Chickpea, herb and spinach soup – Ash-e Mast

I’ve bought a few new cookbooks this year, the theme seems to be about the middle east. This book of Persian recipes is called ‘Nightingales and Roses’ by Maryam Sinaiee. Hopelessly romantic title, but then again, I have a photograph of two Tehrani police officers outside our gate in northern Tehran, posing for my mother with bunches of roses and honeysuckle. 

I never had this soup, though, until today. It is easy and delicious. The recipe makes a large quantity, it says it serves four but only if you have two helpings each. It takes about an hour and a half to make. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 medium onions, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • 50g arborio rice
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 pack of coriander leaf, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 pack of flat leaf parsley, chopped (around 40g)
  • 1 tbsp dried summer savory (or substitute a mixture of thyme and mint)
  • 300g spinach, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 250ml greek yoghurt or sour cream or creme fraiche
  • Black pepper to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid. When it is hot, add the chopped onions, and fry for 10-15 minutes until the onions are brown. Stir in the turmeric and mix. Set aside a tablespoonful of fried onions for a garnish at the end. 
  • Add the water and rice to the rest of the fried onions, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. 
  • Add the chickpeas, herbs and spinach, bring to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes. 
  • Add the salt and pepper to taste, then beat in the yoghurt. Don’t boil once the yoghurt is added, because it will curdle. 
  • Garnish with extra yoghurt, the fried onions, and a grating of black pepper. 

For a vegan version, leave out the yoghurt, or use coconut yoghurt. For a meaty version, use beef stock instead of water and add small meatballs. 

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