Ashe Maste

Persian Yogurt Soup with Meatballs

This classic Middle Eastern yogurt soup is bound with egg and (lour and must not boil or the yogurt will curdle. The turmeric tints the soup a lovely pale yellow, which is set off by the green of the mint and green onions and the brown of the meatballs. When pomegranates are in season I sprinkle a few of the jewellike red seeds on top. It makes a great presentation.

To make this soup your main meal, just add a few more meatballs, and serve with a salad and a little pita bread. Well, maybe dessert.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup dried chick-peas
  • ½ cup brown or green lentils
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ pound ground beef
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (or a bit more to taste) ground cinnamon
  • 4 cups plain or low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ cup basmati rice
  • 5 cups Chicken Stock or water
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • 5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, very finely minced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Method

Procedure

Rinse the chick-peas and soak overnight in 4 cups cold water in the refrigerator. Drain and rinse well.

Put the chick-peas in a saucepan with fresh cold water to cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the chick-peas are tender, about 50 minutes. Drain and set aside. Put the lentils in another saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes for brown lentils, 30 to 35 minutes for green. Drain.

Combine the chopped onion with 1 of the eggs in the container of a food processor and process until almost puréed. (Or, grate the onion by hand and then mix with the egg.) Transfer to a bowl and add the ground beef, the salt and pepper, and ½ teaspoon of the cinnamon (or more if you like). Mix well with your hands. Form into tiny meatballs and refrigerate.

Whisk together the yogurt, the remaining egg, the flour, the turmeric, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in a large saucepan. Add the rice and 2 cups of the stock or water. Bring to a simmer and cook gently, over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Add the cooked chick-peas and lentils, the parsley, green onions, 3 tablespoons of the chopped mint and the rest of the stock. Simmer 10 more minutes. Then add the meatballs and simmer 10 minutes longer.

Melt the butter in a small sauté pan or skillet over low heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft but not colored, about 2 minutes. Scrape the garlic into the pan with the soup. Taste and adjust seasonings and sprinkle with the remaining chopped mint and pomegranate seeds, if using.