The best two months of the year in my opinion are November & December and we are already there! Best because of the holiday season that is just around the corner. Having grown up in India, winter was not really much of a winter but greatly welcomed. Walking to school in a somewhat chilly weather as Mangalore's standards was such a joy for me at least. I experienced better winters in Bangalore when I was working there 10 years ago and although I didn't enjoy it so much as I hate cold weather. Riding the two wheeler was such a pain because I had to be completely packed in cold weather apparel, have my ears covered & what not. Anyway, this is nothing compared to what some of you face in those parts of the world that receive extreme weather including snow storms & the works. So let me quit complaining.
This time around I am here in Dubai and actually enjoying the cool weather that has slowly started descending on this city in the desert. There is a mild nip in the air which has already gotten me in the mood of Christmas - my most favourite season of all time. Chilly winters is a great reason to enjoy some hot soups and beverages and so to kick start this season I have this recipe of a wonderful Persian style yogurt soup from Azerbaijan, the north-western region of Iran. My dear friend Lakshmi introduced me to this soup after she enjoyed some at an Iranian restaurant in Chennai. She said it was made of oats, yogurt, mint & dill and suggested that I prepare it after I delivered my baby last year. Since she didn't know the name of the soup I took Google's help and found the exact name & the recipe shared in a wonderful blog on Persian cuisine. I have prepared it twice already, with chicken & beef mince and I guess the beef version is a clear winner.
'Ash' means soup and 'mast' stands for yogurt (curds). This is such a hearty and delicious soup made of rice, chickpeas, meatballs and a whole load of greens that it is a perfect way to enjoy a cold winter evening!
Ash-e-Mast (Yogurt Soup with Meatballs - Persian Style)
Prep time: | Cook time: | Serves 4-6
For the meatballs:
- 1/2 cup rice, washed (I used basmati)
- 1/2 cup chickpeas (kabuli chana) soaked overnight
- 1/2 cup dill finely chopped
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves finely chopped
- 1/3 cup mint finely chopped
- 1/3 cup parsley finely chopped
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup yogurt (curds) at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons plain flour (maida)
- salt & pepper to taste
- 200 grams beef mince/keema (you may use mutton)
- 1 medium sized onion finely chopped
- 2-3 tablespoons butter or oil
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 large onion finely sliced
- 4-5 garlic cloves chopped
- 3 tablespoons mint chopped
1. Unless the beef mince is homemade, wash it once and drain on a very fine slotted colander or a sieve lined with muslin cloth. Once it is completely drained of water place it in a bowl, add the onion, salt & pepper, mix thoroughly and shape into tiny balls.
2. In a large pot bring 6-8 cups of water to a boil, reduce the heat and cook the chickpeas till tender. Alternatively you can pressure cook the chickpeas in 3 cups of water and then transfer them into a large pot and add an extra 5 cups of water to cook the rice.
3. Add the rice and cook for another 12-15 minutes or till tender. Top up with more water if necessary. When the rice is cooked add the meatballs, salt & pepper to taste. Add in the greens - dill, coriander, mint & parsley and simmer for another 20 minutes.
4. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of yogurt and 1-2 tablespoons of flour. Add this mixture to the rest of the yogurt and mix well and then pour it into the simmering soup. Continue to cook on a very low heat for about 30-35 minutes. Adjust the seasoning (salt & pepper) if required. Remove from heat.
5. To prepare the garnish, heat oil in a small pan and saute the onion till golden brown, reduce the heat to very low and toss in the garlic and mint and saute for another 2 minutes, take care to see that the garlic doesn't burn.
6. Transfer the soup into a serving dish and garnish with the fried onion mixture.
Recipe source: Turmeric & Saffron.