I bought Louisa Shafia's The New Persian Kitchen ages ago, but we hadn't put it to proper use until last week. When I first brought her beautiful book home, I bookmarked a bunch of tempting recipe, but as with so many of my cookbooks, I love to peruse the recipes and pages yet I don't always carve out the time to cook from them. I'm glad I finally took the plunge with Louisa.
Despite the crazy summer weather we're having here in the Bay Area, everyone in my little family has been battling sniffles, coughs and belly aches over the past few weeks, and we've been in serious need of comfort food. The kids always ask for Paul's classic and simple chicken soup. My Cozy Winter Stew (recipe in my book) is on heavy rotation around here and always a crowd-pleaser, but I've also been craving something new.
Louisa's Persian twist on Matzoh Ball Soup totally satisfies - the hints of turmeric and cardamom warm the belly; homemade chicken broth soothes; citrus juice, dill, and baby spinach bring out amazing freshness; and the dumplings - made with chickpea flour, onion, spices and ground chicken (vegetarian friends, you can use tofu instead) - are the worthy heroes of this dish. The "matzoh balls" are fluffy in texture, yet dense with protein and flavor. Thank goodness we finally tried this soup... I strongly suggest you do the same. Pronto.
INGREDIENTS adapted from Louisa Shafia's The New Persian Kitchen
- 2 yellow onions
- 1 egg
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 1 pound ground chicken, turkey or tofu
- 12 cups homemade chicken or veggie stock
- 1 large carrot or 6 small carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (one 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed)
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh dill, parsley or cilantro
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Lime wedges for serving*
- optional: a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach leaves (Note: Louisa doesn't call for any greens, but I can't help myself. I love wilted greens in soup!)
* Louisa's recipe called for 4 dried limes to add to the broth, but I wasn't able to find them at my local market, so I squeezed in fresh lime juice at serving time.
At least 4 hours before you want to eat, or even the night before you want to serve the soup, prep the matzoh balls. Get out your food processor and puree the yellow onions. Scoop pureed onions into a large mixing bowl and whisk in egg, minced garlic, cardamom, turmeric, grapeseed oil, 2 teaspoons salt and a few generous grinds of black pepper. Finally add chickpea flour and ground chicken. Stir to combine. Cover the mixture and refrigerate for 4 -24 hours. You'll need the batter to be chilled in order to form the balls later.
After adequate chilling, go ahead and form little round dumplings with your hands. First, wet your hands with cool tap water, then pinch off walnut-sized pieces and roll to make your "matzoh" balls.
In the meantime, in a large stockpot or Dutch Oven, heat 12 cups of broth (with 2 teaspoons sea salt) until it reaches a rolling boil. One at a time, carefully lower dumplings to the hot broth. (I found that I had more dumplings than I needed or that would fit properly into pot, so I saved a batch to make more soup the next day. I think you could also freeze any extra dumplings.) Cover the pot, turn the heat to low so that the broth simmers and let the dumplings cook for 50 minutes. When the dumplings are done, they will be firm in the center.
Use a slotted spoon to remove cooked dumplings from the broth and briefly set aside. Add sliced carrots and chickpeas to the hot broth. Bring liquid to a boil, then lower heat, simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes until the carrots are tender. Add fresh lemon juice just before serving, and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
For each serving, place 3-5 matzoh balls into a bowl. Add a handful of baby spinach, if that appeals to you. Ladle the soup over the top. Top with plenty of fresh herbs, squeeze on fresh lime and add a little salt or pepper to your liking.
P.S. That beautiful bowl in the top photo was a gift from my amazingly talented friend, Sarah Kersten.