Wednesday, 24 February 2021

PERSIAN INSPIRED GREENS, BEANS & NOODLE SOUP





Hear me out on this one! Agreed, a Persian inspired noodle soup may not have been the first thing to spring to ones mind when it comes to cooking yet another elaborate weekend dinner, killing time till all this crap is over (I am having somewhat of a lockdown wobble right now so excuse my slight pessimism), but this super fragrant, herby and totally taste tantalising soup was incredible and quite unlike anything I had ever rustled up in the kitchen before.

What makes the soup so memorable? Well the soup base is the most amazing mix of fresh herbs (dill, parsley, coriander, mint and chives to be precise), turmeric, spinach, garlic and slowly sautéed unions, cooked down with water with a mix of chickpeas, lentils and cannellini beans until you achieve a thick, chilli like, stew consistency.

Then broken up linguine get added to the soup, cooked straight in the wonderful marriage of all the above ingredients, before a splash of sour cream get stirred in for a final hit of zingy-ness.

Slowly caramelised and slightly crisped up onions get served on top of the final noodle soup or stew with noodles, whichever way you prefer to put it, for an extra bit of texture and the final dish is quite the flavour bomb.

I won't pretend my version is super authentic, the original version uses Kashk, a form of drained yogurt or whey, and you are meant to use dried chickpeas which was a bit too much effort for me, but wow this fabulous final dish introduced me to flavour combos totally unfamiliar to me and was just real sunshine, yet comforting food that makes you feel good whilst eating it.

Yes, prep takes a bit of time but if you love a bit of chopping like I do you will be total convert to this dish even if it's not love at first recipe sight!

Serves 2-3

INGREDIENTS
  • ¼ cup tinned chickpeas 
  • ¼ cup tinned cannellini 
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper 
  • 250g spinach 
  • 3 large bunches coriander
  • 3 large bunches parsley 
  • 2 large bunches dill 
  • 1 large bunch chives 
  • About 20 large fresh mint leaves 
  • 6 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 large yellow onions, 1 finely chopped and 1 thinly sliced 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 cup dried green lentils 
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric 
  • 1.5l water 
  • 200g sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint


METHOD

  • Just before cooking, prepare the herbs and greens: Wash spinach, coriander and parsley, then use a salad spinner to dry very well. 
  • Run a knife through the spinach to cut leaves into large pieces. 
  • Trim the woody ends from coriander parsley and dill so that only leaves and tender stems remain. 
  • Roughly chop coriander, parsley, dill, chives and mint leaves into pieces no larger than a quarter. 
  • To cook, set a large saucepan over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons oil. 
  • When the oil shimmers, add the chopped onion and a generous pinch of salt. 
  • Cook, stirring regularly, until the onion is tender and golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. 
  • Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
  • Add the beans to onion along with the lentils, turmeric and 1 teaspoon pepper. 
  • Cook for 2 minutes, stirring to coat the beans with oil and spices. Add the chopped spinach and herbs, along with stock or water, and stir to combine. 
  • Partly cover the pot with a lid and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the soup for 1 hour, stirring regularly to prevent the greens from sticking and burning. If the soup remains very thick even after the greens have wilted, add another 1 to 2 cups water, as needed to thin it.
  • Add a ladle or two of the sour cream to the hot soup and whisk to dissolve.
  •  Increase the heat and bring the soup to a boil, then break the noodles in half and add to the pot. 
  • Stir gently to mix in the noodles and keep them from sticking together, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until noodles are soft and chewy and the beans are completely tender, about 30 minutes.
  • In the meantime, prepare the garnishes: Set a medium frying pan over medium-high heat. 
  • When the pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil shimmers, add sliced onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring regularly, until golden brown and caramelised, 16 to 18 minutes. 
  • Spread cooked onion onto a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil; let cool. 
  • Wipe out pan and return to medium heat. 
  • Add remaining 1/3 cup oil and warm gently over low heat, then stir in dried mint and remove from heat. Set mint oil aside and allow to steep for at least 5 minutes.
  • The soup should be as thick as a hearty chili.
  • If it’s any thicker, thin it with water, 1/2 cup at a time. 
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt as needed.
  • To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls. Drizzle with reserved sour and mint oil, then top with a sprinkling of golden onions.

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