This soup is a test of patience and restraint. If you’re easily distracted, skip it. If you can mind a pot, stirring, singularly-focused, for a half hour, perhaps longer, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful, herbed, Persian yogurt soup, Ashe Mast. This is a vegetarian version – chickpeas, lentils, brown rice, and herbs bathed in thin, savory yogurt broth. Each bowl is finished with a drizzle of minted garlic butter. Lately, I’ve been browsing my old cookbooks late at night, I used Maideh Mazdeh’s Ashe Mast recipe, from In a Persian Kitchen, as a jumping off point here. Her cooking technique requires babying the broth throughout the cooking process, you don’t want the yogurt to curdle or break – which means, you can’t let the mixture get too hot. Things can go downhill fast if you’re not mindful. That said, I’d like to encourage those of you who are game for a bit of a challenge, to take a deep breath, step up to the stove, and stay there with this beautiful yogurt broth until it thickens and let’s you know it’s ready. And now that I’ve cooked this a few times, I have some thoughts and shortcuts I’ll note below.
Before I get into some of the soup-making strategy down below, I wanted to share a few snapshots. The book itself is a beautiful object. In a Persian Kitchen was printed in 1960 in Tokyo by the Charles E. Tuttle Company of Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan. Jacket Design by M. Kuwata. It sold in the U.S. for $3.25. Charles E. Tuttle’s is the subject of what might be the best line in any obituary I’ve read. “He was a learned bibliophile and scholar of American and Japanese literature, a successful businessman, a genuine and generous friend, and a loving husband to his wife of 42 years, Reiko Chiba Tuttle. He was also a prodigious drinker, and was not infrequently tossed out of, and off, bars and restaurants, golf courses and tennis courts, on six continents – unabashedly, and not without some elan, one might add.”
The soup. Make note of the shortcuts I’ve outlined (below) in the recipe head notes. If you have pre-cooked rice, or beans, or lentils, you can simply focus on the broth. Part of the challenge of Maideh Mazdeh’s version of Ashe Mast is that you’re waiting for the rice to thoroughly cook through IN the yogurt broth. This takes a stretch, particularly when you’re concerned about breaking the broth. I’ve seen versions where the yogurt is added to a sub-simmering soup at the last minute, but I’m on board with this version for now, I think there is something to the long simmer, with the shallots, that rounds out the yogurt tang nicely. I mention below to use full-fat yogurt because it’s more stable. Aside from that, to the handful of you who might brave this 😉 let me know how it goes!
Holiday Event: Just a heads up, I’ll be at the Remodelista Holiday Market at Heath Ceramics in San Francisco this Saturday, December 14 from 10 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. If last year was any indicator, it will be another fantastic gathering of some of my favorite artisan producers and designers & some A+ holiday shopping. I’ll have pre-signed copies of Super Natural Everyday available, and I’m also happy to sign books you already own. We’re bringing a selection of items from QUITOKEETO as well. Hope to see many of you there. xo -h