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Persian Yoghurt Soup (Ashe Mast)

Shared by: Raheleh
Recipe origin: Lankaran, Azerbaijan

It’s likely this recipe is hundreds, even thousands of years old as there is nothing complicated about the ingredients. I guess that’s  what I love most about traditional recipes, basic kitchen staples are magically transformed into the most exotic meals.

Ashe Mast originates from the Middle East, it translates as “Thick Yoghurt Soup” and is widely popular throughout Iran. Traditionally, Ashe Mast is served as an entree, although I think it makes a delightful main.
Curious about how yoghurt and rice would work in soup, I was pleasantly surprised. The best way I can describe this stew is as a creamy risotto with a tangy Middle Eastern feel. And like any good stew the flavour seems to improve overnight.

As a family recipe there are many variations. The version I made included all three herbs, coriander, dill and mint, plus leek. However it can be made with just dill and no leek, you can even leave out the meat for a vegetarian soup. If you’re not a fan of coriander you could try replacing with parsley, I think it’d still taste delicious.

This soup transported me to the Middle East, it’s like nothing I have ever tried before, but there was something familiar and comforting about it, I loved it!

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Recipe

Serves 6 as entree, 4 as main

Ingredients
1 cup (250ml) plain or homemade yoghurt (if you use Greek yoghurt dilute with a little water)
1 cup medium grain rice, washed and drained
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon plain flour
20g butter
4-5 cups water
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small leek, finely chopped
3/4 cup (loosely packed) coriander leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup (loosely packed) dill leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup (loosely packed) mint leaves, finely chopped, plus extra 3 tablespoons to garnish
200g (1/2 can) chickpeas, drained (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus extra 2 tablespoons for garnish
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For meatballs (optional)
300g beef, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cinnamon

Method
1) Allow yoghurt to stand at room temperature for 3 hours so that it becomes sour. If you are short for time heat yoghurt in the microwave for up to 1 minute.

2) To prepare meatballs combine all ingredients in a bowl, scrunch with your hands and knead until everything is well combined (3-5 minutes). Shape into 2cm balls, place on a tray and refrigerate until required.

3) Combine washed rice and sour yoghurt and grind with a pestle and mortar or pulse in a blender for a few seconds until the rice grains are slightly broken (traditionally broken rice is used, however this is not readily available).

4) Add yoghurt, broken rice and 1 teaspoon salt to a medium saucepan (nonstick is best) and gently heat (low-medium heat). After 3-5 minutes add egg yolk and stir until mixed through (1 minute). Add flour, butter and 1 cup of water, continue to simmer and stir occasionally until thickened and creamy (5-7 minutes). Add another 2 cups of water and bring to the boil, drop in meatballs and gently stir, gradually reducing heat to a simmer.

5) Add garlic, leek, coriander and dill, add pepper to taste and stir to combine, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup starts to become too thick add another 1-2 cups of water and continue to simmer (you may not need to use all the water).

6) Add chickpeas and mint, simmer for a further 5-10 minutes. Check seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, stir through and remove from heat.

7) In a small pan heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat. Fry the remaining mint for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn, drain on a paper towel.

8) Ladle the soup into a bowl, garnish with mint and enjoy as an entré or hearty main.

Tip:
- This soup should be made with sour yoghurt, if it’s not sour enough simply add a squeeze of lemon juice or ripe grape juice (popular in Iran) before serving.
- Leave out the meatballs for a vegetarian soup.

4 Comments  |   Add a comment

  1. Nikki Pacheco Theard

    I’m looking forward to serving this recipe to my family, all the ingredients are beloved in our home and kitchen. We enjoy growing our own herbs, dill, coriander, garlic and mints of many different flavors. Today, even though the snows are still only a few hundred feet above on the foothills, I trimmed some of my lavender plants.

  2. Suzanna

    I know it sounds crazy, but I can’t imagine my plants being covered with snow! Winters in Sydney get cold but we never see snow, Spring must be so beautiful where you are :)

  3. Nima

    Thanks for the recipe.
    My mom always makes this, but I wanted to give it a go myself.

    All the ingredients look similar to what my mom uses except the chickpeas. I have tried the soup with chickpeas and I don’t like it. I think it tastes better with red/yellow split peas. Chickpeas, especially if you use too much, change the taste too much.

    just my $0.02

    thanks again for the recipe

  4. admin

    Hi Nima, thanks for your comment. The split peas sound like a lovely variation – I might try it myself!

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