This year for Purim, which begins on the evening of February 25, why not celebrate with a dish that evokes the setting of the Megillah (the story of Queen Esther) in ancient Persia? The classic and aromatic Persian dish ash reshteh, a hearty legume and noodle soup and a meal in itself, would be an apt choice.
Traditionally prepared for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, ash reshteh is also sometimes served by Persian Jews on Purim, which often comes around the same time of year as Nowruz. Iranian custom holds that noodles bring good luck, and it seems appropriate to celebrate Esther’s courage and Purim’s happy outcome with this traditional soup. In confronting the evil intentions of her husband King Ahasuerus’s adviser Haman, who wanted to murder all the Jews, Queen Esther saved the lives of her people—certainly cause for a festive feast.
Ash reshteh’s flavor is defined by two uniquely Persian ingredients: reshteh (wheat noodles) and kashk (a form of drained yogurt or whey). Reshteh are saltier and starchier than Italian noodles, and kashk is saltier and more sour than sour cream—more like feta than yogurt. The soup also calls for legumes such as lentils and garbanzo beans, ingredients that were likely available in ancient Persia.
So get in the spirit, grab a noisemaker, organize your ingredients, don an apron, and the costume of your choice, and begin.
(Persian legume & noodle soup)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
2 large onions (one finely chopped, the other one thinly sliced)
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1/3 cup pinto beans
1/2 cup lentils
2/3 cup parsley, chopped
2/3 cup coriander, chopped
2/3 cup chives, chopped
2/3 cup spinach, chopped
300 grams reshteh (Persian soup noodles) or fettuccine
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons dried mint
1/2 cup kashk (yogurt whey) or sour cream
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper, salt to taste
1. Soak chickpeas and pinto beans in lukewarm water and let them rest for 8 hours. Place the chickpeas and beans in a large pot over medium heat. Add 5 cups of water, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for about 2 hours or until beans are tender. Then add lentils to the pot and cook for another hour.
2. If canned beans are substituted, just put canned beans in a pot, bring to a boil and add 4 cups of boiling water. In the meantime, in a pan sauté chopped onion for 10 minutes with 1 tsp. turmeric. Add garlic and sauté together for another 5 minutes until golden.
3. Add onion and garlic to the beans’ pot along with chopped or dried vegetables, a pinch of salt, black pepper and rest of turmeric. Cover and cook for 30 minutes on low heat.
4. Break off Persian noodles (reshteh) into two or three sections. In a small bowl mix the flour well with 4 tbsp. of cold water until there are no lumps. Then add both into the pot and stir well. Cover and cook for 20 minutes more, until noodles are soft and chewy.
5. In the last 10 minutes, add half of the kashk (whey) to the soup. The kashk will change the color of the soup from bright green to milky green. You can omit the kashk here and use it just for garnishing.
6. For garnish: Caramelize the sliced onion in oil, adding a generous pinch of salt. When onion is golden, add garlic and sauté over low heat for 3 to 4 minutes, adding a pinch of turmeric. Set onions aside. Using the same pan, heat 5 tbsp. of oil and when sufficiently hot, add dried mint and remove from the heat. Stir gently and set aside.
Pour soup into a large serving bowl. Garnish with kashk, onion, garlic and fried mint.