Eshkeneh (Persian Onion, Fenugreek and Egg Soup)

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I hate winter. To many fellow Canadians this type of talk is blasphemous but I don’t ski, ice skate, I don’t like snow (especially having to manoeuver a baby stroller through mountains of it), I constantly slip on icy sidewalks and I just plain hate being cold. Winter, to me, has only three redeeming qualities……the holidays (I will admit, I do love a white Christmas), the look of joy on my daughters face after a snowfall…..and last, but not least, soup season.

Winter is an excuse to make soup.  I love all soups…..purees, chowders, noodle, broths…..every culture has their own and I love them all. To me, there is nothing more comforting than a big bowl of soup on a cold day.

Eshkeneh, is the Persian answer to Chinese egg drop soup or Italian Stracciatella. A very simple to prepare, warm and fragrant broth with onions, fenugreek and ribbons of lightly cooked egg. Fenugreek is what gives Eshkeneh its uniquely Persian aroma and flavour. Fenugreek is a relatively new herb to the Western world but has been used in parts of the Mediterranean, Middle East and Asia for ages.  It has been used in cuisine and to treat a variety of health concerns including arthritis, asthma, digestion and lactation to name a few.  This herb is becoming much more well-known worldwide as some studies suggest that Fenugreek may help lower blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Oh, and did I mention, that studies have also shown that it has a very positive effect on male libido;)

Eshkeneh
(Serves 4)

canola oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp all purpose flour
2 tbsp dried fenugreek
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 eggs, beaten
salt & pepper

In a medium pot, heat 3 tbsp of canola oil over medium heat. Add the onions to the pot and fry, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden. Add the turmeric, fenugreek and flour and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

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Add the broth and turn the heat up to high. Bring to a boil.

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When boiling, turn the heat down a little to medium and let simmer for a 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly pour the eggs into the soup while stirring the soup at the same time so the egg does not clump together too much. You want to egg to cook into ribbons as opposed to big clumps.

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Season with salt and pepper. Serve with warm bread. Enjoy!

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Aash-e Gojeh Farangeh (Persian Tomato and Meatball Soup)

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Happy Birthday to us!!!! Today is officially The Pomegranate Diaries first birthday! It’s a doubly special birthday for me too as my son turned three months old today and has officially gone from newborn to infant!

In honour of this special day, I thought I’d prepare one of my favourite Persian dishes: Aash. It’s almost misleading to describe Aash as a soup……it’s so much more. It’s a complete meal, a cross between a soup and a stew, it’s our answer to what Americans call chowder. It’s warm, hearty, satisfying “stick to your ribs” type of food. Persians often serve it as a first course but this has always baffled me as I find most Aashes filling enough to be my main meal. When I lived in Montreal, my friends and I frequented a fantastic little Persian restaurant that would always serve a first course of Aash Reshte (Aash with Noodles and Beans) before our big kabob meal. We often were so stuffed by the time we finished our Aash that we had to take the kabob to go!

There are many different types of Aash. The following is my mom’s recipe for Aash-e Gojeh Farangeh – a hearty blend of meatballs, yellow split peas, rice and herbs in a delicious tomato broth. The Aash can also very easily be “veganized” by omitting the meatballs and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.

Aash-e Gojeh Farangeh

Serves 6-8

Soup:
3 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp turmeric
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
5 1/2 cups tomato juice (preferably low sodium)
1 cup water
1/2 cup yellow split peas
1 cup basmati rice (rinsed)*
1/2 cup finely chopped italian parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 cup finely chopped dill
1/2 cup finely chopped chives
2 tbsp finely chopped mint
salt and pepper

Meatballs:
1/2 lb lean (or extra lean) ground beef
1/2 onion minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

In a large pot heat the canola oil over medium heat. Fry the onions, stirring occasionally until soft and golden, about 10 minutes. Add the turmeric and fry for another minute.

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Add the chicken broth, tomato juice, water, 1 tbsp salt and tsp pepper. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the yellow split peas and the rinsed rice. Turn heat down to low, cover and simmer until rice and split peas are tender (about 30-45 minutes). Make sure to stir occasionally so they do not stick on the bottom.

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Meanwhile, gently mix the ground beef with the minced onion (I chop mine in the food processor), the salt and pepper and set aside.

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When the rice and split peas in the soup are tender add the herbs. The soup should be thick but if it’s too thick add some extra water.

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Turn the heat of the soup up to medium-high heat. When it begins to gently boil you are ready to add the meatballs.

Take about a teaspoon size of the ground beef mixture and roll it between your two hands to create a small meatball……my mom said that they should be about the size of a small birds head but you are welcome to make them bigger if you wish. Drop them straight into the soup. Repeat until you have used all the beef.

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Once all the meatballs are in the soup, turn down the heat to low and let simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve and Enjoy!

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*To wash rice, put it into large bowl, cover with cold water and agitate it with your hands. You will notice that the water will become milky. Drain the water and repeat. Keep doing this until the water is almost clear.