Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Persian Saffron Spiced Pasta with Split Peas

Persian Saffron-spiced Yellow Split Pea Pasta Sauce
From Healthy Cooking for the Jewish HomeRich and mellow, not your usual meat sauce

Hands on time: 20 minutes
Total cooking time: 1 hour
Serves 4-6


1 cup yellow split peas, sorted and rinsed
3 cups water
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
6oz/170g ground lamb or beef
1 small eggplant (about ¾ lb/340g), not peeled, but diced into small cubes
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp saffron threads or ½ tsp turmeric
1 can (19oz/540ml) diced tomatoes with juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup water
1-2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
Your favorite pasta

1. Cook the split peas in a large saucepan in 3 cups of water. Once it comes to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the peas are just tender. You might need to add a little more water – the split peas should always be covered with water. Note: I drained the split peas once they were cooked and left them covered in their pot.

2. In the meantime, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or very deep skillet (I prefer the Dutch oven, mostly because I’m a messy cook). Add the onions and sauté over medium heat until soft (about 5-7 minutes). You don’t want them brown. Crumble the ground meat into the pot and continue to sauté until the lamb is no longer pink, stirring occasionally. Add the eggplant, salt and pepper and mix well. Cover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the eggplant begins to soften (about 5-6 minutes). Add the cinnamon, saffron and tomatoes. Mix, cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.

3. Mix the tomato paste with ¼ cup water and add to the meat sauce. Fold in the split peas and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all the flavors meld. You can thin with a little water if it’s too thick for you. Personally I love my meat sauces so thick, a spoon could stand upright without being held. Add some lemon juice, taste for seasonings.

4. In the meantime, boil salted water in another large pot for the pasta. Five - eight minutes before serving, cook the pasta until just tender (check the box/package). Drain and place in a large serving dish. Top with sauce and sprinkle with some freshly chopped parsley.

Serve with a simple green salad with lots of herbs and a little oil & lemon juice - adds some tang to the very rich sauce

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