Pomegranate & Spinach Persian Soup (?sh ‘eh Anar)

By • January 25, 2014 • 0 Comments



Author Notes: In Iran, a cook is an ?shpaz, which literally translates to maker-of-?sh.  And cooking is ?shpazi or making-?sh. What in exactly is ?sh? Picture: thick hearty soups with a mixture of herbs and veggies and legumes and grains and sundry whatnots - somewhat akin to French potage.

Pomegranate & spinach ?sh, like most other types of ?sh, is a forgiving recipe (you do not have to be Swiss-watch-precise re the cooking time and you can play with the measurement of ingredients to some extent and substitute this for that within reason) and you’ll still be rewarded with a delicious and flavorful fare. Also in its favor: it is a one-pot construction with a short list of simple ingredients, the sole exotic exception being the pomegranate syrup. Mini meatballs (called koofteh yeh sar gonjeshky) are optional. I may skip the meatballs next time I make this recipe but the traditional garnish of sauteed garlic (sir ‘eh dagh) and dried mint (na’nah dagh), however, should not be dispensed with under any circumstances, as it adds an irresistibly glorious je ne sais quoi depth of flavor and aroma to the dish.

In conclusion:  this ?sh is a hearty, healthy and pleasurable fare (a mixture of tangy, leafy and earthy flavors) that is suitable either as a stand-alone meal or as a first course.
Fig and Quince

Serves 6-8

?sh & Garnish

  • 1/2 cup rice (rinsed and washed until water runs clear)
  • 1/4 cup split peas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1/2 cup (washed, trimmed, chopped) parsley
  • 1/2 cup (washed, trimmed, chopped) coriander
  • 1 cup (washed, chopped) chives
  • 2 cups (washed, chopped) fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup (washed, chopped) beet greens (optional)
  • 1 large onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 to 4 cups pomegranate juice (substitue 1/2 cup tangy pomegranate syrup instead)
  • 1/3 cup cup of sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint (for garnish)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (for garnish)
  • handful pomegranate arils (for garnish)

Optional Mini Meatballs

  • 1/2 pound ground meat
  • 1 onion (grated)
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 beets (peeled and cubes as ALTERNATIVE option to meatballs)
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a big nonstick pot and saute chopped onions over medium heat till golden. (Approximately 10 minutes.) Add split peas, 6-8 cups of filtered water, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer (for around 15-20 minutes) until the split peas soften. Add rice and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the chopped greens and herbs and continue to cook for 10-15 minutes longer. Stir as needed. Add the pomegranate juice, simmer, covered, for 30-45 minutes.
  2. To make the (optional) mini meatballs : mix 1/2 pound of ground meat with one grated onion; season with salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric; knead well to mix. Make hazelnut-sized meatballs, roll meatballs in a thin layer of flour and saute briefly in hot oil in a pan. Add to the soup at the same time you add the pomegranate juice in step #2. (Alternatively: instead of meatballs, add cubed beets to the ?sh.)
  3. Once the ?sh is set to your liking, taste and adjust flavor: add sugar (anywhere from 2 tablespoons up to 1/3 cup to taste) or conversely, add more pomegranate syrup/juice to amp up the tart flavor. Your call. Traditionally, a tart (yet not sour) flavor is preferred. [NOTE: If the ?sh is too thick at any time throughout the process add a bit of water to dilute. Don't forget to stir occasionally throughout to prevent sticking.]
  4. Serve when hot and transfer soup into a big serving bowl. Just before serving, prepare the traditional (& heavnely) sauteed dried mint and garlic (na'na dagh) garnish: a) Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Once oil sizzles, turn heat off completely, add the dried mint, and stir in the pan for just one minute. (Dried mint is prone to burning quickly, so that one minute is more than enough.) Remove mint from pan and set aside. b) In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil till sizzling hot. Add sliced garlic, stir, and saute for just around a minute. (Don't overdo it as garlic will lose its aroma.) Top serving bowl of pomegranate and spinach ?sh with a criss-cross pattern of the mint and garlic garnish. Decorate with a hanful of pomegrante arils if you wish. Enjoy and nush 'e jan!

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