Ash-e Anar - Persian Pomegranate Soup with Fresh Herbs and Mini Meatballs


I've let many winters and pomegranate seasons go by without writing about آش انار ash-e anar. However, this time as I watch the icy snow flakes rapidly hit the windows and pile up all around the house I'm thinking it's time to post a recipe for this hearty and tasty ash-e anar. The idea of making a warm ash on a cold day or when you feel a little under the weather and need a pick-me-up was passed down to me by my mother. I make ash reshteh all the time and chances are if you open my refrigerator you'll find a bowl tucked in somewhere. Not to mention, after all these years living in America, it's only recently that I've been finding large, ruby-red, juicy pomegranates in the market by where I live.



You can make this soup with brown or green lentils if you are not a fan of yellow split peas. If you choose to use لپه lapeh (yellow split peas) I would suggest boiling them for 7-10 minutes on medium heat, remove any of the foam that comes to the surface, drain and then add to the stew. When making the کوفته قلقلی koofteh ghelgheli -mini meatballs try to make them as tiny as possible. They should be easily scooped up by a tablespoon. If you find the recipe a little sour you can add a little sugar to the stew. This recipe serves 6-8 people but if you want to make less you can easily cut the amount of ingredients in half. And I think you should definitely serve this ash with نعنا داغ nana dagh - hot dried mint and oil mixture.


Ingredients:
Serves 6-8

1 pound ground meat (lamb, beef or turkey)
1 cup rice, rinse well, drain
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinse well
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 bunch parsley, remove the stems, finely chopped
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch scallion, green parts only, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses, more if you like
Turmeric Powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons dried mint
2-3 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
Vegetable oil
Water

Method:
  1. Combine the yellow split peas and  2 cups of water in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, skimming the foam from the surface, lower the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the onion and cook until until golden brown, add the minced garlic, saute for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, stir well.
  3. Add the rice, split peas, and 8 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and cook over medium-low heat for 30 minutes with the lid slightly ajar, stirring occasionally. 
  4. In the meantime, combine the meat with 2-3 tablespoons of the chopped vegetables, 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Take small piece of meat mixture and form into meatballs. Continue shaping until all the meat is used.
  5. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat and fry the meatballs until brown on all sides. 
  6. Add the meatballs, pomegranate molasses, chopped vegetables, salt and pepper to the pot. cover and simmer on low heat for another 30-40 minutes.
  7. In a small pot, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat, add a pinch of turmeric and 2 tablespoons of dried mint, stir and remove from stove. 
Pour the ash into a large serving bowl, drizzle with nana dagh and garnish with pomegranate seeds, if desired.  Serve with warm bread.

Enjoy!

Yalda Night (Winter Solstice) 2015 and Shami Haveej - Carrot Shami Kabab with Sweet & Sour Tomato Sauce


شب چله/شب یلدا Shab-e Yalda/Shab-e Chelleh, the ancient Persian celebration of the longest night, dates back thousands of years ago to the birth of میترا Mithra the god of light who was born on the eve of yalda (winter solstice). After the longest night of the year the days will gradually become longer symbolizing the victory of light over darkness. The word یلدا yalda means birth in سریانی Syriac language and for Iranians, the eve of yalda is a time for joyful celebration filled with poetry, music, and delicious food.  For me, celebrating the Iranian festival of light is a meaningful جشن jashn (festivity) perhaps because it was always celebrated in our home growing up in Iran. The night of yalda is a time to reflect and appreciate how our ancestors kept this tradition alive for several millennia. Looking at our history, I can only imagine how many of those shab-e yalda gatherings took place amid uncertainties, unrest, battles and frightening dark times. However, they did not succumb to the madness of their times and held on to the belief that light will prevail over darkness. It inspires us to light the candles on this night, serve the traditional winter fruits, nuts and sweets, read poetry, share happy memories and pass on the tradition to future generations.


Almost all of the dried autumn leaves in my yard have been raked and the grill cleaned and put away for the season. I'm going to miss the whole experience of outdoor cooking -- the taste and the smell of food cooked on an open fire outside. Perhaps on one or two occasions I'll brave the cold and pull out the grill from under the plastic covers and make some koobideh. kotlet, shami and kabab deegi are stove top alternatives to grilled kababs although they can be cooked any time of year regardless of the season.



 شامی هویج (Carrot shami) is a favorite in our home. This shami kabab is made with chickpea flour or you can use mashed cooked chickpeas as well. Chickpea flour adds a nutty flavor to these meat patties and the shredded carrots add a little sweetness. This recipe can also be made with زردک zardak (parsnip) instead of carrots. Carrot shami may be simmered in a sweet and sour tomato sauce dressing and it's best served with rice. You can also add a handful of finely chopped herbs to the meat mixture for extra flavor and aroma.



Shami Haveej- Carrot Shami
Ingredients:
Makes about 16 patties

1 1/2 pounds ground beef, lamb or turkey
1 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 large yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Pinch of cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper or to taste
Oil for frying

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Water


Method:

  • In a large bowl combine meat, carrots, chickpea flour, onion, garlic, eggs, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly until well blended. 
  • In a non-stick skillet or a cast-iron skillet heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.
  • Take a handful of the meat mixture, shape into a small ball, flatten it as the size of your palm and make a hole in the center with your finger. You can also make oval shaped patties. 
  • Fry the patties until the meat is nicely browned on both sides.
  • In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions, saute until soft and golden. 
  • Add the tomato paste and saute for a couple of minutes. 
  • Add 2 cups of water, pomegranate molasses, sugar, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, layer the shami kababs in the skillet. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes, 
Serve warm or at room temperature with sabzi khordan, torshi, mast o khiar, and polow.

P.S. I'd like to take a moment here to say it's my seven year blog anniversary and I would like to express many thanks and my deepest gratitude to my faithful readers and welcome to the new readers!

A collage of  past Yalda nights

Happy Shab-e Yalda! Happy Winter Solstice!

Khoresh-e Holu - Persian Peach Stew with Chicken


I was planning on making this savory peach khoresh during the summer when the lush peaches were at their peak but somehow I just didn't get around to it. Now, several days past the autumnal equinox, I think this savory peach chicken stew is the perfect farewell to summer as well as a delicious way to celebrate the beginning of fall and مهرگان - Mehregan. Mehregan is the annual ancient Persian festival of autumn's bounty and the feast of Mithra the symbol of kindness, friendship, love, and light. I believe now more than ever that we need to reach deep within and incorporate the message of مهر و محبت  mehr-o-mohabat (love and kindness), compassion and respect for everyone into our lives. Here's a link to my previous post on Mehregan.




As much as I love the fall season it's always hard to say goodbye to the sweet flavor of peaches as well as the many other flavorful summer fruits. And for those that are not crazy about the fuzzy peach skin there's always the option of smooth, sweet and juicy nectarines. The best way to enjoy a fresh summer fruit is to make a beautiful fruit platter or a colorful fruit salad. Many try to make the most of the fruits that are in season by making sweet and creamy summer deserts. In Persian cuisine fresh and dried fruits such as apricots, quince, raisins, plums and pomegranates are frequently used in savory dishes. Here are three examples of recipes made with fruits: Apple Khoresh with Dried Apricots, Fruit AshQuince Khoresh


This خورش هلو - peach khoresh is well balanced between sweet and sour due to the slight acidity of the fresh lime juice and the slightly sweet brown sugar. For a more sweet flavor you may use honey or white sugar instead of brown sugar. This dish may be made with lamb, beef or chicken. I didn't peel the peaches but if you find them extra fuzzy you may want to remove the skin. I made khoresh -e holu using tomato sauce but after tasting the two stews I do prefer the taste of the stew without the tomato sauce. Both dried peaches and fresh peaches are used in this recipe. Dried peaces are added in the beginning to cook along with the chicken pieces for added flavor and the fresh peaches are added toward the end of cooking since we don't want them to get mushy. You can substitute the dried peaches with dried plums or dried apricots.


Ingredients:
Serves 4

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
4 firm, slightly under-ripe yellow peaches, peel, remove the pits and cut into slices
4 dried peaches, cut in half
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Vegetable oil or olive oil
Water

Method:

  • Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a pan, add the sliced onion and saute until light brown over medium-high heat. 
  • Add the minced garlic and turmeric and saute for another 2 minutes or so. 
  • Add the chicken, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and saute until the chicken is no longer pink in the center.
  • Add the dried peaches, cardamom and stir to combine.
  • Add water to cover the chicken pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover and cook for 40 minutes.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced peaches and saute lightly on both sides for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the sliced peaches to the pot with the chicken. 
  • Add cinnamon, lime juice and sugar, stir gently,  cover and simmer for another 15-20 minutes over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Serve warm with rice and salad shirazi.

Please do check out my talented fellow Persian food bloggers posts for Mehregan!

Happy Autumn. Happy Mehregan!