MY TWIST ON THE TRADITIONAL CASPIAN KABBAB
Filet of beef marinated in pomegranates, walnuts and garlic, seared and served with saffron mashed potatoes.
The original dish comes from Gilan, an area by the coast of the Caspian sea, where there are lush forests, beautiful rice paddies and olive groves. It was also the last place in Iran to be converted to Islam. People in this region have a different diet to the rest of the country. They eat a lot of garlic, and flavours are fresher, with herbs, citrus and the liberal use of olive oil. This kabab recipe is a perfect example. whereas other recipes use lemon juice, saffron or yogurt in marinades, here the Gilanis have created a special blend of crushed walnuts, pomegranate paste, garlic, olive oil and parsley.
My version uses a whole fillet of beef, marinated, then seared medium rare and sliced so that it’s easier than putting meat on the skewer etc. I also sometimes cook it in a very low oven, and let it cook undisturbed for about an hour and fifteen minutes until tender and still medium rare inside. It’s a fab way of cooking if you don’t want to smoke out your kitchen or if you just want to relax with your guests. And it also comes out perfect every time. I also serve this with saffron mashed potatoes instead of the traditional rice.
1.5kg (3lb) fillet of beef
For the marinade:
1 large onion, finely grated
125ml (4fl oz) 1/2 cup fresh or store bought (unsweetened) pomegranate juice
75ml (3fl oz) 1⁄3 cup pomegranate paste
3–4 garlic cloves
75g (3oz) 1 cup walnuts, finely ground
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper
Place the marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix together with just a splash of water. Add the beef and gently rub the marinade into the meat. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 3–4 hours or overnight, but no longer. Heat the barbecue until hot or preheat the grill or cast iron pan to high. Take the meat out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before cooking to bring it up to room temperature. Remove some of the marinade with a spoon or clean paper towel and thread the meat on to skewers.
Heat a cast iron pan on high heat until very hot, brush a little bit of olive oil and cook the meat without flipping until well seared. Now flip, lower the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 8-10 minutes for medium rare and 10-12 minutes for medium. Let the meat rest covered in some foil for a good 15-20 minutes before carving.
Oven method: set your oven to 135 and place the filet on a baking tray. Let it roast for about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and and half for rare and medium rare. Stick a thermometer in the middle of the meat and if it registers 135 it’s medium rare.
Slice, sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds and a little leftover pomegranate molasses, chopped basil, mint and parsley for decoration and enjoy!