Baghali Ghatogh (Lima Beans with Eggs and Dill)

My interest in all things Persian and Iranian predates that little/embarrassing guilty pleasure called The Shahs of Sunset on Bravo television. Before I got married and had children, I did a lot of traveling. But there was one country I'd always wanted to go to but never managed to visit. And that country was Iran. I was curious about ancient Persian history and modern-day, post-revolution, multi-ethnic Iranian society. 

Iran holds an important geographic location: Iraq is situated to the West, the Caspian Sea is to the North, Afghanistan to the East, the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman are to the South. Turkmenistan and Pakistan share a border with Iran as well. Basically, Iran straddles the Middle-East and South Asia. 
Persian cuisine is considered one of the most ancient and developed styles of cooking. It has influenced the cuisine of its neighboring countries as well as those countries that are hundreds of miles away. Countries in North Africa, the Middle-East and the Indian-Subcontinent can trace some of their dishes back to Persian precedents. That said, Iranian cuisine is really distinct from what most people associate with greater Middle-eastern cooking.

I‘ve wanted to delve into Persian cooking for a while, so I excited to see Saveur’s story “The Land of Bread and Spice” last month.  It was full of great looking Iranian recipes, and quite a few were vegetarian. This dish- Baghali Ghatogh- was the first one I tried and it was fantastic. I'm always looking for new vegetarian entrees, and this one was not only delicious, but it perfumed the house with the smells of saffron, garlic, dill and turmeric. Fantastic, really. 

Now regarding the preparation:
Since I live at altitude I had to cook the beans for a bit longer than suggested and I added a little bit more water to get the beans tender. I also modified the amount of dill, using 3 cups instead of 4, but that is only because that's what I had in my fridge. Next time I'll use 4 cups.

After the success of this dish I'm definitely going to be doing a lot more cooking with these flavors and spices. And with a little bit of assistance from The Legendary Cuisine of Persia, I'm sure I'll get it right! As they say in Farsi, nooshe jan! نوش جان 
Baghali Ghatogh (Lima Beans with Eggs and Dill)

Eggs cooked with dill-scented lima beans is a northern Iranian specialty. This recipe appeared in Saveur magazine (March 2012) in Anissa Helou's story The Land of Bread and Spice.

Serves 4

6 tbsp. unsalted butter

½ tsp. ground turmeric

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 cups finely chopped dill (I used 3 cups*)

1 cup dried lima beans, soaked overnight, drained
¼ tsp. Crushed saffron {See comments below. I used safflower, next time I'll use saffron.} 
5 cups of cold water

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 eggs
Saffron threads, to garnish

Heat butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat. Add turmeric and garlic; cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add 3 cups (I used 2) dill and the beans; cook until dill is slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Add crushed saffron and 5 cups water; boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, covered, until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. {My cooking time was more like 1 3/4 hours and I had to add a bit more water.} Season with salt and pepper; stir in remaining dill. Using a spoon, form 4 shallow wells in bean mixture; crack an egg into each well. Cook until eggs are cooked over-easy, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with saffron before serving.