown. As long as the limes do not show any evidence of mold, they are suitable for cooking and in fact the darker colored limes are said to have a better flavor.

Loomi are used as a souring agent, and add a very pleasant puckering-sort of sour — we find it quite addictive. When I open a bag of loomi, I am reminded of the distinctive aroma of Pixie Stix! (For Americans of a certain age, Pixie Stix were a childhood treat — wax straws filled with sour, fruit-flavored sugar dust that were the precursors of Pop Rocks.) To use loomi, I was taught to puncture the skin with a sharp knife and add the limes whole to meat curries. The unique flavor of dried lime cannot be easily substituted with fresh lime juice or even fresh zest. Once dried, the limes seem to continue to age and the flavor grows quite complex as well as intense. They are worth seeking out or ordering online if necessary.

This stew was a truly inspired combination of citrus flavors — the intense lime permeates the meat and legumes, while the candied peel punctuates each bite with a bright sweet note. We really loved this khoresh. I would make the candied grapefruit peel just to be able to have this again.

So this was the third and last use of our Christmas gift of fresh grapefruit — preserved and enjoyed well into spring. It was a lovely present from first to last!  Our love and thanks to Dad Rob and Mom Jo for these thoughtful and long-lasting treats!

Adapted from “A Taste of Persia” by Najmieh Batmanglij
Serves 4 persons

4 TBL ghee or unsalted butter
1½ lb (680g) lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large onion, sliced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
1½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
2 cups (474 ml) tomato puree, about 4 fresh tomatoes
2 cups (474ml) water
4 loomi (Persian whole dried limes)
½ cup (80g) dried yellow split peas
1½ tsp advieh**
3 TBL (24g) dried diced candied grapefruit peel
1 TBL raw sugar
i large pinch of saffron threads soaked in 4 TBL warm water
3 TBL fresh lime juice

For Garnish:
2 large russet potatoes (about 1lb)
2-4 TBL olive oil

** Note: Advieh is to Persian cuisine what garam masala is to South Asian cooking, or Chinese five spice to Chinese cuisine: an essential blend of spices varying from kitchen to kitchen, and dish to dish. One key ingredient that seems to distinguish advieh is rose petals, but the other spices vary from cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, angelica, saffron, sesame, dried limes, or star anise. I bought advieh as a spice blend from a Persian grocery, but here is an interesting thread on with suggestions for making advieh mixtures at home.

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, melt ghee over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown lamb on all sides and remove each batch to a separate bowl to hold.

When all lamb cubes have been browned, add sliced onion and turn heat down to medium. Cook onions until they begin to turn translucent, about 6-7 minutes. Sprinkle with turmeric and stir to coat onions. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Return meat to pan, and add salt and pepper, tomato puree and water, then increase heat to medium high. Pierce each dried lime in several places with the tip of a knife and add to stew. Cover pan and bring to a boil. Once broth comes to a boil, turn heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add split peas, advieh, diced candied peel, sugar, saffron water and lime juice. Cover again and simmer for about an hour, or until meat is tender.

Meanwhile, prepare garnish. Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into matchsticks about 3-4 inches long. Pat dry with paper towels to ensure even browning.

In a separate skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Working in batches, brown potatoes in oil, adding more oil as necessary. Remove each batch to paper towels to soak up excess oil. When lamb and peas are cooked through, add fried potatoes over khoresh.

We love khoreshes served with saffron basmati rice and Persian style yogurt salad with minced cucumber and fistsful of fresh herbs.

Mmmm, might be time to make this again….