Ash-e-Anar (Persian Pomegranate Soup)
This soup is a hearty one perfect for a winter treat. I have made this both with beef and without. Traditionally, the recipe calls for ground beef, however I have made this with ground chicken and without any meat and sincerely, it is STILL delicious!
We first had this soup on a family trip to San Diego. It was the last trip I had with my grandparents. My son was still tiny. We had a fabulous time at the beach and of course had to try some Persian restaurants while in California! We went to a lunch buffet sadly, I cannot recall the name of the restaurant. It was delicious! One of the buffet choices was Ash-e-Anar. Only my grandfather had had it before and let me say it was one of the best soups I have ever had! The tartness mixed with the earthyness finished with the clean fresh pomegranate seeds bursting in your mouth. Perfection! Needless to say we tried to write down the recipe while we enjoyed it figuring out the flavors in every bite. This is the best we could do as a family sitting there tasting the flavors we took apart, eyes closed, all senses silenced to figure out what was in that soup!
Aside from being a super food and having all sorts of proven health benefits, pomegranate is perhaps the most valued fruit in Persian culture. The symbolism, nutritional value as well as the religious symbols throughout the history of the dynasties from fertility, to divine power, to the beauty it promises your unborn child when a mother eats it pregnant. It is present in all ceremonies from newer to weddings. Above all, I always see it as a gem, an edible gem that explodes layers of flavor and texture to all that celebrates in your mouth!
1 cup rice (rinsed clean)
1 cup yellow split peas (rinsed clean)
3 tablespoons tarragon (dried will do)
1 bottle (300 ml/10oz) pomegranate molasses (I use Cortas brand)
1 bulb garlic minced
2 cups chopped cilantro
2 cups chopped parsley (I prefer Italian but either will do)
2 cups chopped chives/green onions (you pick)
1 large lemon juiced and seeds removed
1 cup friend onions (store bought or home made)
(TRADITIONAL BUT OPTIONAL)
1 lb ground beef/chicken friend with 1 onion finely chopped, 1 bulb garlic minced, 1 tablespoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon salt and pepper to taste
To top and serve:
Fresh seeded pomegranate
crunchy fried onions
Rinse your rice and yellow split peas and allow to boil until basically mush. While it turns to mush, brown your ground meat with turmeric, salt, pepper, cinnamon, onions and at the end garlic (to avoid burning your garlic and adding a bitter taste to your food).
Add in the rest of your ingredients (washed and chopped herbs) EXCEPT your molasses and your lemon juice and allow to become basically overcooked. (About 2 hours on medium heat).
I usually add one bottle of molasses. You can add more (I have added another half and it's still yummy) I add one lemon for the tartness to bring out the pomegranate molasses flavor, and depend on the color from the molasses.
Serve and top with crispy fried onions and fresh pomegranate.