Soup-e Jow is a delightfully simple and flavorful soup, but is not really well-known in the line-up of Persian soups and Aashes. (Aash is a Farsi word for a thick soup, like a cross between a soup and a stew.) The barley offers an earthy flavor and satisfying chew, while lemon juice contributes a refreshing sourness. Carrots bring a brilliant color, and milk adds creamy richness.
This soup was a favorite of my family’s when I was growing up in Iran, and I remember looking forward to it every time Mom prepared it.
It completely surprised me when I realized that I have neither prepared nor eaten this soup in nearly 40 years. Maybe that’s because it’s not readily available in restaurants, or because it isn’t mentioned in many Persian cookbooks. I’m not sure what made me think of this soup today, but I had a strong craving for it, even though I only had vague memories and hunches about what ingredients to use.
Off to the pantry and refrigerator, I went to gather the ingredients. Surprisingly, I had everything I needed on hand! As I made the soup, I was greeted by familiar aromas, appearance, and tastes.
I later followed up with the expert in the field – my mother – who validated most of my hunches and offered more insights. The broth was of course always made at home, and at times pieces of chicken were added to make this a complete meal. When I talked with a friend about the dish, she told me she made it with chicken meatballs, which I thought was brilliant!
I suspect though that I added a lot more carrots than Mom would have, and honestly, that is one variation I am absolutely OK with! With a soup this simple, I think the options are endless. I see carrots, potatoes, celery, chard, parsnips, or sweet potatoes finding their way into this soup, and each or all of them would be absolutely delicious.
As with many of my recipes, I hope that you will try this soup as it is and then make another pot and put your signature stamp on the ingredient list!
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 medium carrots, grated
- 1 cup pearl barley
- 4 cups chicken broth, homemade prefered (or vegetable broth)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
- 1 fresh lemon, juiced
- 1/2 to 1 cup whole fat milk, or cream if preferred
- 2 tablespoons parsley, roughly chopped
- In a large pot, saute the onions in olive oil over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions are softened and turned slightly golden brown. As always adjust your flame to make sure the onions are not darkened too quickly.
- Add the minced garlic and toss it around for a couple of minutes before adding the grated carrots, barley, chicken broth, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Bring the pot to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook for about an hour. After an hour check to see that the barley is softened and cooked properly. Don't overcook, though: barley should always have a bite to it and that is what makes this dish so satisfying in texture.
- Depending on the thickness of the soup stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of milk or cream, and taste for seasoning. Add a touch more salt or lemon juice if the flavor isn't robust and tangy. Sour should be a strong flavor in this soup.
- Serve the soup in a terrine, garnished with the chopped parsley. Be sure to have extra slices of fresh lemon for the sour-lovers in your family!