Āsh ‘eh Anar – Pomegranate soup

Āsh ‘eh Anar – Pomegranate soup arils

Āsh ‘eh Anar – Pomegranate soup

(Before we delve into āsh, let’s take care of the tricky matter of its pronunciation.  Āsh should be pronounced as if you’re going to say Osh Kosh Magosh and not as if you’re Scarlette O’Hara foolishly pining for Ashley, oh Ashley. So:  Osh not Ash-ley.  Ok?  OK! Moving on.)

In Iran, a cook is an āshpaz, which literally translates to maker-of-āsh.  And cooking is āshpazi or making-āsh. What in exactly is āsh? Picture this: thick hearty soups with a mixture of herbs and veggies and legumes and sundry whatnots -somewhat akin to French potage. Perfect whenever it is chilly outside.

Not too long ago I was invited to a potluck. I wanted to make something non-fussy, potluck-friendly, and Persian of course.  But … what?  With discerning and accomplished cooks in attendance, and trying to represent the cuisine of Iran, the pressure was on! I pondered, I consulted, I wrung my hands and wore out my worry beads (not really) and finally figured I should make some type of cozy and nourishing āsh.  Duh!  Next question was:  what type of āsh to make? There are so very many different types of āsh, you know – variations only limited by imagination and taste.  Then the lightbulb moment:  pomegranates!  Not only are they in season, beautiful, naturally festive, and delicious, there’s also the convenient fact that Iranians have cultivated an encompassing and enduring love affair with pomegranates (a fruit native to the country) since ancient times, so a pomegranate āsh seemed just and fitting.

Āsh ‘eh Anar – Pomegranate soup arils

A bottle of rob ‘eh anar and cut open pomegranates

sabzi khord shodeh chopped fresh herbs persian cooking kitchen iranian food blog

Pomegranate āsh, like most other types of āsh, is a forgiving recipe (you do not have to be Swiss-watch-precise re the cooking time and you can putz around with the measurement of ingredients to some extent and substitute this for that within reason) and you’ll still be rewarded with a delicious and flavorful fare. Also in its favor: it is a one-pot construction with a short list of simple ingredients, the sole exotic exception being the pomegranate syrup. (Pomegranate syrup should be readily available in most international and middle-eastern grocery stores.  In New York City try Kalustyans or Sahadi’s.)  Mini meatballs (called koofteh yeh sar gonjeshky) are optional. I may skip the meatballs next time I make this recipe but the traditional garnish of sauteed garlic (sir ‘eh dagh) and dried mint (na’nah dagh), however, should not be dispensed with under any circumstances, as it adds a vital je ne sais quoi depth of flavor and aroma to the dish.

rice split pea turmeric pomegranates chopped herbs ingredients for Persian pomegranate soup

In conclusion:  the pomegranate āsh is a hearty, healthy and pleasurable fare (a mixture of tangy and earthy flavors) that is suitable either as a stand-alone meal or as a first course, and while I can’t claim that it behooves you to sample it, it is certainly worth a try!

Edited to add:

  • For the DIY enthusiasts and the purists at heart, here’s a simple formula of making your own pomegranate syrup (rob’ eh anar), straight from apuginthekitchen:  reduce pomegranate juice by boiling it for 15 or 20 minutes on medium high heat until it’s reduced to a syrup. If the syrup ends up on the sweet rather than tangy side, Suzanne recommends adding a bit of lemon juice, or lemon zest. She also said that she makes a glaze for baked ham with the pomegranate syrup. Which sounds amazing!  Have at it and make your own pomegranate syrup.

Ash'eh Anar

Ingredients-Graphic-icon-illustrated-thumbnail-black-white

  • 1/2 cup rice (rinsed and washed until water runs clear)
  • 1/4 cup split peas (rinse a couple of times and drain)
  • 1 cup (washed, stemmed, chopped) parsley
  • 1 cup  (washed, stemmed, chopped) coriander
  • 1 cup  (washed, stemmed, chopped) chives
  • 2 to 4 cups pomegranate juice, (can substitute 1/2 cup pomegranate syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 small-to-medium-sized onions (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar (optional)

Note: any kind of white rice will do nicely, so no worries re the quality of the rice used.

For the optional meatballs:

  • 1/2 lb ground meat
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 /2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric

For a vegetarian option, use 2 beets (peeled and cubed) instead.

For the garnish:

  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • olive oil
  • handful of pomegranate arils

Direction-Graphic-icon-illustrated-thumbnail-black-white

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a big nonstick pot and saute chopped onions over medium heat till golden. (Approximately 10 minutes.) Add split peas, 6-8 cups of filtered water, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (for around 15-20 minutes) until the split peas soften. Add rice and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the chopped greens and herbs and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes longer.  Stir as needed.
  2. Add the pomegranate juice, simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes.
  3. To make the (optional) mini meatballs (koofteh yeh sar gonjeshky): mix 1/2 pound of ground meat with one grated onion; season with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric; knead well to mix. Make hazelnut-sized meatballs, roll meatballs in a thin layer of flour and saute briefly in hot oil in a pan. Add to the soup at the same time you add the pomegranate juice in step #2. (Alternatively: instead of meatballs, add cubed beets to the āsh.)
  4. Once the āsh is set to your liking, taste and adjust flavor: add sugar (anywhere from 2 tablespoons up to 1/3 cup to taste) or conversely, add more pomegranate syrup/juice to amp up the tart flavor. Your call. Traditionally, a tart (yet not sour) flavor is preferred.

Note: If the āsh is too thick at any time throughout the process add a bit of water to dilute.  Don’t forget to stir occasionally throughout to prevent sticking.

Garnish:

Just before serving, prepare the traditional sauteed dried mint and garlic (na’na dagh) garnish. Don’t be tempted to skip this part as it enahances the taste and aroma of the dish in a perceptibly exquisite way.

  1. Dried mint: Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Once oil sizzles, turn heat off completely, add the dried mint, and stir in the pan for just one minute. (Dried mint is prone to burning quickly, so that one minute is more than enough.) Remove mint from pan and set aside.
  2. Sauteed garlic: In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil till sizzling hot. Add sliced garlic, stir, and saute for just around a minute. (Don’t overdo it as garlic will lose its aroma.)

ServingGraphic-icon-illustrated-thumbnail-black-white

Serve when hot and transfer soup into a big serving bowl. Top with the dried mint and garlic (na’na dagh) garnish, making a criss-cross or another type pattern. Decorate with a handful of pomegranate arils.

Make it, and enjoy it, and noosh ‘eh jaan!

Noosh jan Nush e jaan Persian calligraphy illustration

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36 thoughts on “Āsh ‘eh Anar – Pomegranate soup

  1. Azita jan, I recently made some Ash Anaar and was so proud I sent you its picture! LOL
    As per the recipe I used, I had added some beets and beet leaves,and as garnish I added some dried marjoram.
    I agree, next time no meat balls!
    Ghorbanat
    XX
    Banafsheh

    • Hi B joon! areh! yadameh! great minds think alike khanoom. 😉 I LOVE your idea of adding beet and beet leaves (I have a beet post coming up & the info comes in handy) and will definitely try it as well. Thanks for reading!! xo -a

  2. Your recipes are always eagerly anticipated and beyond fantabelicious, but, your blogs…well, my face cheeks and ribs hurt. Gurrrrrl, you funny! Thank you. Thank you. And more thank yous. You are yummy in our tummies and smiles on our faces. Azita Joooon ❤❤

    Sent from my iPhone. Rafi

    • Yovonne joon, now you’re making my cheeks hurt from smiling ear to ear thanks to your super sweet comment. Merci merci merci! Thrilled to hear that you enjoy this. 🙂

  3. When I still lived in London I was able to buy pomegranate syrup, and used it sparingly in tomato based sauces during colder months. Would never have thought it possible to use as a soup! Wow. There’s an International store I’m going to next week so I’ll have to try and buy it.

    • Huh! I in turn would never have thought of using this pomegranate syrup with tomato=based sauces. I should give that a try. But yeah, the pom syrup is basically concentrated pom juice and it tastes tangy and it never hurts to add a dollop (or more) to a soup or stew. Knowing you, I’m sure you will figure out many inventive ways to use this. Can’t wait to find out!

  4. I am so glad you posted this recipe, I will attest to how delicious this soup is. First of all I am a huge fan of Persian food and an even bigger fan of Azita our lovely blog host. This soup is amazing and I hope those reading this blog will give it a try. I love making “ash”, have only ever made one kind “ash a reshtay” I don’t know how to spell. The soup posted here is deliciously complex and so tasty, it was literally gobbled up at the potluck, I had 2 bowls. Thank you for posting this recipe, saved and will make it soon.

    • I’m glad to be finally posting this as well – I’d meant to do it for the longest and finally got around to it. Let me know how it goes when you make it. And I’d be super interested to know if you end up making any tweaks to it along the way. By the way, the second I get my hands on some “reshteh” I’m planning to invite myself over and cook some “ash ‘eh reshteh” with you! Be forewarned!

      • Thanks, I do plan on making it soon. Will let you know how it goes. Thanks also for the spelling ‘reshteh” I am hopeless. Would love nothing more than to have you over to cook.

  5. Azita jan, Another delicious, visually beautiful and fun post! Koja’i khanum’e banamak? Delam barayat tang shodeh bud. You are so~ entertaining!
    I posted a plain/herb āsh recipe last month. May I link this post to mine as a related article for more elaborate āsh? Excitedly looking forward to your next post! 😀 Fae,

    • Dear Fae joon, I was taking a much-needed break but I’m rested and back. Sure, of course, please do link, that’d be my pleasure. I’m going to check it out as well. Just so you know I perk up every time I see your cheery icon and truly thank you for your support. Means a lot. Till soon.

      • I just read your post and it’s so funny how we were saying the same thing but in different styles. I envy your concise style as I tend to ramble on and I also got a kick out of how we both wanted to talk about ashpaz and ashpazi. Anyway, I plan to edit this post for a few reasons and will link to your as well. It is a great post! By the way, how do you get that little circonflex on top of the a for “ash”? I need to do that as well.

      • Thank you and bless you for the little hat on top of A! I really needed that because spelling it as “ash” was driving me nutty! And if we ever contradict each other it’ll be : da’vah beineh olamah! ha ha! Off to finally edit the post and link to your post among other edits. Thank you Fae jooon!

      • oh wow, OK, will do, soon as I get a chance and then just like “Mission Impossible” I’ll burn both of our comments 😉

  6. This sounds like a great way to use some of the pomegranate syrup I bought a while back! BTW it shows how long you have lived here when you use references like Osh Kosh Bagosh and “Oh Ashley!” You are a true American girl now! 🙂 Your soup sounds divine, what a wonderful foodie party it must have been.

    • Hi Veronica! Oh yeah, I’ve been here for ages. I’m a hyphenated American baby! 🙂 The soup is good and the potluck spread was festive and awesome. So you can use your pomegranate syrup for this ash or just add a bit of it to a soup to give it a tangy flavor. There’s a rather elaborate but truly beloved khoresh made with walnuts and pomegrantes and pomegrante syrup that I hope to post around spring, so be on the lookout for that as well if you want to really give your pom syrup a good workout 😉

  7. Beautiful. I am trying to imagine how delicious this must be. Thank you so much for your recipes, they really help me feel less nervous about tackling Persian cuisine, which seems so complicated to me for some reason.

    • Hi Darya! I have been really happy to find your food blog – it’s beautiful and informative. Comme toi, J’ai découvert mon goût pour la cuisine sur le tard! Don’t be intimidated by the recipes for Persian food, it comes across as complicated, but once you get the hang of it and a feel for it, it is actually not hard. It can be labor-intensive but usually the recipes are quite forgiving. With the glaring exception of rice but … that’s a topic for another day. Thank you for visiting and bon chance with your adventures with cuisine a la Perse! -azita

      • Merci pour ta réponse Azita ! Perhaps I shouldn’t have started with rice-making then… maybe that’s why I am scared of Persian cuisine. I’ll try again with easier things, such as soups and stews, perhaps I will be more successful.

      • Yes, try something like a kookoo to begin with – the process of which should be familiar to you per your experience with other cuisines – and it’s really only the flavor profile and some other details that set it apart. As for the rice, your comment is a good reminder for me to post a Rice 101 series that I’ve meant to write for a long time. But by all means: do go for it!

  8. A delicious recipe. I love the pomegranate. Your recipes are always exquisite! This inspires me to cook more with pomegranate.

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  11. Dear Azita, could you please write a post on Dolme in Bell Peppers? Here in UAE grape leave-wine “dolma” abound, but the bell pepper variety is rare.

    Also, thought you’d enjoy this blog & book: lucidfood.com
    As commented earlier, please do consider publishing!

    Thanks for all your creativity & dedication and congrats on turning 1!
    Eyd Milad Saaed! (Tavalod Mobarak!)

    • Hi! Very happy to hear from you again.

      Bell pepper dolmeh is a really good suggestion – I’m kind of in love with the colorful bounty of them right now and had been toying with the idea myself but your request just pushed it up my blog-recipe list. let me know if you have any other suggestions.

      Thank you for reccos of book and blog – will check them out. And maybe I’ll get my act together and find a literary agent.

      mersi barayeh tabrikeh tavalood 😉

      khosh bash and hope to see you around a lot around here

      ps I’m so curious about life in UAE – I spent several hours at the airport but have never been otherwise

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