I first came across this delicious soup recipe during a family visit to Persia. We’d been travelling by car in the Azerbaijan region of Iran and it was a particularly chilly day.
Now Persians believe in the power of hot and cold foods to help us function at our best, particularly when we have to brave the elements. They see what we eat as fuel that can both strengthen and weaken our bodies. Note however that when I talk about hot and cold foods, I’m not referring to the temperature at which we eat it, but more about the effect it has on our bodies.
Cold foods like pomegranate, rice, sugar, lentils and cucumber slow down the digestive process, which can also slow us down and leads to fatigue. Hot food like chicken, walnuts and lamb speed up digestion, increasing our metabolism and make us more alert and able get on with our chores. Since we need both hot and cold food to function at our best, Persians mix hot and cold ingredients together in their dishes very well.
Now nothing warms me up like a good bowl of soup when temperatures drop and I need to pay extra attention to staying warm and healthy. So after getting the recipe for Ash-e Doogh from my in-laws, I returned to England determined to hone my soup-making skills for the rest of the winter.
Ash-e Doogh is a yogurt-based healthy Persian soup with rice, fresh herbs, chickpeas and yoghurt and topped with sauteed onion/garlic and mint. NB: Yogurt, onion, garlic and rice are cold foods which is why you need to add chickpeas, herbs and mint!
Eating it back in Blighty brings back good memories of being with family in Iran when I was six weeks’ pregnant with Cyrus. Although I was suffering with severe morning sickness, ash-e doogh was a dish I could have eaten all day…and did on more than one occasion.
Yogurt is like rice in that it’s a staple part of the Persian diet. We always serve up a bowl of yogurt and cucumber (mast-o-khiar) to our guests with lunch or dinner. If you try the recipe below, please let me know what you thought of it. It will serve six people (unless you’re pregnant!
- In a pan melt butter and saute the onion until golden brown. Add turmeric, stir well and continue to saute for another 3-5 minutes on medium heat. Set aside to cool.
- In a large soup pan place chickpeas and add 6-8 cups of water, bring to the boil on medium heat. Lower the heat and cook until chickpeas are soft and tender.
- Add rice and cook for another 10-15 minutes. Add more water if necessary.
- Add the vegetables and stir well for a minute and cook for another 20 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, 2 tablespoons of yogurt and 1-2 tablespoons of flour.
- Combine the egg mixture with the remaining yogurt and mix thoroughly.
- Add the yogurt to the soup, stir well and cook on a low heat for 30-40 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- For the topping, heat oil in a small pan, saute onion until golden brown on medium heat, add the garlic and mint, saute for another 2-3 minutes.
To serve, ladle the soup into a dish and garnish with the fried onion mixture.