Soups are very important in Persian cuisine and Ash Reshteh is the absolute king.
Soups are very important in Persian cuisine and Ash Reshteh is the absolute king. Ash is a category of thick soups that are sturdy enough to be one-pot meals and reshteh (“thread”) is the name for the flat wheat noodles that help thicken this soup. It’s a popular dish to give as nazri, a food offering that people give and receive as a blessing. It’s traditional to eat it for Ramadan and Nowruz (Persian New Year), and our mosque would serve it on Friday mornings. It’s also a key dish in my own personal story, something I remember eating almost weekly as a child. It was the first dish I cooked for other people and therefore so important in my journey as a chef.
When I had first moved out of home and was living with three friends, we were craving Ash Reshteh but none of us knew how to make it. I called my mum to ask her. We were lucky that at the bottom of our building was a very typical Iranian shop that sold fresh herbs. Every step of making the soup, I would be back on the phone to my mum. She was very patient, slowly, slowly explaining to me, sharing all the tips that I still follow today. You only add the turmeric when the onions are nearly ready, then you stir for one minute, two minutes, before slowly adding the other ingredients. You shouldn’t cook it too hard. You don’t cook the noodles too much because they will be mushy. All kinds of subtle touches that make the soup delicious.
I remember feeding it to my friends and it was hard for them to believe it tasted so good. I was nervous to serve it, but they gave me such nice feedback and it made me feel very happy. Now my daughter always asks for it. Every time I make it, I think of her and also the kindness and patience of my mum, helping me to make it for the very first time, finding my way to the true flavours of Persia.
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½ cup (100g) dried red kidney beans or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed
½ cup (95g) dried chickpeas or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed
½ cup (100g) dried brown lentils or 1 x 400g tin, drained and rinsed
1 cup (250ml) olive oil
2 brown onions, 1 diced, 1 thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 cups (60g) coriander, stalks and leaves finely chopped
2 cups (40g) flat-leaf parsley, stalks and leaves finely chopped
2 cups (250g) finely chopped garlic chives
4 cups (200g) English spinach
250g reshteh ash (thick Persian wheat noodles)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
½ cup (15g) dried mint
200g liquid kashk (or plain yoghurt), plus extra to serve
If using dried beans and pulses, separately soak the kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils in cold water overnight. The next day, drain the beans and pulses, then transfer to three saucepans and cover with cold water. Cook the kidney beans and chickpeas over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, until soft, and cook the lentils over medium heat for 20-30 minutes, until soft.
Meanwhile, heat ½ cup of the olive oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the diced onion and cook for about 2 minutes until golden, then add half the garlic and half the turmeric and stir until fragrant. Add 8 cups (2 litres) water to the pan, along with the chopped herbs and spinach, and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Drain the kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils and add to the pan along with the noodles. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes or until the noodles are cooked through. Season with the salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.
Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add the sliced onion and cook for 5 minutes until deep golden brown. Stir through the remaining turmeric until fragrant, then transfer to a bowl.
Add the remaining garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes until golden, then transfer to a bowl. Add the dried mint to the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Divide the soup among bowls and swirl the kashk into the soup. Top with the fried onion, garlic and mint and serve with extra kashk on the side.
Published in Ed#673