Pomegranate soup, Aash-e anar, for Yalda

Once again Yalda, one of Iranian’s much loved and cherished celestial moments and rituals is round the corner. We celebrate Yalda on winter solstice on Dec. 20th  as the longest and darkest night of the year by getting together, reciting poetry and feasting over a colorful spread of dried fruits and nuts, aajil, specific fruits namely pomegranate, persimmon and watermelon, cozy heartwarming dishes and lots of light, hope and energy to get through the long but increasingly brighter winter ahead. See my precious posts for Yalda night here and here.

The Persian “Pomegranate Soup” or ash-e anar آش انار, will forever resonate with me the excellent culinary fiction by the same name written by Marsha Mehran, an eloquent Iranian-Irish author who passed too soon but whose novels depicted Persian cuisine enchanting as a fairy-tale full of texture, fragrance and mystery always ready to haut, charm and welcome those unfamiliar with it.

Ash-e anar is a hearty and flavorful dish with lots of fresh herbs as well as split-peas, rice and stuffed little meatballs. Its unique sweet-sour flavour is owed to pomegranate molasses which you could purchase from Middle Eastern or Iranian stores.

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • ½ kilogram light ground veal or beef
  • 1 cup rice
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, grated
    3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. chickpea flour
    Fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, scallion, 1 bunch each – sorted, washed and finely chopped
  • Dried herb: savory or tarragon and mint 2 tbsp. each
    1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
  • Turmeric powder, salt and black powder pepper to taste
    ¼ cup tablespoons red and sour pomegranate seeds

Method:

Rinse split-peas and drain. Use a medium pot to mix split-peas, 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil then cook over medium heat until cooked at core and almost all the water is absorbed. Drain and set aside.

Rinse the pot and do the same for the rice: rinse, drain, mix with 2 cups water and cook at the core. Set aside (keep the rice in the pot with the remaining water if any is left)

Mix your fresh herbs with dry savory or tarragon (Keep dry mint separate as we need it for garnish)

Combine ground meat, grated onion, half your minced garlic, ¼ cup of mixed herb, chickpea flour, a pinch of turmeric, salt & pepper. Use your hand and fingers (not a blender) to massage and mix them very well. Then, make it into a large ball and leave to rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. Make this large meatball into several ping-pong size meatballs.

Heat 2-3 tbsp. oil in a pan and sauté the balls over high heat till brownish. Shake the pan a few times so all sides of the meatballs are fried.  Place them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

 In a medium to large pan, heat 2 tbsp. of oil and add the chopped onion. Sauté until translucent. Add a pinch of turmeric, black pepper and the reaming of the minced garlic. Continue frying for 1 more minute. Now add split-peas, contents of your rice pot (cooked rice along with the remaining water in the pot), mixed herbs and enough hot water to cover the mix. Then add 2 more cups of water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes just so all ingredients are settled and mixed (you should always have the hot water kettle handy in case you need to add more water)

Add meatballs and pomegranate molasses to the pot and cook for another 20 minutes. Adjust the thickness by adding more water if necessary and taste for adjustment.

Heat 2 tbsp. oil in a small pot then add dry mint for a minute or two just so it gets slightly darker in color ; this is your nana dagh, the favorite garnish on many Persian foods.  Serve ash in a big bowl, drizzle with fried mint and pomegranate seeds for extra color and bite!

Have a wonderful Yalda and keep warm!


Tahchin, Persian upside down yogurt-saffron rice with chicken

Tahchin ته‌چین is a traditional Persian dish which is very unique in its taste and texture – a dense dish flavored with yogurt, saffron and thick yogurt and typically layered with chicken chunks.  The delicious thick golden rice crust (tahdig) formed at the bottom and around the cooked tahchin is its shining feature.

An original tahchin is stem-cooked in a pot (a non-stick one in this case) over gas or electric stove just like any other Persian mix rice; however since the amount of liquid in the rice makes its cooking behaviour a bit different and complicated, a lot of recipes advise you to “bake” the dish instead using Pyrex dishes in the oven. Well, I never went with baking style and after many years of trying and failing the traditional pot style, last summer I finally succeeded in getting it right – thanks to my beloved auntie visiting form my old hometown Shiraz. Read the rest of this entry »


One-Bowl Vegan, GF Fruits-Nut Muffins

I ran into this gluten free, vegan recipe for carrot-banana-apple-walnuts muffins on Minimalist Baker and absolutely loved it.  The list of ingredients may look long, but the preparation is much easier than your average cake or muffin and the result is tender, fruity sweet muffins with the added chewiness of walnuts and oats.

I tried both non-vegan (with 1 egg) and vegan (with flax eggs) versions and both turned equally nice. Actually, I was very excited to have found a substitute for egg and quite impressed by how well flax eggs worked to stick everything together in these muffins. Read the rest of this entry »


Aash Sabzi Shirazi (herb aash)

My non Iranian friends may already be familiar with Persian aash, especially from my post on Aash-e reshteh.  Nevertheless, I am going to take you through some fun introductory notes on aash in general and aash sabzi Shirazi آش سبزی شیرازی in particular, using experts from e-book, A sip, A bite, A mouthful: A memoir of food & rowing up in Shiraz.  

As reluctant as I am to use the term “soup” to describe aash, for fear of undermining its significant position within Iranian cuisine and culture, I nevertheless find a comparison between the two the most efficient way to describe the dish to new appetites.  To this end, aash could be said to be an “honorable soup”–rich, thick and laborious to prepare. Depending on the type of aash, it is made of specific varieties of herbs, vegetables, fruits, grains and dairy products; with or without beef or lamb. Read the rest of this entry »


Thanksgiving Salad

For this upcoming Canadian thanksgiving I looked up a Canadian recipe for salad (you guessed it, made with maple syrup) which goes well with other items on your table. It is called Roasted Sweet Potato Kale Salad with Mustard Dill Vinaigrette. The title pretty much gives away the ingredients, I know, but you would not know how to make it before visiting the link on Food Network!I followed the original recipe (linked above) only modified it slightly by increasing the amount of kale to 5 cups and skipping agave nectar in the sauce. I was super happy with the result – very autumnish colors, filling yet light and refreshing with a sweet-sour taste.

Happy Thanksgiving Canada!


Chia-Berries drink

Give me a cool glass of Chia-berries mix any day of the year and I will gladly take 40 plus centigrade – like we have had in the past few days in Montreal! This is truly the ultimate summer drink – refreshing, nutritious, savory, pretty even and easy to make.

Ingredients (4-5 serving) Read the rest of this entry »


Sour orange juice, a unique seasoning taste

Sour orange نارنج also referred to as bitter orange is a variety of citrus tree native of Southeast Asia but widely used in the Middle East, parts of Europe and US.  In my hometown Shiraz, almost every house with a backyard used to have a couple of sour orange trees which wore perfumed, white robe of blossoms in the spring and orange robe of fruit in early summer.  The blossoms of sour orange, bahaar-e naaranj, were used to make sherbet and jams, or sundried to be mixed with loose, black tea.  The fruit itself, too, has many culinary usages including for seasoning.

Here in Montreal, Iranian supermarkets carry sour orange right on time before the official spring season starts.  Right on time I said because sour orange has a special spot both on our Norooz table as well as with the herbed-rice and fish that we serve on the first day of the Persian New Year, Norooz. Read the rest of this entry »