Ashe Anar Soup - I Did It My Way

One of the things that I want to accomplish in this blog is to introduce you to new dishes and how to use ingredients that you are familiar with in a way that you might not be so accustomed to. This week it's pomegranates. Pomegranates are an interesting fruit, one of the few fruits where you eat the seeds and throw out everything else. But it has a variety of uses, I found out. Earlier in the week, I used pomegranate to make a cranberry sauce and this weekend I was thumbing around and found that it can be used in making soups. One of these is Ashe Anar, also called The Pomegranate Soup. I want to share this recipe with you; however, I want to make a couple of changes from the traditional recipe.

First, I am using ground lamb instead of ground beef. You could also use lamb shanks as well. I think lamb adds a richer flavor to this soup and combines very well with pomegranate. Second, I am using yellow lentils as opposed to split peas. Let's face it, the yellow lentils go great with lamb and yet they don't overpower the other ingredients as much as split peas might. I also have read that beets and their flowerettes are used. Since I don't like beets, I decided to use baby zuchini with their flowerettes attached. Other than that, the traditional recipe remains intact. I'm sure you're either getting tired of turkey leftovers or you've run out of ideas on what to do with those leftovers. This will give you a nice break. Here's what we need:

1 cup of yellow lentils
8 baby zuchini with flowerettes, cut in halves
1 medium yellow onion, coursely chopped
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1/2 cup of uncooked short grain rice
3/4 pound of ground lamb
3 cups of pomegranate juice
1 cup of beef stock
3 cups of water
1 cup of fresh chopped parsley
1 small 8 oz package of fresh spinach
5 mint leaves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of crushed black pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
4 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of lime juice

In a pot, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the yellow onions and saute for about a minute. Then add the lentils and stir well, saute until lentils are well coated. Now add the water and 1 cup of pomegranate juice and bring to a boil under high heat. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes.

Now add the rice to the pot, bring back to a boil and lower heat to medium low. Cook covered for about 20 minutes. While the rice is cooking, add the ground lamb, 1/3 of the parsley, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, half of the turmeric powder, and 1 teaspoon of sugar in a bowl and mix well. Roll out small little meatballs with the mixture and set aside.

After rice has cooked for 20 minutes, check and stir. Liquid should start to begin getting creamy. Now you can add the meatballs, the scallions, parsley, spinach, sugar, salt and pepper, and lime juice. Stir and continue to cook covered for 15 minutes. Then add the remaining pomegranate juice and beef stock, as well as the zuchini and cook covered for an additional 15 minutes. When liquid returns to a boil, reduce heat to low.

When soup is ready, check for flavor and doneness of the lentils. They should be just al dente. In a separate sauce pan, heat the last of the olive oil and saute the rest of the turmeric powder. Remove sauce pan from heat and add the chopped mint leaves, stir, and then add the mixture to the soup. Stir the soup one last time and serve. Sprinkle a small amount of cinnamon over each serving. You may also sprinkle some fresh pomegranate seeds over each serving.

I hope you like this version of Ashe Anar Soup. It is a change from what you might be used to; however, it's good to try new things and if you like lamb, I think you will like this. Enjoy !

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