Abgoosht | Persian Lamb Soup with Chickpeas & White Beans

Abgoosht or Abghusht Persian Lamb soup with beans and chickpeas Classic Iranian winter food | by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

Abgoosht |A Classic Winter time iranian Food – Served with fresh herbs, pickles & bread

Last year winter was a weakling. This year, winter is a brutish pahlavan! When it is bitter cold out there, nothing beats coming home to the aroma and flavor of a bowl of hot and delicious abgoosht (also spelled abgusht.) Literal translation of abgoosht is “meat broth” which sounds decidedly … not that appetizing. Proving that a rose by any other name would not smell as sweet. Sorry Shakespear! Less literally, abgoosht may be translated as a hearty lamb soup with marrow, chickpeas and white beans —  a wintertime staple across every corner of Iran.

My beloved Kermanshahi paternal grandmother, Shah Bibi (khoda biyamorz, RIP) made my favorite kind, where the color of the broth was almost red. Shah Bibi used a good bit of ghoreh (sour grapes) – my father reminds me – and she topped it with a generous heap of freshly sauteed dried mint so that the whole house turned mouth-wateringly fragrant – I vividly recall myself. One of the best smells you can possibly imagine!

Abgoosht is an informal dish with a customized ritual of eating. One custom is to take a piece of bread, tear it into many small pieces, and drop it in the broth. This is called “noon terid kardan.” My mom cleverly points out this is somewhat reminiscent of using crackers or croutons with soup. So yes – think of it as insta-cracker-croutons — just ancient Persian style!

The other custom is to make goosht ‘eh kubideh (which literally means “mashed meat”) by removing (using a slotted spoon) all the solid bits (the beans, potatoes and meat) of the broth, mashing it all up to a mashed-potato type consistency, seasoning it with salt and pepper to taste, serving it seapartely alongside with the broth, and gobbling it up with bread and torshi (Persian pickles.) Noosheh jan! In my humble opinion, perhaps the best part of eating abgoosht is the goosht kubideh. I could rant and rave, but until you try and taste it for yourself, you’ll have no earthly idea of just how good it is. So. Good. However, a cook must decide which part of abghoost she wants to shine more brightly. If favoring the broth, the cooking time should be longer to release the flavors of the ingredients, which in turn means the goosht kubideh part won’t be as rich and tasty. If opting for the tastiest possible goosht kubideh, however, the cooking time should be shorter so that the meat, chickpeas and beans retain their flavor.

It is not Sophie’s Choice – but it is a choice that a cook must consider when making abgoosht.

Abgoosht or Abghusht Persian Lamb soup with beans and chickpeas Classic Iranian winter food | by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

Abgoosh with plate of fresh herbs (sabzi khordan) bread and torshi (Persian pickles)

Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing via email Ostad Najaf Daryabandari, the researcher and author of an invaluable 2 volume encyclopedic Persian cookbook. Among other things, I posed the following questions to Mr. Daryabanari: 1) What would you consider the masterpiece of Iranian food? 2) What is your favorite Iranian food? 3) If it were possible to only share one Iranian dish with the rest of the world, which would you pick? And to each question, Mr. Daryanbandari’s answer was … wait for it … abgoosht!

Which initially, I confess, perplexed me. After all, we have such show-stopping stunners as jeweled rice, or fesenjoon (pomegranate & walnut Persian stew) in our cuisine. Surely more deserving of the spotlight and admiration. But admittedly, while not at all glamorous, abgoosht has a plain yet profound goodness about it. It is a dish that delivers — solidly, pleasingly, without airs, yet with abundant flavors, sweet fragrance, texture and it is filling and nutritious.

My mom points out to me that when meat is cooked with its bones and donbeh (fat) such as it is traditionally meant to be when preparing an authentic Iranian abghoosht, it releases all its nutrients and good fat. “Good calories!” My mom notes. She further points out that abghoost is a bidardesar recipe (hassle free, easy peazy, made in a dizi) that could be made in one pot, simmering slowly, so that even in the busiest of households, they could start one, leave it on the stove, and get on with other things. An economical way as well for even the poorest of households to make sure that each family member got the nutrients and flavor of even a small piece of meat. No less important historical a figure than Abu Ali Sina (Avicenna) observed that abgoosht is a balanced and important type of Iranian food that could even be eaten daily. So in sum: a convenient food, full of nutrients, economical, and one specifically singled out as special by at least two important figures in the culture of Iran. You couldn’t ask for better P.R.!

The recipe I’m sharing is of a basic abgoosht my mother makes. Picking up after my lovely paternal grandmother, Shah Bibi (khoda biyamorz, RIP) my mom also uses lemon juice (or abeh ghoreh if she can find it) for the broth; and plenty of sauted dried mint as a garnish. The room fills with a heavenly scent, stomachs grumble with happy anticipation, and one, if one is mindful that is, says shokreh khoda (“thank you God”) with each lovely bountiful spoonful.

Abgoosht or Abghusht Persian Lamb soup with beans and chickpeas Classic Iranian winter food | by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

yummy yummy & nutritious abgoosht | Classic Iranian food

Ingredients graphic icon illustration black and white

  • 1 lb lamb shoulder with bones
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup white beans (we used fagioli Cannellini)
  • 2 medium-sized potatoes (peeled, then halved or quartered)
  • 2 black limes – aka black limes or as limoo amani (or substitute the juice of 1-2 lemons instead)
  • a few cloves of garlic
  • 1 large onion (peeled and quartered)
  • 1 tablespoon white rice (just a little – to add some starch to the broth)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste – dissolved in a bit of hot water
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (or a bit more, to taste)
  • dried mint for final garnish 1 tablespoon
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste

Direction graphic icon illustration black and white

  1. Soak lamb in cold water and add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar for 15 minutes. (Helps remove that particular lamb odor.) Drain. Pat dry. Trim the meat but do not rid it of its layers of fat (donbeh) – which are quite desirable to use in abgoosht, adding depth of flavor. Chop meat into a few pieces.
  2. Sprinkle a bit of salt on the beans and chickpeas, add hot water to cover. Soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain.
  3. In a big pot, bring meat, garlic cloves and 6 cups of cold water to a rapid boil. Boil for a few minutes – skimming foam in the process. Add rice, onion, turmeric, bay leaves, chickpeas, and beans (basically everything except for the potatoes and tomato paste and lemon juice), and bring to a gentle boil again. Lower heat, cover lid, and cook slowly until cooked. (Usually around 1 1/2 – 2  hours.)
  4. Half an hour prior to the meet being fully cooked, add the potatoes.
  5. 15 minutes before it being done, add the tomato paste and lemon juice (if you were not using the dried limes, OR, in addition to the dried limes.)
  6. Once done, check seasoning and adjust to taste with salt, pepper and more lemon juice if desired.
  7. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet till sizzling. Crumble dried mint between palms and sautee in oil for just one minute, stirring it frequently. (No longer than a minute because it can easily burn.)
  8. Serve!

Notes:

  • Abghoosht in its authentic traditional way was cooked in something called dizi sofali (clay pots which enhanced the flavor) or in cooper pots.  In modern times, we will have to make do with what is at hand.  If you’re lucky enough to have dizi pots, place a diffuser on the oven to use.
  • As mentioned in the body of the post, a cook must decide whether to favor the broth or the mashed-up meat+potato+chickpeas+beans gusht koobideh mashed-up paste. If the broth, cook it very slowly on a low heat and for long enough till the ingredients have fully released all their flavors. If favoring the gusht kubideh, cook it just long enough till the ingredients are fully cooked yet still retain their flavor.

Serving Ing graphic icon illustration black and whiteServes 4-6

Serve hot. Transfer broth to a big bowl and top with dried mint garnish.

Generally, and as is customary with most Persian food, abghoost is offered alongside with yogurt, soft flat bread, sabzi khordan (plate of mixed fresh herbs) and torshi (Persian pickles.)  It is customary to break the bread into several pieces and drop it into the broth.

If you’d like to make and serve the gusht koobideh (not made or pictured in this recipe post but described in detail in the body of the post) use a slotted spoon to remove most of not all of the beans, chickpeas, meat and potatoes; mash it up; season with salt and pepper and serve separately. YUM!

Abgoosht or Abghusht Persian Lamb soup with beans and chickpeas Classic Iranian winter food | by Fig & Quince (Persian food culture blog)

Yummy Yummy Abgoosht

Noosh jan Nush e jaan Persian calligraphy illustration.

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72 thoughts on “Abgoosht | Persian Lamb Soup with Chickpeas & White Beans

    • Ooh, so excited for you to try and taste this. Please please let me know how it goes and don’t hesitate if you have any questions. Yay!

      • Ok, so I’m back from the market and had to buy two lamb shoulder “chops” since they are only 1/2 pound each…should be ok, eh? Do you think cooking longer than 2 hours is ok, or shall I say recommended? I’m chopping at the bit here wanting to get it on the stove, can you tell? 🙂

      • 🙂 how fun!

        So to be sure, I also checked with the grand poobah, my mom, that is and she says you really wouldn’t want to cook it longer than 2 hours. In Iran, because of the sea level, it takes much longer for meet to fully cook according to my mother, but here, on the East coast for example, lamb is fully cooked in 1 1/2 to 2 hours. So I’d say aim for no longer than 2 1/2 and if you do want to cook it for that long, have it on really low heat once it is brought to a boil and you put the lid on.

        Bon chance and noosheh jan (in advance) mon amie! Would love to see pix! xo a

      • ps the longer you cook it, you’d also be favoring the flavor of the broth instead of the mashed meat+potato+chickpeas+beans … so do that into account as well.

        some kind of tangy pickle would be quite nice. One that you could make immediately would be to peel and slice either onions or raw beets, place in jar, cover with salt and vinegar. Torshi goes very very nicely with the mashed meat part of this dish.

      • Oh my pleasure! My father by the way likes to combine onions and beets together. But be warned that the onions will turn purplish, of course, thanks to the beet.

    • Oh, for the recipes you mean? I did change up the recipe section a bit to make it easier on the eye. But still work in progress. The work of us bloggers is never done. Is it, Shanna? 😉 xo a

  1. well lucky for me I have all the required ingredients – limu omani – check sour grape juice – check – ( I also have sour grape powder – and limu omani powder- which I find to be too bitter to use and about 5 liters of pomegranate syrup I bought abroad so I would never run out) – and dried mint. Sadly the bugs ate all the dried herbs for ashreshte – and I cannot buy them here (the herbs, not the bugs) – but a abgoosh I can manage. My all time favourite though is khorest e qeimeh served with a crunchy tahdig – regarding the fesenjoon, I have made it for friends, one whom an egyptian, and he couldn’t make friends with the sweet/sour taste, so maybe abgoosh is more easily accessible to all palates?

    I am going to get some lamb and I will try this, yummy!

    • thank you for clarifying that you meant the herbs not the bugs. 🙂 LOL! You are too funny. I’m duly impressed by your pantry and obviously you mean business, ha ha. I would LOVE for you to try this and to get your feedback and verdict.

      I do think fesenjoon, as popular as it is with Iranians, is probably among the dishes that would not suite every palate. Abgoosht, however, if you are tempered when using the amount of lime (or sour grape juice) and dried lime, is nothing but soothing and rich and flavorful and can’t imagine someone not liking it. With the obvious exception of vegans and vegetarians.

      • I am absolutely planning to make this – looks divine, even if we don’t have a winter to speak of here. Aha my pantry, yes I mean business 🙂 I have about 5 packs of limu omani and now add them to other soups to add flavour, which works really nicely. I will let you know how I get on 🙂 thanks for posting and adding in your family’s comments and references to granny and mum!

    • Angie, is that what it’s called? Bless you for telling me! Because I love these suckers (they are found often in Brooklyn) and had no idea what to call them except spiky balls, ha ha. And, errr, no, did not and for sure do not use them in the abgoosht! LOL 🙂 xoxo
      a

      • way to go – very nice, props AND styling! I am happy if I manage to shoot an Iphone pic, the landscapes are usually proper cameras when I am on a trip, the food pics are in between all the other stuff..

  2. my house smells soooooo delicious- I’m making ab-goosht. when I saw your recipe I went out to get the ingredients – but , today is family day in Ontario, stores are closed. There is an Iranian food store/restaurant not too far away, I got all I needed and have started the ab-goosht. I took a picture , which I will leave ? somewhere . It’s very cold outside and I can’t wait for dinner. All your recipes are so well explained and easy to follow that even “non Persians” (like me ) can enjoy these delicious recipes. Thank you

    • Oooh, so cool and so happy to hear it and thank you for such a sweet and lovely comment. Definitely share the pic. you can email it to me “fig at figandquince dot com” or if you post is somewhere just share the link.

      Noosheh jaan!!! 🙂

  3. Firstly I had a chuckle about dropping torn bread into your soup, a family tradition with English roots in my house! Slow cooked lamb shoulder makes everything taste good, I’ve filed this to make in the cooler months, thanks for the lovely story and delicious recipe!

    • How interesting! Love to know that it’s an English tradition as well. It is just so homey, although even in Iran, it is done strictly in the confines of one’s home and NEVER in front of guests, ha ha!

      Thank you! 🙂

  4. Abgoosht is one of my all time favorites and I always ate it with the bread torn into the broth. I haven’t made this in a very long time and you just reminded me how delicious it is and I really need to make it soon. It really is an amazing dish.

    • Perfect for our winter Suzanne! BTW, I love it that you are already familiar with so many Persian dishes and vouch for its goodness! 🙂

  5. I love the sort of dish that you can put on the stove and allow it to do it’s own thing for an hour or two and still be rewarded with such a beautiful flavourful meal! I can smell that sautéing dried mint from here – wonderful!

    • I know it’s hot right now where you are but do try it if you remember come winter. It’ll be rewarding. And I feel comfortable saying that because I’m not bragging about a personal recipe but one that is thousands of years old! xoxo

  6. Abgusht is forever obliged to you, for such a tribute. I haven’t had abgusht for a long time, but gusht kubideh sure is special, with nan va torshi! You didn’t mention the torshi in the spoon. I really enjoyed your writing and mention of your grandmother, Shah Bibi (khoda biyamorz).

    • Thank you Fae joon! I do get to enjoy abgoosht almost every winter but I haven’t had goosht kubideh in a while. I should have made it this time. Thank you so much for the warm and lovely comment – means a lot! 🙂

  7. Couldn’t agree with you more. I think it is every persian’s favorite dish. It just simply calls you home. These very delicious pictures opened up my memory box when in Caspian Sea no one was afraid of having obgoosht with seer torshi. Sigh.
    Now that I know you have strings attached to Kermanshah may I dare to ask if you know about “roghan-e kermanshahi? Just the other day my husband & I were having a discussion about this very beautifully aromatic majoon & he was telling me that it is actually ghee, but I disagreed. Do you know?( I probably have made you homesick. That’s its effect on me anyways.)
    Sorry for this very long comment.
    Thank you Azita joon.
    Xo

    • So something funny. I posed your question re the armoatic majoon (ha ha ) roghan kermanshahi to my folks and guess what? They also disagree. My mom thinks it is ghee (that would be sold solid in a tin can) and my father does not agree. Ha!

      Someone needs to visit Kermanshah and get to the bottom of this controversy! 😉

      Also: I loved your comment and it was not long enough even!

      • Thank you Azita joon,
        I’m not sure if you would read my late reply but if you do hope you”ll be able to go to Kermanshah & experience once more this beautiful majoon for yourself & ME. We will miss you.

      • I’m definitely going to Kermanshah to visit family and will hopefully remember to research this first hand! 🙂 Making a note of it now! 🙂

  8. Again I’m curious about these dried limes. However, I recently bought dried sour cherries for something else and found them to be horrid! Actually, do you know how to use them? They are Iranian. Anyway, I’m still off meat. Could use the dried limes with chickpeas I suppose.

    • dried limes are really nice, dried cherries are also nice, you can use them in baked goods like cranberries, at least I have done that. But the dried limes are great thrown in anything – just make sure you pierce them with a knitting needle/skewer in a couple of places before throwing in the stew pot – meat/chickpeas/soups + herbs, they add a lovely tang. Also dont use too many as otherwise too bitter. Maybe 2-3 for a 1/2 litre

  9. I have made several attempts to sit and read your post but like your recipe I wanted to sit and savour it and, I am glad I did. The recipe sounds wonderful. I can understand why it is so loved. For me the flavour of the lamb and the mint just sound delicious. I have never fried them. It sounds very interesting and I am going to try it.

    • Oh yeah! With real sangak bread … sooo good! It’s next to impossible to find a real sangak bread here in the U.S. though 😦

  10. Azita, this is gorgeous. I love this post. I love your references, mom and Mr. Daryabanari. This is a dish with a real history and a very personal one for you. I’ve never seen a black lime. This actually looks easy to make. I feel like every culture kind of has a version of this. It’s a stew rooted in comfort. Thanks for sharing another great, well-written post.

    • It it true – astute observation that every culture has a version of this stew. Thank you Amanda for your always lovely comments & patronage of this blog! 😉 xoxo

    • It it true – astute observation that every culture has a version of this stew. Thank you Amanda for your always lovely comments & patronage of this blog! 😉

      • HI Azita – I checked out Mr expert iranian on amazon, sadly his cookbooks sell for 230 dollars and only come in farsi which although I have various language guides on my bookshelf I never mastered more than the names of the foods for….and mubarakeh, when you bought something new and cool, and a couple of others like Gorbeh, which for those of us who love cats is an important one 🙂 Anyway – back on topic – I own the food of life, http://www.najmiehskitchen.com/ – which comes in English and is quite all encompassing. It even has the recipe for chickpea flour cookies, which sound easy, but i am sure you know better than me, take hours to get them to stick together 🙂

      • Yes it’s crazy expensive on Amazon. I got lucky as a good friend of my mom’s gifted us with the copy and shipped it from Iran. I do hope the volumes get translated one day. It’ll be a huge job, It’s a massive book!

        You are so very cool and interesting by the way! I must add that in.

      • Hello Azita – I believe that the way to understanding and learning about, achieving tolerance for other cultures and realizing their greatness is most easily achieved through learning about a nations culinary heritage, and its foods – sharing it, eating it, learning about it – it is the easiest pathway to the so-called other. (I still remember your comment on the axis of evil….). Food is a great “normalizer” – so I do hope someone translates his cookbooks too. I hope that doesn’t sound pompous, but it seems hard to place people in categories of good and evil when you have sat at a table with them and realized that the majority of them are not much different from yourself.

        Thank you for your compliment it is really appreciated, you have just made my day – it would have to be a good one now!

        Have a great day yourself Polianthus

      • Dear Poilanthus, you have crystallized the reason I started a food blog!
        a great way for me to start the day as well! 🙂

  11. Delish! Ah, yay… another recipe for the ingredient you taught me about (limoo amani!). I’ve fallen in love with them now. Delicious, Azita! I definitely want to make this very soon xx

  12. Oh your photos are so gorgeous, I’ve been looking at this in the reader for days. I am determined to try this, and the hunt for black limes starts tomorrow. Is it possible to dry them yurself, or are they a particular variety of lime, do you know?

  13. REALLY GOOD ADVICE SO LISTEN UP……….I LUV THIS RECIPE MOTHERINKAW TAUGHT ME BUT WHAT WE DO DIFFERENTLY IS STRAIN IT WHEN DONE INTO ANOTHER BOWL . THEN MASH IT ALL UP SERVE IN THE MIDDLE OF A PLATE. WITH BREAD WHICH WE DO OR PITA BREAD WITH BUTTER SPREAD IN IT. WHEN YOU SERVE IT DRIZLE THE LIQUID OVER THE MASHPOTATOES

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