kələm yerkökü Āsh: a hearty and healthy winter soup with cabbage and carrots

persian cabbage soup or aashthere’s nothing like a steaming hot bowl of thick and hearty آش‎ on a cold winter day.  Āsh (persian: آش‎) is a whole meal in itself that satisfies way beyond a simple bowl of soup. this thick cabbage soup known in our family as the kalam yerkoku (cabbage and carrots in azerbaijani) was (yet another) specialty of my grandma’s and always a favorite of mine (although i never ate the carrots). looking back, i feel like my mommonee always had a bowl of warmth waiting for us when we came in from playing in her enormous backyard. when it snowed, she covered us up so much we could barely walk before sending (or rolling) us out with loads of supplies to make snowmen-carrots, beans, buttons, twigs, old scarves and hats…and while we played with our noses running and our cheecks glowing from the cold, her pot simmered softly in the kitchen creating a most delicious aroma  welcoming us back home. before we knew it we were quickly unbundled and thawing out with a bowl of deliciousness that smelled like heaven (this one was often loaded with aromatic tarragon). oh how i long for those days-which is why i so often cook these thick soups that help tie me back to her, and the safety, love, and pure familial comfort they represent.

ingredients and preparation for 6-8 servings of cabbage, barley, and carrot Āsh:

persian cabbage aash


  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 medium onions, thinly sliced (for piaz dagh)
  • 2-3 tsp turmeric
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2-3 cups organic spinach (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups chopped organic cilantro
  • 1 cup organic chopped parsley
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 cups cabbage, cut up in chunks
  • 4-5 carrots, peeled, cut in half, then in 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (i’ve been using avocado oil)
  • a nice bunch of fresh tarragon leaves (or 2-3 tbs dry)
  • 2 tbs dry mint
  • 5-6 cups good (preferably home made) chicken or beef broth
  • 1/2-1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup (or more) kashk (or liquid whey)-can be substituted with sour cream
  1. presoak the garbanzo beans (6-8 hours ahead) and cook until tender, set aside (or you can use canned).
  2. in a dutch oven, brown the onions in about 1/2 of the vegetable oil with 1 tsp turmeric (see directions for making piaz dagh), remove 1/4 of the onions with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-set aside for garnish. add barley to the remaining onions with about 5 cups of broth, sea salt & pepper, 1 tsp turmeric, and several (another 5-6) cups of water. bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. add carrots, parsley, cilantro, scallions, and spinach, and cook for another 30 minutes. add cooked garbanzo beans and cabbage, making sure to adjust water if necessary (this is supposed to be a rather thick soup). taste and adjust seasoning. cook for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally (careful it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot). add the fresh tarragon leaves (if using dry, add with cabbage) and liquid whey, stirring enough for it to fully incorporate. simmer for another 15-20 minutes.
  4. heat remaining oil to a small saucepan, then add minced garlic and fry just long enough until golden (be careful not to burn it). remove from heat, then add dry mint (crushing it between your fingers). combine well, and allow the mixture to sit for at least a few minutes before using. Stir 1/2 of mixture into the aash.
  5. serve topped with a few drops of the remaining garlic/mint oil, some fried onions (set aside from before), and a few drops of additional whey as garnish.
  6. this is when we say: noosh-e-jan!     see garnishes below on another favorite aash, aash-e-reshteh (persian noodle soup)

garnishes for persian aash


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another must have (make) soup: crimini mushrooms, zucchini, and pearl barley soup with fresh rosemary

when i was growing up our meals reflected the availability of the seasonal produce in our local “baghalis” or neighborhood markets. today some of us are moving back towards embracing that same traditional approach to cooking and eating as we realize how important the quality (and  origin) of the food we eat is to our health and well being. no matter the season, my childhood meals were always accompanied by an abundance of home made pickles, preserves, jams, and syrups-all varieties of condiments that preserved the life of the produce well past its seasonal prime.  i vividly remember the pungent smell of large vats of crushed grapes turning into vinegar at the end of my grandmother’s garden (the smell almost made you woozy), and waking up to the sweet smell of jam being made with the last of the sour cherries towards the end of summer. partly in an attempt to keep some of these old(new) traditions alive, i’m making a serious effort these days to buy and use local and seasonal produce (often from farmers markets), and to “make do” with what i have available rather than go out for specific ingredients geared towards a particular recipe. that is how (and why) the following soup came to be-i had made a vegetarian chili with crimini mushrooms and zucchini and had some of both left over. in thinking about how these two ingredients could work together, soup (love soups) came to mind. simple as that-crimini mushrooms, zucchini, a couple of potatoes….then some (good for you) coconut milk and fresh rosemary from the garden-still in need of some substance: in came the pearl barley…and a new soup was born. we had it for dinner…it was a big hit.
chopped vegetables being sauteed in oil with rosemary
  • 2 medium zucchini-cubed
  • 15-20 crimini mushrooms-cubed
  • 1 medium or 1/2 large yellow or white onion
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1.5-2 cups coconut milk
  • 1-2 tsps organic coconut oil
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 cup barley (i used pearl)
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • sea salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
  • juice of 1 large lime or 1/2 lemon
pearl barley

cooking directions:

cube the onion, dice the mushrooms & zucchini, and sautee in oil (in a deep heavy pot) for about 5-7 minutes until tender. coarsly chop the rosemary, then add to the vegetables with sea salt and pepper to taste. add cubed potatoes (you could also leave these out), broth (chicken or vegetarian), and coconut milk, and simmer for about 20 minutes. add the rinsed barley to the soup and cook for another 30-40 minutes. add the freshly squeezed lemon juice about five minutes before serving. simple as that. enjoy!
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