Herbs stew (Khoresh-e qormeh sabzi)

April 7, 2013  •  Category:

I was in Erbil, Kurdistan (Iraq) for a few days recently; I visited the Bazaar in front of the old Citadel, of course, and neighborhood markets;  I noticed that  the vast majority of dry goods were imported from Turkey; in addition, there were a few items from Iran and I brought back Iranian saffron and dates and a box of qormeh sabzi.

Qormeh sabzi is an herb mixture cooked with meat (or poultry or fish or beans) as a stew and figures on the menu of all of the Persian restaurants I had been to in the US. The herbs consist of parsley, scallions or chives, cilantro and fenugreek, all chopped and normally fresh. The boxed mix is available in Middle-Eastern or Iranian markets in the US. The strong fragrance of fenugreek dominates this stew.

I made it upon my return using a combination of fresh herbs and that dry mix brought back from Erbil.

Another ingredient in the stew is dried limes which are sold in all the Middle-Eastern groceries in the US as well. They are called limu-omani in Persian or noomi Basra in Arabic; they are used a lot in Iraqi cooking as well (not in Lebanese cuisine). The limes give out a wonderful concentrated lime  flavor when pricked and allowed to simmer with the stew. They can also be broken up; discard the seeds and add the pieces of dried peel to the stew.

limo omani

There is another use for these dried limes which I will post later this week.

INGREDIENTS: 4 to 6 servings

  • 1 lb. lamb shanks or chicken pieces or fish or 2 cans of beans ( I used 3/4 cup of white beans soaked overnight but kidney beans are traditional)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • salt, to taste, a pinch of black pepper, 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 dried limes (pricked in 3 spots) or the juice of 2 fresh limes
  • 2 cups chopped fresh parsley, 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro, 1 cup chopped scallions, 1 chup chopped fenugreek OR use the box of dried herb mix, soaked in warm water for 20 minutes prior to usage

NOTE: If you cannot find the box mix, use dried fenugreek (1/4 cup) and the rest fresh.

fry herbs

simmer herbs and dried lime


1. Heat the oil and fry the chopped onion with the meat or chicken; add the spices and herbs and fry for a few minutes longer till fragrant; add water to the pot (more if using meat and less if using chicken, 2 to 4 cups of water total). Add the dried limes, cover and simmer the stew for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the type of meat used. Taste and adjust seasoning and serve with rice, preferably Basmati or long-grain. 

NOTE: If using beans, simmer longer; if using canned beans, 30 minutes should be sufficient. 

This dish is inspired by a recipe in Najmieh Batmanglij’s New Food of Life. 



22 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    A magnificent dish! Really appealing and so unique.



  2. weavethousandflavors says:

    Joumana, This is lovely and I will make this very soon and also for my family who I’ll be with this summer. So healthful and delish and none of the ingredients will be hard to find!

    chow 🙂 Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  3. Alaiyo Kiasi-Barnes says:

    This dish looks utterly delicious! I’m wondering, what kind of fish would be good with this recipe?

    Thanks in advance,


  4. Chris Huck says:

    any info on how to dry the limes?

    • Joumana says:

      @Chris: I would refer you to Iranian blogger such as turmeric and saffron blog or the site of the Iranian author Najmieh Batmanglij and see if you can get the answer; this is not a Lebanese tradition but is common in Iran, Iraq and in the Gulf countries. I will ask around when I can and let you know/ eventually.

    • Joumana says:

      @Chris Huck: Whole dried limes are used in Middle Eastern and Persian cooking, they are harvested when ripe,

      boiled in salt water and then left to dry in the sun and can be kept for up to 2 years in your cabinet.

      Dried lime slices make a wonderful garnish. Just cut unpeeled fruit into thick slices, discarding ends.

      Place on a wire rack on a baking sheet and dry in a 170° oven for 4 hours. Remove from oven to air dry.
      info from driedlimes.com

  5. T.W. Barritt says:

    I am fascinated by the thought of dried limes. I’ll bet the flavor is intense and delicious and adds a nice contrast to various meats.

  6. zerrin says:

    Love the flavors in it! Never heard of box of dried herbs, we don’t have it in Turkey. I’m sure it adds an amazing flavor to the stew! Also, haven’t seen dried limes here either. I am so intrigued by it! I can dry it myself and use it in stews. Can’t wait to read its other use! Thank you Joumana for all these foods that are new to me!

  7. Nuts about food says:

    I love how you always teach us about new, unusual (for me at least) ingredients that I have never heard of before.

  8. Belinda @zomppa says:

    I can almost smell the aroma from here!

  9. Elena says:

    Yes’, I agree it’s so interesting book! i like recipes and especially wonderful illustrations from Shahnameh. Are you already have tried to use gol-par?

  10. Elena says:

    This is a very widely used in Persian cooking spice. Very special. I prepared Eggplant with pomegranate spread from this book with this spice . Very…..unusual, but tasty. The taste is better the next day .

  11. Susan says:

    This is so interesting! I had never heard of dried limes before and at first I thought it was some sort of seed pod in the photo. I can only imagine the flavor it must bring to this delicious bean and herb stew.

  12. neesiepoo says:

    I’m so glad I happened across this recipe at foodgawker! I had just found some dried limes at my local import store, and was wondering what to do with them! Tried this soup tonight with a mix of tofu and beans and it turned out great! Thank you!

  13. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    I’ve had this in Persian restaurants but I have never made it myself. It looks so delicious!

  14. domi says:

    Voilà un ragoût qui doit être drôlement parfumé

  15. Somayeh Amiri says:

    I am Iranian and I strongly recommend you this stew !
    But the traditional and original serving is to serve the rice and stew seperately !

    Cheers !

  16. Leah says:

    can this be a vegan dish , just with the kidney beans or does it have to be made with chicken or lamb?

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