What looks like a soup or a stew, but is neither? It is an Aash!
Aash has always been front and center in Persian cuisine. This is a Persian term used to describe a thick style of soup that often combines a variety of beans, grains, sometimes noodles, herbs, spices and meat.
This Aash definitely packs a ton of flavors into a surprisingly simple vegetarian dish. The usual suspects in this Aash are Sabzi (fresh herbs in Farsi), and sprinkled on top fried dried mint leaves and caramelized onions.
This Aash is unusual in that it can be made either with Kashk (liquid whey in Farsi) or with milk. The recipe below gives details for either method. It is quite rare to see milk used in Persian cuisine, though there are a few exceptions, particularly from the Caspian Sea region.
Kashk (liquid whey in Farsi) delivers quite a powerful tangy and salty punch to any dish you add it to. I personally love the deep umami flavor of Kashk, though I appreciate it may be an acquired taste to non-Iranians. Throughout my years of teaching Persian cuisine, I have recommended sour cream, yogurt or even cream cheese as alternatives to Kashk to provide a significantly milder flavor.
To highlight the significance of Aash in Persian cuisine, we need to have a little bit of a Farsi lesson.
In old spoken Farsi, the word Aash didn’t refer specifically to this thick soup or stew; it meant any prepared food. The word Pazi that comes from the verb Pokhtan, which means to cook. Putting them together, Aash-Pazi means cooking, and Aash-Paz means a cook or a chef.
Your humble Aash-Paz, Omid!
- 3 cups water
- 2 bunches spinach, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 bunch parsley, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 bunch cilantro, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 bunch dill, fresh, coarsely chopped
- 4 tablespoons dried Tareh (Persian leeks), soaked for 1 hour and rinsed, or 4 green onions, coarsely chopped
- 4 Yukon potatoes, peeled (optional) and diced into 1/2 cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1 teaspoon turmeric, ground
- 1 tablespoon rice flour, mixed with 2 tablespoons cool water
- 4 cups milk, whole or 2%, or 1 cup Kashk mixed into 3 cups water
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoons dried mint
- In a large pot, bring the water to a boil, add the chopped herbs and simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Add the diced potatoes, salt, pepper, turmeric and rice flour mixture and bring to a gentle boil.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes have mostly softened.
- While the Aash is simmering, place 4 tablespoons of oil in a medium sized frying pan and gently saute the onions with 1/4 teaspoon of salt for 15 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the same frying pan and saute the dried mint over low heat for 2-3 minutes until the mint becomes aromatic. Take extra care to not burn the mint.
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- After the potatoes have simmered for 15 minutes, add the milk or diluted Kashk, bring the mixture back to a gentle boil and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Slowly drizzle the beaten eggs into the Aash without stirring to make sure the eggs form a silken strand. Turn the flame off and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Place the Aash in a serving bowl and decoratively garnish with the caramelized onions and the fried mint.