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Tabriz meatball soup

Tabriz is a small town located in a fertile valley in Iran close to the Azerbaijan border. It is one of the oldest cities in the world with recorded history going back to over 4500 years. The city has seen, and been conquered numerous times including by the Assyrians, the Mongols and the Turkmens, and more recently by the Ottomans and Russians. All this history and mix of cultures helped develop a wonderful culture and cuisine in this region.

This soup is no exception. It is a delicate soup with gentle and elegant flavors. The soft and very tender meatballs are stuffed with sour barberries and sweet prunes and the eggs add both texture and a creaminess to the soup. The light tomato and turmeric broth is just delicious. The large meatballs are more like a meal than a light soup, it is best enjoyed with some bread, or naan.

This is a wonderful cookbook from one of my favorite chefs. A cookbook that has written by traveling to the region, living with the people and learning recipes in their kitchens. This cookbook is filled with amazing flavors from regions and communities that have received very little attention in the Western world, like this soup. I hope to be able to cook more from here soon.

For more recipes from this amazing cookbook, click here.


For the meatballs:

3 onions, roughly chopped

2 lb ground lamb or beef

2 tablespoons mint, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup short grain rice, like Jasmine or any other variety

1 teaspoon pepper

Salt, to taste

1 cup dried barberries

10-12 dried apricots, finely diced

4 hard-boiled eggs, finely minced

For the broth:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely minced

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3 tomatoes, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

6-8 cups water

Parsley, minced for garnish

To make the meatballs:

If the barberries and apricots are very dry, soak in water for 30 minutes. Drain and squeeze out as much water as you can.

Purée the onions to a smooth paste. Do not add water.

Ask for the ground lamb/beef to be minced at least one more time from the butcher. If you have it at home, pulse in the blender with the onions till smooth. You are looking for a very fine mince for this recipe.

Mix the onions, meat, mint, cinnamon, rice, pepper and salt. Kneed with your hands till well mixed. You can taste a small teaspoon sized meatball by pan frying iit. Adjust salt and spices as desired. Marinate for 3 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge, if possible.

Mix the barberries, apricots and eggs well. Set aside.

Heat a large soup pot, large enough for all the meatballs and stock, with the oil. Add the onions, turmeric salt and pepper and sauté on low heat till the onions are soft and translucent. Do not brown the onions.

Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté till the tomatoes are broken down and soft, about 10 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer.

While the broth is simmering, make the meatballs. Divide the meat and egg mixture into 12 portions each. Take the meat in the palm of your hand and flatten out. Add the egg mixture into the center and fold the meat gently back onto the egg mixture till it is covered. Roll into a smooth ball. You know if the meatball is going to stand up to cooking if you roll it gently between your palms with very slight pressure and it does not open up. If it does, add a teaspoon of meat to the crack and seal. roll again till the meat ball holds up, think band-aid! Complete all meatballs in this manner.

To the broth, gently lower the meatballs using a shallow spoon. Do not drop in. Gently lower all the meatballs and add more water to make sure that the meatballs are covered. Bring the broth to a gentle simmer, do not boil, the meatballs will break apart. Simmer for 40. minutes untouched. Taste the broth and adjust salt as desired. You know when the meatballs are ready when the meat is cooked and the rice in the meatballs is clearly visible and stud the meatballs. They will also tend to float once cooked.

Serve hot with bread if desired.

Note: The meatballs are very delicate, remove them gently with a wide spoon. They tend to fall apart very easily.

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