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Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for celery, saffron and white bean stew | Vegan food and drink

Celery: always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Until, that is, the Persians came along and created khoresh karafs, a celery stew that my Armenian mother-in-law is very fond of. There is a whole bunch in it, and an entire one of parsley, too. The celery is braised to velvet-soft submission, releasing an immense flavour (somewhere between celery, softened shallots and fennel) that no one (and certainly not I) ever thought celery capable of. Traditionally, this stew is made with meat, but I have it on good authority that many Persians now make it using white beans or potatoes.

Celery, saffron and white bean stew

If saffron is too much of a stretch for your budget, go without, but this is otherwise a very economical dish. Serve with tahdig (Persian-style rice) or steamed basmati mixed with a little vegan butter and salt.

Prep 10 min
Cook 50 min
Serves 4

1 pinch saffron (about 20 strands; optional)
6 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
, peeled and finely chopped
1 x 600g bunch celery, stalks separated, trimmed and cut into 3cm lengths
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp ground turmeric
1¼ tsp fine sea salt
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
100g parsley
, woody stalks discarded, rest finely chopped
25g mint leaves, finely chopped
1 x 400g tin cannellini or haricot beans, not drained
1 tbsp lemon juice

Put the saffron, if using, in a little heatproof bowl, cover with two tablespoons of freshly boiled water and leave to one side.

Put the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the onion and fry, stirring often, for five minutes. Add the celery, cook for five minutes more, then stir in the garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper, and cook for another 12 minutes.

Add the tomato puree, cook for a couple of minutes, then add the parsley and beans with their water (keep the tin handy). Cook for 10 minutes, then add the mint and cook for a further five minutes.

Fill up the empty bean tin with water from the tap, add this to the pan, then fill the tin again, this time only by half, and add that, too, along with the lemon juice and the saffron and its soaking water.

Simmer for 20 minutes, until the celery has gone from crunchy to tender, then almost soft, and the consistency is like a thickish stew. Take off the heat, add more lemon juice and salt, to taste, if need be, then serve.

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