New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. It gives the opportunity to start fresh and take a moment to align on personal priorities which may have taken a back seat during the course of the year. It’s also a great time to reflect on progress and achievements that occurred during the same time period and to be thankful for being healthy. Lucky for me I get to celebrate New Year’s twice every year – the standard Gregorian date of January 1st, and the Persian New Year (Norooz or Nowruz) which commences at the Spring Equinox approximately on March 20th.
To mark the New Year, I blend both Persian and American tradition by making Ash-eh-Reshteh with black eyed peas. Persians have “Reshteh” or Noodles on New Years Day for success and prosperity. Many Americans, especially Southerns, eat black eyed peas on New Year’s Day for the same reason. It only made sense for me to combine the two and make my own annual tradition, and share it with family and friends!
Ash eh Resteh is a hearty noodle soup with loads of beans, greens, onions, herbs and spices. It’s one of my all time favorite Persian dishes and is actually very healthy, full of protein, fiber, iron, calcium, and more. It’s perfectly steamy for a cold winter day (and actually quite delicious cold straight out of the fridge – but don’t tell my mom that)!
Okay – lets get started!
The recipe calls for several types of beans. Traditionally, red kidney, garbanzo, white beans and lentils are used. For my version, I substituted black eyed peas instead of the white beans, and utilized canned garbanzo beans. Garbanzo beans (or chick peas) can sometimes be hard to find dry, and also take a really long time to cook.
I soaked the red kidney and black eyed peas the day before I was going to cook them. This helps the beans cook faster but more importantly, helps eliminate any gassy effects they may have. Remember to change the water at least once, and use a container that will accommodate the beans as they absorb the water and expand. Don’t add salt as it will interfere with the way they cook, season later instead. The lentils take significantly less time to cook so just soak them about an hour before you start cooking, and add them later, see below.
Off the bat, I knew I was going to be making a lot of Ash, so instead of adding more pots as I went on as I had in previous years, this year, I just started with my 3 biggest pots and divided everything evenly among them.
So I drained the soaking beans and added them to the pots, covering them with boiling water. I’ve found that adding boiling water instead of cold water to the beans helps keep the taste of the soup more lively. Keep the kettle full as you’ll likely be adding more hot water as the beans expand.
As the beans cook, prep the greens. Finely chop the cilantro, parsley, and green onions, and add them to the pot. Make sure to use the stems of the leaves too as there is a lot of flavor in there too.
Once the beans are mostly cooked you can add in the lentils. If you add the lentils too early, they tend to disintegrate so hold off until then. Here you can see all the beans and the herbs mixed together. (Hi little Black Eyed Peas!!) Next we will make “Peeyaz Dagh” to add to the ash. Peeyaz Dagh is fried onions and turmeric. You can learn more about them in my Celery Stew post.
Chop the onions to a medium dice and start frying them in about 1/2 cup of oil. Make sure you use enough oil or my mom will get on your case. Once the onions have softened and barely started to caramelize, it’s time to add about a tablespoon of turmeric.
Let it cook for another minute and turn off the heat – you don’t want the turmeric to burn.
Then go ahead and divide it among the 3 pots. You can add the canned garbanzo beans at this time as well. So my mom was a little shocked when I told her I use frozen spinach for my ash. (If you’re wondering why I keep talking about my mom, it’s because this is her Ash recipe. And pretty much all my Persian Recipes come from her. So that’s why.)
But I think frozen spinach is great – and so easy! It’s picked at peak freshness, already washed, chopped and ready to go!I used one box for each pot. I probably should have thawed them out first but that’s okay. Next is the start of the show – the Reshteh! You can get the ash noodles from any Persian market, or if you’re lucky like me, you get them straight from Iran! These pictured here are from Isfahan. Don’t be jealous. Break the noodles into 2 or 3 pieces and add to the soup. Make sure to stir it in so they don’t stick together. Be gently as you don’t want to break your noodles.We can finally season now. Salt, pepper, some more turmeric, and my secret ingredient (well maybe not so secret) some cinnamon!
Stir and allow to simmer so all the flavors can meld together about another 20-30 minutes, and you are done!!Now all that remains are the garnishes. Most important garnish are more fried onions. This time, the onions are dusted with flour first before frying.
You’ll need to work in batches and let them drain on paper towels. You can fry the onions in strips for a fancier presentation, but that’s your preference. Fried dry mint leaves are another garnish. Personally, I like to mix the fried mint with yogurt as a special topping for the ash. The mint leaves are fried in literally seconds. Essentially once you add the mint to the hot oil, just turn of the hear, and they will be perfect. (I’ve burned mine several times before.) Okay – now your officially done!
You can serve it in a large bowl and garnish the top with the yogurt/mint mixture and fried onions, or you can make individual bowls like I’ve done here.
Hope you’ve liked this recipe and that you’ll try it for your next new year celebration or when ever you’d like to try Asheh Reshteh!
Oh – and if you don’t use all 3 pots of Ash, it freezes great – just let it thaw in the refrigerator the night before you want to use it and viola! you can have Ash whenever you like!
2 pounds dried kidney beans
2 pounds dried black eyed peas
1 pound dried lentils
3 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 pounds of frozen chopped spinach
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
3 tablespoons dried dill
2-3 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups plain yogurt
1-2 tablespoons dried mint
6 yellow onions, chopped
1 1/4 cups canola oil