Ingredients

⅓ cup dried chickpeas
⅓ cup dried white beans such as flageolet, haricot or butter beans
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, finely sliced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 litre vegetable stock
⅔ cup brown lentils
½ teaspoon dried dill
25g coriander, chopped
25g flat-leafed parsley, chopped
4 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
75g baby spinach leaves or chopped spinach
100g noodles (see NOTE)
1 tablespoon dried mint
6 tablespoons sour cream
lemon or lime, to serve
Ash is the foundation of Persian cuisine – a thick soup of which there are many, many types but always with legumes and herbs. Before rice was introduced 2000 years ago, ash was the staple. While it can contain meat, it is often meat-free, making it perfect for vegetarians. Ash is served at any time and you see it in street-side shops and fancy hotels. I enjoyed a lovely light dinner of a noodle-based ash – on which this version is based – in the gardens of the Abbasi Hotel in Isfahan, Iran. The stunning hotel was built 400 years ago as a caravanserai, so has a huge central courtyard with gardens and fountains and is the perfect respite from a busy day exploring.

Instructions

1.Soak the chickpeas and beans overnight in water. Drain.
2.Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the onions and a sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes until the onions are golden (watch carefully at the end to make sure they don’t burn).
3.Remove half the onions, drain on a paper towel and set aside.
4.Add ½ teaspoon turmeric to the remaining onion along with the drained chickpeas and white beans, the stock and 1 litre of water and bring to the boil.
5.Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes until the beans are just tender.
6.Add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes, then add the dill, coriander, parsley, spring onions and spinach and simmer for 15 minutes.
7.At this point you may want to top up with a little water, but keep in mind you want to end with a thick soup.
8.Add the noodles and cook according to packet directions until just done (timings with vary depending on which noodles you use).
9.Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a small saucepan and fry the mint for 30 seconds, swirling around then remove and set aside.
10.In a small bowl combine the sour cream and remaining ½ teaspoon of turmeric.
11.Serve the ash in warmed bowls topped with the reserved onion, a dollop of turmeric sour cream and a drizzle of mint oil.
12.Serve with lemon or lime to squeeze over as liked.
13.NOTE Traditionally, these would be Persian reshteh noodles, available from Persian food stores. You can substitute linguine or really any noodle you like, but they should be fairly robust so they don’t go too soft. I used wholewheat linguine, broken in half.

Recipes and food styling Fiona Smith / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Fiona Lascelles

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