Persian Meatball Soup Recipe

Turmeric tints this dish a beautiful golden yellow that contrasts with the green mint leaves and the brown meatballs. For even more colour, garnish the soup with ruby red pomegranate seeds. Adjust the recipe according to how many guests you'll be serving, and keep warm in a large pot so that they can serve themselves.

1/4 cup dried chickpeas
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt, divided in half, plus more to taste
1/4 cup dried green or black lentils
6 oz. ground beef
3 tbsp grated yellow onion
1 egg, lightly beaten and divided into 2 equal portions
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided in half
1/2 cup low-fat plain yogurt
1 tsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp basmati rice
2-3 cups chicken stock or water
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp chopped green onion, including tender green tops
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
Pomegranate seeds to garnish (optional)


Step 1: Sort and rinse chickpeas. Put in a saucepan and cover with 1 cup cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 1 hour.

Step 2: Drain the chickpeas and return them to the saucepan. Add cold water to a 2″ depth to cover chickpeas. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low, add 1/4 tsp of salt, cover and simmer until chickpeas are tender but not falling apart, about 40-50 minutes. Drain and reserve chickpeas.

Step 3: Rinse and sort lentils. Add lentils to a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until firm-tender, about 25 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside.

Step 4: In a bowl, combine ground beef, grated onion, half of the beaten egg, the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, pepper, and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon. Mix well with your hands. To check that the mixture is seasoned to your taste, fry a tiny patty of the mixture and adjust seasoning if necessary. Form the remaining beef mixture into tiny meatballs about the size of a nickel. Refrigerate.

Step 5: To make the soup base, spoon the yogurt into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the remaining half of the beaten egg, as well as the flour, turmeric and remaining 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Add the rice, lentils and 2 cups of the stock or water. Place over low heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.

Step 6: Add the chickpeas, parsley, green onion and most of the chopped mint. Simmer for 10 minutes more, then add the meatballs and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add the remaining stock if needed.

Step 7: In a small sauté pan, melt the butter. Add the garlic and sauté until soft but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add to the soup and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Pour into a warmed soup bowl and sprinkle with the remaining mint and pomegranate seeds, if using.

Reprinted with permission from Joyce Goldstein’s Solo Suppers (2003 Chronicle Books).


© Gordon