Sabzi Challow

There is a difference between the Indian and the Afghanistan Sabzi. In Indian cuisine it refers to a vegetable cooked in gravy, while in Afghanistan it means braised greens.  You can make this as a vegetarian dish, but in Afghanistan it is commonly cooked with meat where lamb is more popular. Spinach originated in Persia and in China it is referred to as the “Persian vegetable”. Thus this is traditionally made with spinach however you can substitute this with other greens like kale. Challow is rice. There are different types of challow recipes. Sabzi is typically served with plain white rice or pita and yogurt.

The recipe says that the dish is typically served for New Years and calls for 8 lamb shanks. This is obviously meant to feed a lot more than one person. I figure to half the recipe and get 4 lamb shanks. I get to the butcher and ask for my four lamb shanks and these things are huge! I won’t be able to eat this on my own, so I call a few friends and now I have an Afghan dinner party! Too bad it isn’t new years…

Lamb shank

The first step is to sear the meat. The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil. I’m a bit too much of a California girl that I can’t do another meal with tons of oil. So I start with a table spoon of oil and sear the lamb. During the sear the lamb has rendered some fat and seems enough to cook the vegetables in, so i don’t add any more oil. I add everything back into the pot and get it ready for its 2 1/2 hour braise.

Braising a Lamb


As it cooks, the house smells like spinach and a hint of lamb. I didn’t time things quite right, so my friends arrived while it still had 40 minutes to braise. They all commented that the house was fragrant and were easily distracted with wine and conversation while we waited for it to finish cooking.  Once it was done I decided to shred the lamb as it will be easier to serve. It fell off the bone so easily.

IMG_3599 Shreeded lamb


I used 5 cups of broth for the braise as my pan was not big enough, so the shanks had to be stacked on top of each other. When it was done it was a bit more liquid than I expected. I reduced it for 30 minutes while the rice cooked.

The challow recipe was a bit different than how I normally make rice. You are to soak the rice for 3 hours and then cook it for 5 minutes. Then you add a 1/4 cup of water ( mine was saffron water as it was a party) and steam it for 30 minutes covering the pot lid with kitchen towels.  I didn’t have enough kitchen towels, but I  had an apron. I was a bit nervous about the apron catching on fire, but it seemed to work. Oddly none of my friends seemed to think it was odd that I wrapped an apron around a pot.  The rice is supposed to be a bit crispy at the bottom, mine was not that crispy, but the rice was cooked perfectly.

Apron steam


The result was awesome. It’s slightly tangy with a rich buttery flavor. The broth was sucked up by the rice. The greens were not a star but more of a base. It turned out that one of my friends didn’t like lamb, but she loved this. She said it didn’t have any of the gamy flavor she thinks about in lamb and went back for thirds. I think I will have to make this again for new years.

Sabzi Chollow



Sabzi with lamb

Original recipe can be found here

  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil.
  • 4 lamb shanks
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
  • 1 tbsp. dried dill
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 5 cups baby spinach, stems removed (large leaves must be chopped)
  • 3 cups cilantro leaves
  • 16 to 18 scallions, whole, outermost layer and tough upper green removed
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3-5  cups beef stock
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a large ovenproof Dutch oven and brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Remove the lamb and set aside. Add the onions to the pot and sauté until soft and lightly browned. Stir in the next 6 ingredients. (turmeric through salt). Add the spinach, cilantro, parsley, and scallions. Sauté for 20 minutes, stirring constantly. The aroma of the herbs should rise—it is very important for the taste of the stew that this stage be completed.
  2. Add the garlic to separate pan with a teaspoon of olive oil sauté briefly and add to the spinach mixture.
  3. Return the lamb to the Dutch oven. Add enough beef stock to barely cover the shanks. Bring to a boil, then cover, transfer to oven, and cook for 2 – 2 1/2 hours.
  4. When the meat is tender, remove from oven.
  5. Remove the lamb and shred the meat. If the spinach is too saucy put it on stove top to reduce.
  6. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over challow.

Saffron Challow

Original recipe can be found here

  • 4 cups uncooked basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  1. Rinse and drain the rice three times in tepid water. Place the rice in a large bowl and add 8 cups of water and 1 tablespoon salt. Soak the rice for 2 – 3 hours
  2. Boil 1/4 cup of water, add saffron, and reduce heat. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Strain saffron and add more water to make it a quarter cup.
  4. Fill a medium-size pot halfway with water. Bring to a rapid boil. Drain the rice well and add to the boiling water. Return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Test the rice—it should soft on the outside and still firm, but not brittle, inside. Strain the rice and rinse with tepid water. Drain well.
  5. Rinse out the pot with water and add the oil. Place over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add the rice, 1/4 cup of Saffron water. With the handle of a wooden spoon, poke five holes through the rice, one in the center. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes—do not stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cover with a lid wrapped in a kitchen towel. Steam the rice for 30 minutes (do not remove lid to check the rice during this time). The bottom should be crisp.



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