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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ash-e-reshteh: persian noodle soup

ash reshteh
the other day someone asked me to share my recipe for ash reshteh (recipe comes from my mom, by the way), and it was as if a light bulb went off in my head-i realized how much i was missing one of my all time favorite foods. this delicious and hearty noodle soup is intertwined with so many of my good memories: of new year’s day celebrations, weekend lunches at grandma’s, after ski āshdelivered warmth in the alborz mountains (shemshak for those of you familiar), and those regular childhood days at  home when my mom used her (beloved) pressure cooker (toot toot toooot) to cook the beans for this soup (i so looked forward to eating). my mom is known not only for her cooking skills, but for her efficiency in the kitchen, and the pressure cooker is probably one of her favorite gadgets. for some reason, i have yet to purchase one, but one of these days (when i get over my anxiety) i think i’ll l be cooking my beans in a matter of minutes too!
this is how wikipedia describes Ash Reshteh (آش رشته‎):one of the most famous types of āsh (thick winter soup), made commonly in Iran. The ingredients used are reshteh (very thin noodles), kashk (whey-like dairy product), herbs such as parsley, spinach, dill, spring onion ends and sometimes coriander, chick peas, black eye beans, lentils, onions, flour, dried mint, garlic, oil, salt and pepper.” looking at the ingredients, it’s clear that as usual, my family has our own version (the best one, of course) of a traditional dish-if you decide to make it, and i think you should, be prepared to spend a few hours ENJOYING the process…take your time, play some music, pour yourself a drink, and have fun cooking! as always, i  recommend cooking your own beans (although you could save time by using canned)-so you might want to get up and soak some right now (navy and garbanzo). every time i cook traditional persian food, i’m reminded of the abundance of natural and nutritious ingredients-this is real, non-processed food: good-for-you fresh herbs and vegetables, grains, beans, and spices. this “āsh” can easily be made vegetarian by increasing the “piaz dagh” or fried onions and using water instead of broth. noosh-e-jan!
{recipe below-click on read more}
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