Pomegranate soup

It was the 90s, and Goli Joon brought pomegranates into Valerie’s life just before Martha Stewart and the rest of the 90s food scene put them on a pedestal. And yet, pomegranate syrup still isn’t as widely available as it should be. Fresh fruits are great in season, but the syrup is a crucial ingredient in Goli Joon’s kitchen.

This version of pomegranate soup, or ash-e anar, is adapted from Food of Life, by Najmieh Batmanglij. If you don’t have a Persian cook in the family to teach you everything, buy this book.

Broth
3 tbsp oil
3 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 c. yellow split peas
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
10-12 c. water
2 c. chopped fresh parsley
2 c. chopped fresh cilantro or 1/2 c. dried
1 c. chopped fresh mint, or 1/4 c. dried
2 c. chopped fresh spring onions
1 c. basmati rice
2/3 c. pomegranate syrup (also called pomegranate molasses)
1/3 c. grape molasses or sugar
2 tbsp angelica powder (golpar)

Meatballs
1 onion, peeled and grated (or use a mini-chopper)
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Garnish
2 tbsp oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp dried mint flakes
1 c. pomegranate arils (optional, but looks like rubies!)

Make the broth: Heat 3 tbsp oil in large, heavy pot over medium heat and brown the 3 sliced onions and garlic. Add split peas, salt, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, and saute for 1 minute. Add 12 c. water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Add the parsley, cilantro, mint, and spring onions. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes longer, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Make the meatballs: Grease baking sheet. In mixing bowl, combine grated onion, lamb or beef, salt, pepper, turmeric, parsley, and mint. Knead lightly and with moist hands shape into chestnut-sized meatballs. Place on baking sheet.

Prepare soup: Gently add the meatballs to the pot and bring back to boil. Add rice, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 55 minutes longer. Stir in pomegranate syrup, grape molasses or sugar, and angelica powder, and simmer uncovered over llow heat for 1 minutes longer. Add water if soup is too thick. Adjust seasonal to taste–it should be sweet and sour. Cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

Garnish: Heat 2 tbsp oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until golden brown. Add the turmeric, give it a stir, and remove from heat. Crumble the dried mint flakes in the palm of your hand and add it to the skillet. Stir well and set aside. Pour soup into a tureen. Decorate with garnish and optional pomegranate arils. Stir the garlish in just before ladling soup into individual bowls.

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