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!


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 »


Sum of Summer in My Garden


Almond cookies: 3 ingredients, gluten free

This super easy and super fast cookie is …well, super Yummy!  No butter or oil is required not even to grease the baking sheet.  Yet the cookies are crisp chewy, a bit heavy yet tender  – and with my recipe not too sweet either.  I love them with my evening tea and sometimes with my morning coffee.

Ingredients Read the rest of this entry »


Pomegranate Faloodeh: Persian iced dessert

Recently, on a hot humid days in Montreal, I was privileged to entertain a large group of my family with good food, scented shades on the porch, open heart, and most impressive of all, with homemade faloodeh  Shirazi (pomegranate faloodeh in this case).

Faloodeh or paloodeh فالوده، پالوده is a refreshing iced dessert, a summer savoury, made of frozen cornstarch, water, sugar and rosewater.  Like Salad Shirazi, Faloodeh Shiraz is a speciality of my old hometown Shiraz.  The dessert is of course popular nationwide and is almost always made from the scratch in ice-cream stores and sold in small washable or disposable cups. In Shiarz alone faloodeh is enjoyed with few drops of either flower syrup or lime juice sprinkled on it; everywhere else people eat it with or without lime juice. Read the rest of this entry »


Persian Stuffed Meatballs: Koofteh Tabrizi

You might remember at least two types of meatballs I have described here: One in an older post for cabbage mixed rice , where we make very small meatballs, and the other one in a dish I called Koofteh  and served with vegetables.

Today I want to share with you a very popular dish called Koofteh Tabrizi کوفته تبریزی – a rich yet tender meatball served in savoury thick tomato broth.  As the name suggests the dish is a speciality of the city of Tabriz also known for its sophisticated and extremely delicious cuisine. Like the other two meatballs, the basis of Koofteh Tabrizi is a mix of ground meat, grated onions, chickpea flour, turmeric and pepper-salt.  However, Koofteh Tabrizi is distinct in its taste as it is mixed with cooked rice and split peas as well as with aromatic fresh herbs; it is also different from other types of meatballs with regard to its fairly large size (here we go with Tennis ball size in order to better manage and make sure it will hold throughout the cooking process). Read the rest of this entry »


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 »