Now I know you are all going to be raising an eyebrow at me blathering on about a hearty winter soup here on the fourth day of June, but man, it’s just not summer where I am. And the truth is, I could (and probably will) eat this soup all year round. A hearty mix of grains and beans made sweet-tart with pomegranate juice, this Persian soup is the stuff that vegan dreams are made of. It’s a complete, healthy, and damn tasty meal in a bowl, and there’s not an animal product in sight. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not much to look at, but hey, what bean soup is? Granted, it would have had a prettier purple pomegranate color if I hadn’t used black beluga lentils, but they were what I had lying around, so they are what ended up in the pot.
I served this to my dad and Henning on Saturday. When I first told my dad that we were having pomegranate soup for dinner, he looked at me like I was a little off my rocker to feed him nothing but fruit soup, salad, and bread for dinner. But then I explained that it has lentils, barley, rice, chickpeas and spinach in it, and that surely that should be enough. He looked a little happier, though he did make several comments about how amazing it is that he won’t be eating meat for dinner. I guess he’s just a steak man.
I created this recipe by amalgamating several recipes from the internets, modifying them in an attempt to recreate Soltan Banoo‘s version. Their pomegranate soup has several kinds of beans and wheat, rather than the standard rice, and this gives the soup plenty of interesting texture and lots of protein. It’s amazingly rich and filling, and so tasty that you’ll forget how good it is for you as you keep sopping it up with chunks of flatbread.
Ash-e Anar (Pomegranate Soup)
This hearty soup is perfect for warming up a chilly day. Feel free to use different grains instead of the barley, but make sure to add them at the appropriate time so they’re not overcooked. Lentils, pearl barley, and brown rice all require about 45 minutes of simmer time.
2 tbs olive oil
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
7 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup brown rice
1 lightly packed cup mint leaves, minced
1 lightly packed cup parsley, minced
4 cups pomegranate juice
salt, to taste
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
12 oz fresh spinach leaves, cut crosswise into 1/4″ strips
a few chopped scallions, for garnish
a piece or two of flatbread per person, for serving
Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the onions and shallot. Cook until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute more. Add the water, lentils, pearl barley, brown rice, mint, and parsley. Stir and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-low, keeping the pot at a bare simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes. Now add the pomegranate juice and salt, to taste (start with a teaspoon, stir, and taste.. you’ll probably need more). Bring to a boil again and then reduce the heat and keep the pot at a bare simmer until the lentils, barley, and rice are just tender, about 20-25 minutes more. Put in the chickpeas and spinach and simmer until the spinach is thoroughly cooked, about 5 minutes. Taste for seasonings, adding salt if necessary. Serve, garnished with scallions, passing a basket of warmed flatbread alongside.
Serves 6-8 as a main course.