Persian cooking fascinates me. It’s a cuisine that mixes sour, sweet and savory. Persian flavors make me think of cooking lamb and fresh green almonds. This recipe for Stewed Lamb Shoulder, Green Almonds and Mint is my take on a lamb koresht or stew.

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To prepare the stew, I use meaty lamb shoulder chops. This cut is both flavorful and lean. Don’t let the bones bother you. Cut what large chunks of meat you can from the bones then toss them into the pan to brown along with the meat. Crunchy green almonds benefit from an overnight soak, which plumps them before cooking. Although they do not break up during cooking, the green almonds do soften. When cooked, they resemble cubes of a firm vegetable. I think of their flavor and texture as a cross between zucchini, artichokes, potato and something more substantial. (The dish will be quite different but delicious if you substitute small whole potatoes for the green almonds. I recommend those half-dollar size potatoes that come in a variety of skin colors.)

Recipes in The Legendary Cuisine of Persia by Margaret Shaida inspired this dish. In her introduction to making stews and sauces, Shaida writes “The consistency of a koresht should never be too thin, though there should be enough sauce to pour over the rice. Most importantly all the ingredients should be well blended, or, as the Persians say, jâ oftâdeh, which means well matured or ripened.” I interpret this to mean that the stew needs to simmer for long enough for the flavors to meld as you can see in this video clip.

And does this dish have flavor.  Turmeric, saffron, dried Persian lime, orange rind, fresh herbs and citrus juice meld with the lamb fat to make a spoon-coating sauce. Of course, you serve the stew with rice. And you can accompany it with these honey-glazed carrots too.

Kitchen Notebook

I’ve researched the various ways people prepare fresh, early-stage green almonds and I have done my share of experimenting.  My favorite recipe uses the pods to make a liqueur that I call Digestivo Mandorlato.  I also enjoy poaching them in olive oil to serve as a snack with cheese.

Thanks to Jason Jasper, from Stewart & Jasper Almonds, I had a bumper crop of tender young green almonds to experiment with last season.  I am posting this and other recipes now, before they come into season in the hope some of you may be interested and find them in time to try these recipes. Locating green almonds is a challenge outside of California where they are available in farmers’ markets late March through early May. Markets that cater to the Middle Eastern and Persian communities often sell them. And soon you will be able to buy them from Stewart and Jasper’s web site.

Stewed Lamb Shoulder, Green Almonds and Mint

Yield: 4 Servings


3 cups (12 ounces) whole young green almonds stems trimmed

3 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine

1 ½ pounds lamb shoulder chop cut into 2-inch pieces

½ teaspoon turmeric

¼ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon ground dried orange rind, or 1 one-inch piece of fresh orange zest

1 cup beef stock

Juice of ½ lemon

1 Persian dried lime or 1 Tablespoon dried Moroccan preserved lemon

½ cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup flat leaf parsley leaves

Pinch saffron

Salt to taste


  1. Cover the green almonds with lukewarm water and let them soak for an hour or overnight to soften.
  2. Sauté the diced onions in the oil over medium heat until soft and translucent, for about 5 to 7 minutes. Toss the lamb with the turmeric and black pepper. Add the lamb pieces to the pan, pushing aside the onions so the meat touches the bottom of the pan and brown the meat on all sides.
  3. Add the beef stock, lemon juice and Persian lime. Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat Cook the lamb, covered on low heat until tender, for about two hours.
  4. Pick out any pieces of bones if necessary. If the meat seems too dry, add about a 1/2 cup of water to the pot.
  5. Chop the mint and parsley together and add it to the pot along with the saffron. Simmer for 20 minutes. Drain the green almonds. Stir them into the simmering lamb. Cover and cook for 30 minutes longer until the almonds are tender.
  6. Adjust the seasoning with salt and more lemon juice. Serve with steamed basmati rice.