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
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!
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 »
Loving Fall-color vegetables? Feeling cozy with the promise of snow in the air and the desire of a steaming potage to go with it? Well then, let us get started with some inspirations (and instructions) for some hearty, easy, spicy blended thick soups. Remember, you could absolutely use your intuitions and creativity with the types and amount of vegetables and seasoning. Here is my take though.
Have you ever searched the words “Tomato soup” in the internet? The variation is amazing, isn’t it?
Well, I was looking for a particular type – the creamy type with a crust on top, and came up with California-based Bistro Jentil’s world’s famous tomato soup. Chef Jason Hill has been kind enough to explain the details of this recipe in a video. And I did as he (and the recipe) said, except for replacing butter, reducing cream and simplifying it a little bit. The result was absolutely amazing, both the look and the taste. And my pictures are the proof I hope! Making this VERY French soup is not complicated at all, although it does involves several steps over two days (in my experience) for the best result. Read the rest of this entry »
Among heartwarming foods, this beef/beet based borscht, is adapted from a Persian cook book and is known as “Russian Style”. I only cook it during very cold winter nights; that would be anywhere colder than -10C.
Ingredients (serving 4):
Remember I mention how healthy lentil is and how much use we have for lentil in Persian cuisine? Here! Well, with the fall already settled in, this delicious and nutritious lentil soup is all I felt having this weekend. I know lentil vegetable soup is probably one of the most diverse soup verities, yet this blended version with meat broth is different in many ways. You’ll see what I mean.
- Veal, or beef, 150 gr. defatted.
- Bone, 1 medium.
- Brown lentil, 200 gr.
- Onion, 1 large, thinly sliced.
- Turmeric, ½ tea spoon.
- salt and black powder pepper, to taste.
- Water, 1 ½ liters.
- Oil, 1 tbsp.
- Whipping cream, 2 tbsp.
- Chopped parsley, 2 tbsp.
Method: In a medium pot sauté onions in hot oil. Add meat and bone and turmeric and fry for a few more minutes over medium heat, just as you would for any type of Iranian style stew. Add salt, pepper and six cups of water (bout 1 ½ liters). Cook covered, for about 45 minutes. Remove the bone from the broth and let it cool; Extract the bone marrow and pick the meat off the bone, if any, and transfer them back to the pot. Rinse lentil and add it to the broth and cook until tender.
Blend the pot’s contents, in two or more steps if necessary, until smooth. Pour it back to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes, just in case you need to adjust the soup’s thickness (either by adding more warm water, or by letting it simmer to thicken a bit).
Once the look is to your liking, pour into a serving bowl and garnish with a sprinkling of whipping cream and chopped parsley.
There is this Vietnamese restaurant in or neighbourhood called “Chez Lien”. It offers a great variety of seafood, chicken, meat, vegetarian dishes, and the service is fast and hassle free. Then it has this heavenly tasting and smelling soup they call “home-made soup”. I love it so much that in certain cold, tired evenings I actually dream about having a nice, hot bowl brought to my door.
Well, a more practical way of course is making it at my own kitchen. And believe me, I have tried this soup enough at Chez Lien to be able to produce a certified copy! If you like thin tasty and extremely fast and easy soup, try this:
- Chicken broth (homemade), 3 cups.
- Instant noodle, 1 bag (less than 100 gr.),
- Portabella mushroom, 2, diced. Small fennel bulb, 1.
- Scallions, 2, thinly cut crosswise.
- Salt, powdered black pepper to taste (I like it spicy hot).
- Lime juice, ½ tbsp.
Method: For chicken broth, in case you don’t already have it in your freezer J (well, in this case, it takes you more time and more ingredients you know!) In a medium size pot place half a skinless chicken, add one small onion, a pinch of salt and cover with 4 cups of water. Cook for half an hour. Take the chicken out and keep it for salad or sandwiches. Throw out the onion and pass the broth through fine meshed colander. This is the base of your soup.
Preparing fennel: Cut the stalks and fronds off the bulb. Sit the bulb on its flat bottom and cut it in half. Cut off the little hard part out of the center of the fennel in each half. Then set the fennel halves cut side down and slice each half cross wise into thick slices.
The soup: In a medium saucepan, pour broth add fennel slice, add a pinch of salt and black pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the fennel is soft but not mushy. Add instant noodle and cover the lid and cook another 5 minutes or so (until the noodle is ready). Two minutes before serving the soup add lime juice and sliced mushroom. When serving, make sure you have a bit of everything in each person’s little soup bowl. Sprinkle some sliced scallion for extra savory effects!