Pomegranate Soup Background
Pomegranate soup is a traditional favorite in Iraq and Iran. It is known in Persian as āsh-e anār, an āsh being a thick soup. In Arabic it is called shorbat rummān. What that means, I don’t know. I can tell you that this is a great soup. Flavorful and lightly sweet, but never overpowering. It’s the kind of meal you could eat forever. So, what is traditional in this recipe and what liberties did I take?
The lentils and the yellow split peas are the base of the soup. You can use all water instead of using chicken broth, but I used half of each to add some extra flavor. The pomegranate juice is a little ad-lib on my part. Usually, this recipe is prepared with pomegranate molasses. Let’s be real, my grocery store didn’t have that. You can make an easy substitution. Reduce some pomegranate juice into a syrup. How thick your soup is already will determine how much you reduce the juice. (Reduce The Juice sounds like a protest chant) My soup was already pretty thick, so I only reduced mine for a couple minutes.
Another thing I love about this recipe, it can easily be altered. Take out the meatballs and switch the chicken broth for vegetable. It’s vegetarian. Don’t add yogurt and skip the butter. Now it’s vegan. I think it was halal to start with too, but if not it is now. Feel free to add any extra spices that appeal to you as well.
First, we want to rinse our peas and lentils. Thoroughly. Apparently, you find weird things sometimes. Even the package says so! Next, we need to boil our beans. I used half water and half chicken stock for extra flavor, but you can use all water if you want. While you wait for it to boil, dice an onion and mince some garlic. Saute them in a skillet with olive oil and add that to the pot.
Next, we will talk meatballs, which are optional. Make sure to liberally salt and pepper the beef. If you don’t they won’t have any flavor. If you have any extra time, I would marinate them a little too. Maybe some soy sauce or Worcestershire. Add any other spices you’d like. We are going to brown these in the skillet as well. My thought here is that if we brown it a little before adding to the pot to fully cook, we can unlock more flavor. Maillard reactions and all that. The meatballs should still be very pink when you add them to the pot. Just get 1 or 2 sides of the balls that look nice and dark brown. Don’t turn them more than once.
A word on beets. If you touch them with your bare hands, you will look like a murderer. They stain everything red. Just thought I’d put that out there, I feel like people don’t use beets very often. Also, you might notice they also look red the next morning. (haha, a poop joke) Anyway, you can use the stalks and the leafy parts of the beet as well. I don’t like wasting, so I chopped them up and added that too.
As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t end up reducing my juice much at all. That’s why I don’t say to do it in the recipe. If your soup is not thick though, you should (say it with me), REDUCE THE JUICE!!! Sorry, I had to do that. On the plus side, reducing will make it provide a stronger flavor. I would have used some fresh pomegranate seeds as well, but they aren’t in season right now. Stir thoroughly and taste. Make any adjustments you desire. Tasting is always crucial!
Last, we cook raisins and mint in some butter for a tasty garnish. You can also just add it straight into the soup. Adding a nice scoop of yogurt on top is optional, but very tasty and highly recommended. Something about it is just very calming. And, voila! Finished pomegranate soup! If you want to make a different kind of soup, how about my Chinese mapo tofu?
Iraqi Pomegranate Soup
- 1 large pot
- 1 skillet
- 1 cup lentils
- 1 cup yellow split peas
- 1 beet diced
- 2¼ cup pomegranate juice
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups water
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 lb ground beef (optional)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1½ tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp raisins
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup yogurt (optional)
- 2 tbsp fresh mint chopped
- Put your lentils and split peas in a colander. Rinse them with water for a minute, stirring with your hands. Let drain.
- Add water and chicken broth to a large pot. Add lentils and split peas. Bring to a boil on medium-high.
- Add olive oil to skillet. Heat up on medium. Add diced onion. Cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic. Cook for 3 more minutes, or until onion is starting to brown. Add everything into the pot.
- Liberally salt and pepper your ground beef. Add any other desired seasonings or marinades. Roll the beef into small meatballs.
- Add meatballs into skillet. Brown on a couple sides for 3 minutes. They will still be very pink in places, which is fine. Add to pot and they will finish cooking in there. Add tumeric and cumin to pot.
- Peel the beet and dice it. Slice the stem and chop the leafy greens. Add all of it to the pot. Add pomegranate juice to pot and half the mint. Boil on medium for 20 minutes, or until lentils and peas are soft.
- Taste the soup, add salt and pepper or other spices as desired.
- In skillet, melt butter, add raisins and rest of mint. Cook for 3 minutes. Take off heat.
- Serve soup in bowls. Top with a large dollop of yogurt, raisins, and a couple whole mint leaves.