Tas kabob is an old fashioned Iranian beef stew that is slow simmered with farm fresh root vegetables and aromatic spices. Today I’m sharing this recipe that has always been a favorite of mine. The recipe for this delicious comfort food has been in my family for generations and no treasured recipe collection is complete without it.
Tas Kabob is a satisfying wholesome stew anytime of the year, but somehow it is more appealing in the cooler autumn and winter months. A blend of warming spices with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves and cumin complements this beautiful dish with the golden colors of nature at this time of year.
This simple meat and vegetable stew is anything but ordinary. The meat and vegetables are layered and slow cooked to keep their shape and color instead of getting mixed together. The root vegetables that are used in this stew are onions, carrots and potatoes, which are available all year round in most parts of the world now. In old days Tas Kabob was considered a fall harvest time meal when all of these vegetables were at their peak of freshness.
I’ve shared two meat spice blends on my blog post “All About Spices.” The original meat spice is a curry blend with a turmeric base, herbs and other spices which I use for most of my recipes, including the Kotlet recipe. The Spice Blend II has the original ingredients plus some warm spices that gives dishes like this recipe the subtle hint of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves.
Tas Kabob gets its name from the old days when they used to slow cook it with very little water in heavy copper pots “tas.” The kabob part of the name comes from the pounded strips of meat that is layered with vegetables and spices. Similar to another very traditional Persian stew “Abgoosht,” Tash Kabob is traditionally made with beef or lamb. In the recent years to avoid using red meat, some recipes substitute with chicken, but then it is just Khorak Morgh (chicken dish) and should not be called Tas Kabob.
What makes Tas Kabob different from other beef stews and Persian khoresh recipes is the shape and texture of the meat. Unlike the other stews the meat for this stew is not in cubes or chunks. The wide tenderized strips of meat make up the meat layer of this stew and the sliced vegetables make up the rest. To flatten the meat, the cubed beef or lamb pieces are butterflied (see the instructions) and then pounded by a meat tenderizer. Each of the three vegetables are sliced to a different thickness according to the amount of time that they need to cook to perfect tenderness. You don’t want the potatoes to disintegrate into the stew, and don’t want the carrots and onions to have a crunch!
Some different versions of Tas Kabob recipes use fresh tomatoes, fresh quince, dried plums, or crushed limoo amani (dried lime). Each of these extra ingredients will add a different flavor (sweet, tangy or tart) to this stew and you could give them a try if you wish. However, I would recommend experimenting with these extra ingredients one at a time and in small amounts so that they don’t overpower the traditional flavors.
The following pictures are to illustrate certain key steps. Please read the entire printable recipe for the detailed instructions.
In a medium dutch oven or a heavy stockpot with a tight lid, make the sauce according to the recipe, transfer to a bowl and set aside. You will use the same pot for cooking the Tas Kabob. Peel and slice each of the vegetables separately and set them aside (I wanted to make a point of showing the round slices of all of them in this picture; it is easier if you don’t mix them). Next, you will need to butterfly the meat pieces; I usually use 1 1/2 to 2 inch chunks for this recipe. Place a cube of meat on the cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut it in half, leaving one side intact. You will be able to open the meat like a book. Repeat this with the remaining pieces.
Use a meat tenderizer to pound all the butterflied pieces on both sides a few times to about 1/8 inch thick. Arrange 1/3 of the onion rings in the bottom of the dutch oven. Arrange all the pounded meat in one layer covering the onions. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of Spice Blend II on the meat layer.
Arrange half of the remaining onion rings on top of the meat layer, next the sliced potatoes, and then the sliced carrots. The top layer will be the rest of the onion rings. Drizzle the prepared sauce on top of the ingredients. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to the marking between low and medium low. Cover the pot and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is very tender and the sauce is reduced. At this point if there is a lot of sauce in the pot leave the lid off and cook for a few minutes longer until it is reduced.
Tas Kabob is delicious with flat breads such as sangak, lavash or pita bread with a side of Sabzi Khordan, or pickled vegetables (torshi).
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 1½ to 2 hours
- 1 pound cross rib roast, or a similar marbleized beef roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 2 medium yellow onions (¾ pound), peeled and sliced into thin rings (about ¼ inch)
- 2 large carrots (½ pound), peeled and sliced ¼ inch
- 3 medium white potatoes (1 pound), peeled and sliced ½ inch
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin and fried in 2 TBSP vegetable oil or butter until golden brown (about 2 ounces of fried onions)
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- 1/16 tsp ground saffron powder (optional)
- ½ tspMeat Spice Blend II (sprinkled on the meat layer)
- First make the sauce: In a dutch oven or a skillet add ground turmeric and tomato paste to 2 ounces of fried onions and saute for 2 minutes over medium low heat until aromatic. Add 1 ½ cups of water, kosher salt, black pepper, and the optional ground saffron. Bring the sauce to a boil. Turn the heat off, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- On a cutting board, butterfly the cubed beef (please see the illustrated instructions). Use a meat tenderizer to pound and flatten the butterflied beef pieces, first on one side, then the other until about ⅛ inch thick. Set aside.
- In a medium Dutch oven or a heavy stockpot with a tight lid, arrange ⅓ of the sliced onion rings in the bottom.
- Layer the pounded meat to cover the onion rings, and sprinkle the top with ½ tsp Meat Spice Blend (II).
- Layer the top with ½ of the remaining onion slices, the potato slices, the sliced carrots and then top it all with the rest of the onion slices.
- Pour the prepared sauce over all the layered ingredients in the pot. Bring the sauce to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to between low and medium low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the meat reaches the desired tenderness and the sauce is reduced. If there is too much liquid left in the pot, keep cooking with the lid off for a few more minutes until the sauce is reduced.
- Serve Tas Kabob with flat breads such as sangak, lavash, or pita bread and a side of Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs), or torshi (pickled vegetables). Alternatively, you may serve it on a bed of rice, cooked Kateh style (Persian quick rice); try sprinkling some sumac on top for a tangy flavor.