Growing up my father never cooked much. He got us to enjoy our broccoli by steaming it underneath thin slices of cheddar, and although rarely and short lived, he once upon a time made these deliciously cheesy stuffed potatoes ( I guess he wanted to get on the good side of the kids with all the cheese). With my mother dominating the kitchen, there was no need for him to step in. Legumes, though, are his specialty. He’ll make a great pot of spicy beans, but it’s his adasi, lentil soup in particular, that is like no other.
Every time I fly back to Tehran, my plane landing well past midnight, a warm bowl of adasi awaits me, with sour green limes, olive oil from Caspian Iran, and fresh bread from around the corner. I enjoy the comforting bowl of what is dinner for me, and a very early breakfast for my family, with whom I now share and impose my jetlag. Adasi is known in Iran as a poor man’s meal. For us, adasi is my dad’s turn to make dinner, comforting on a cold night, or morning, and simply delicious.
My recipe for this lentil soup has been influenced by every delicious adasi I’ve encountered, which aren’t many. I use the ginger root my father drops in for both nutrients and a kick, and the mushrooms my college cafeteria would add to theirs, for the perfect bowl any rich soul can enjoy with a poor man’s pocket. And as for my father? He should get started on those cheesy potato skins again because he might have himself some competition here.
Adasi: Persian Lentil Soup
1 pound green lentils, soaked overnight
1 large onion, quartered then sliced
4 oz mushrooms
1 liter chicken (or mushroom) stock
1 large potato, quartered, or 4 baby gold potatoes, peeled and halved
10-12 grape or cherry tomatoes
1 thumb sized chunk of ginger root, peeled
2 limes, Persian of Key preferred
1/2 tbsp tomato paste
red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
Saute the onions with some light olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add salt. Once translucent, add a teaspoon of turmeric and stir, about two minutes. Add tomato paste and stir, another two minutes.
Rinse and drain lentils. Add to the onions with stock, salt, red pepper, and another teaspoon to a tablespoon of turmeric, according to personal liking. Bring to a boil.
Season as you go. Though do it lightly, and taste along the way.
Once it comes to a boil reduce the heat down to a simmer and add the potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and ginger root. If you are serving this soup to guests, instead of dropping the ginger in whole, you can grate half the amount. I like to add the thumb sized root, as well as grate in another half. My husband’s luck always lands him the ginger, which can easily be mistaken for a potato, but it’s not the most pleasant surprise when you discover it’s not.
Let it simmer for 2-4 hours, stirring from the bottom every once in a while, to make sure the lentils don’t stick to the bottom, as they tend to separate from the liquid. The starch from the potatoes will help thicken and unite everything.
Serve with freshly squeezed lime and a drizzle of olive oil. We like an additional dash of hot sauce on ours. Nooshe jan!