Persian Split Pea & Rice Soup with Meatballs (Ash)

This stew-like soup, traditionally called “ash” in Persian cooking, had a wonderful and unique flavor profile. It was loaded with fresh herbs which added lightness and brightness to what would otherwise be a heavy soup. I also added fresh lemon juice which contributed to the brightness.

This recipe was adapted from cookbook author Naomi Duguid, via Food and Wine. I don’t typically eat lamb and my husband is not partial to mint, so I adjusted the recipe accordingly by using ground turkey and dried thyme. I was unable to track down pomegranate molasses (discontinued at Trader Joe’s! :/ ), so I used balsamic vinegar in its place.Ā Very hearty, healthy, and tasty. šŸ™‚

I’m sharing my dish at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #157 this week co-hosted by Andrea @Cooking with a Wallflower and Su @ Su’s Healthy Living. Enjoy!

For the Soup:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 3/4 cup short-grain white rice (I used arborio rice)
  • 3/4 cup dried green split peas, soaked overnight and drained
  • 2 cups finely chopped parsley leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 2 cups finely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for garnish, optional
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped mint leaves (I omitted the mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or aged balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
  • coarseĀ salt
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 small yellow onion, grated
  • 1/2 poundĀ ground lamb or turkey
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarseĀ salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Crispy Onion Topping:

  • 2 tablespoonsĀ canola oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • generous pinch of dried thyme or mint
  1. Make the Soup: In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, cinnamon and turmeric and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is beginning to soften, 5 minutes.
  2. Add the rice, split peas and 10 cups of water and bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the rice and peas are tender and the soup is quite thick, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  4. Add the scallions, parsley, cilantro and mint and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir in the pomegranate molasses/balsamic vinegar and season with salt.
  6. Make the meatballs: In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
  7. Roll rounded teaspoons of the ground meat into balls.
  8. Add the meatballs to the soup and simmer until cooked through, 10 minutes. If the soup is getting too thick, add water.
  9. Meanwhile, Make the Toppings: In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the canola oil.
  10. Add the dried thyme or mint and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Scrape the herbĀ oil into a bowl and wipe out the skillet.
  11. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil in the skillet. Add the onion and cook over moderate heat until golden and crisp, 8 minutes; drain.
  12. Serve the soup garnished with the herbĀ oil, fried onions, and additional fresh herbs, as desired.

Note: The soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and reheated gently before serving. Add the meatballs and simmer 10 minutes before serving.

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North African Meatballs

This ultra-flavorful dish is based upon a versionĀ of North African meatballs served in France, where they are called boulettes. Both the sauce and the meatballs are loaded with spices. SO fragrant and delicious.

This recipe was adapted from the New York Times, contributed by David Tanis. I used ground turkey instead of beef or lamb and increased the garlic. I also forgot to include the raisins in my couscous! We ate it with steamed spinach on the side but it would also be incredible served with roasted tomatoes or roasted cauliflower- or all of the above. Next time!

I’m sharing this dish (belatedly, again) at Angie’s Fiesta Friday #111 this week, co-hosted by Naina @ Spice in the City and Julianna @ Foodie on Board. Enjoy!

Yield: Serves 6

For the Saffron Tomato Sauce:

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 TĀ tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock, vegetable broth, or water

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1 percent)
  • 1 1/4 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coarse salt
  • Ā¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ā…› tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • Ā¼ tsp cayenne
  • Ā¼ tsp ground cloves
  • Ā¼ tsp ground coriander
  • Ā½ tsp ground cumin
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • 3 T chopped cilantro
  • 3 T finely chopped scallion
  • all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • olive oil or vegetable oil

For the Couscous:

  • 1 cup giant couscous, mā€™hamsa, or medium couscous
  • 2 T unsalted butter
  • Ā½ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water to soften, then drained
  • coarse salt
  • Ā¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Make the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more.
  4. Add stockĀ and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

Make the Meatballs:

  1. Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg.
  3. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  5. With hands or a cookie scoop, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter.
  6. Dust meatballs lightly with flour. (I gently rolled the meatballs in the flour as I lifted them up to place in the pan.)
  7. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel.
  8. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.

Meanwhile, Make the Couscous:

  1. Cook according to package directions, fluff gently and stir in butter and raisins.
  2. Season with salt and cinnamon, and toss well.

To Serve:

  1. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion. Serve with couscous and roasted tomatoes, roasted cauliflower, or steamed greens, as desired.

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