A Winter’s Tale and a Pomegranate Soup – Shab-E Yalda – Aash-E Anar

Yeky bood, yeky nabood…

‘Twas the longest night of the year.

‘Twas the darkest night of the year.

‘Twas the most magical night of the year.

Soak the rice as the split peas simmer away.  Immerse your hands in the cold water and gently break up the rice into bits and pieces. Feel the familiar beat of nostalgia course through your body.  Memory knocking at your door.  It always begins with a gentle knock. Patiently waiting for permission to enter.  Sometimes you grant it – sometimes you don’t. It’s a slippery slope – the unpaved road to nostalgia and memory. You often tread those loose cobblestones cautiously. But tonight you are in a generous mood. It’s a night of celebration.  A night of light, poetry, food, music, laughter, dancing, stories, family, jokes, togetherness, and a warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar – Pomegranate Soup. You gently shake the rice off your fingers, dry your hands and place a firm grip on memory’s door. Wildly swinging it open. Welcoming with it a howling gust of wind echoing with tales of

Shab-e Yalda/Shab-e Chelleh.

Winter Solstice – December 21, 2014.

‘Tis the one night of the year children are allowed to stay up all night.

(Only to inevitably fall asleep at the foot of the korsi.  In the warmth of their grandmother’s lap.)

Giddy with anticipation of outlasting the long and dark night and welcoming a new crimson dawn.

Turn the music up.  Let its joyful rhythm, fervor and urgency draw your girls down the stairs. Add the rice to the aash along with a sprig of mint. Stir, stir and stir some more. The split peas have a tendency to stick.

What’s he singing about, Mama? -Luna

I’m not sure. It’s in Kurdish. I think it’s a love song.

Who are Kurdishes, Mama? -Soleil

Friends and neighbors.

Interlace your fingers with your moon and sun and start spinning.  Orbiting around one another.  Shake your hair out, shimmy your hips, spin, spin and spin some more. Let yourself get lost in the moment.  Catch the sun’s light reflect off the moon and bounce around the room.  A magical night, after all.  Spin, spin, and spin some more.  Jump and sing along until your heart can’t take it anymore.  Collapse on the floor.  Only to get back up and repeat it all.

‘Tis the night of Yalda – birth.

The birth of the sun.

As light, love, truth and wisdom prevail over darkness.

Start on the meatballs.  Put the girls to work.  Add the parsley, cilantro, dill and advieh to the mixture.  Now listen – don’t get too crazy measuring out the chopped herbs.  Grab a handful and chop away.  What you don’t use in the meatballs you can use as garnish on the aash.  Place a small bowl of water next to the girls and show them how to wet their hands a little before forming the mini-meatballs.  Show them how small you want them. Bite your tongue and move away (go stir the aash) as they start forming odd shapes and sizes.  Let them get lost in the moment.

‘Tis a well-told and oft-repeated tale.

Told by ancient Persians six thousand years ago.

Told by George Lucas. In six parts.  Soon to be seven.

Set the Yalda table.  A study in various shades of red. All to symbolize a crimson dawn – the light of life. Watermelon for protection against excess heat in the summer months. Pomegranates and red pears to ward off insect bites.

Just like those patches we put on to keep away the mosquitos when we went camping.  Remember, Mama?

I remember, Soleil.

Dried fruits and nuts for an abundant and prosperous harvest. Candles to light the house and keep darkness at bay. Garlic for joint pain.

Mama, do your joints hurt?

Not right now, Luna.  But just in case…

Divan-e Hafez to stir your soul and look into your future. And a crimson-hued wine to stir your thoughts and reminisce of days long gone.  A magical night, after all.

‘Twas a well fought battle.

With no end in sight.

As the night raged on and on.

Gently drop the meatballs in the pot. Grate the beet and let its juices drip through your fingers and into the aash.  Chalk it up to more good luck. Hold the bottle of pomegranate molasses high above your caldron as you release its contents. Stir, stir and stir some more, then cover.

But where there is dusk – there is dawn.

And the sun always rises.

She always rises.

Serve the warm and tangy crimson-hued Aash-e Anar as the girls crack open the walnuts.  Duck as walnut shells ricochet off the walls.

Mama, can we please stay up all night?  Please?

Yeky bood, yeky nabood…

Wishing you all a very joyful and happy Yalda and Holidays. Please make sure you also check out the wonderful Yalda posts below. Plenty to tempt you with for this Yalda night.



  • Soaking the rice makes it easier to break it into pieces.  This is so we have smaller pieces of rice visible in the soup. You want to break the rice into bits and pieces; don’t pulverize it.
  • How long you simmer the yellow split peas depends on the quality and freshness of your peas.
  • Pomegranate molasses can be easily found in Middle Eastern markets, most grocery stores and online. I use a more sour kind.  This aash is meant to be slightly tangy.  But if you prefer, and depending on the kind of pomegranate molasses you use, you can balance out the flavors by adding a little bit of sugar.  Start with a small amount and add as needed.
  • Advieh is a Persian spice mix. Recipe can be found here.
  • This aash is best if made a day or two in advance. The flavors sit and mingle and really intensify.  When reheating adjust the water.  You want this aash on the slightly thicker side.


Serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup yellow split peas, picked over and rinsed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup white basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
1 mint sprig
1/2 cup pomegranate molasses
1 small beet, grated
sugar or sweetener of choice (optional), to taste
fresh chopped herbs (parsley, dill, cilantro, mint), as garnish
pomegranate seeds, as garnish


1/2 small yellow onion, grated
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped dill
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon advieh
3/4 teaspoon salt
pepper, to taste
1 lb ground beef or lamb or combination of

1- In a large pot heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until it softens, about 6 minutes.  Add the garlic and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the yellow split peas and give a quick stir.  Add 8 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered and stirring ocassionally, for about 20-30 minutes, depending on the quality of the peas.

2- Gently break the rice into bits and pieces.  Add the rice to the pot and bring back up to a gentle boil.  Add the mint sprig and lower the heat and simmer, partially covered and stirring ocassionally, for 20 minutes. In the mean time make the meat balls.

3- In a large bowl combine the onion, garlic, parsley, dill, cilantro, advieh, salt and pepper.  Add the meat and combine well.  Wet your hands and form into mini meatballs. I use a 1tsp measuring spoon to scoop out the meat.  Should make about 30 meatballs.

4- Add the pomegranate molasses and the grated beet to the soup.  Stir to combine.  Gently drop in the meatballs and cover.  Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through and the peas are tender (but not mushy).  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add sweetener if desired.

Garnish with fresh chopped herbs and pomegranate seeds and serve.

Will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.  Adjust water amount when reheating.

Comments (21)

  • Such beautiful ashe anar! Mine always turns dark. I'm guessing the secret ingredient are beats. Thanks for sharing the recipe and happy Yalda <3

  • Beautiful synopses, beautiful writing, wonderful/meaningful photos… everything is so poetic! This is one special Ash'e Anar. Delicious and healthy ingredients and great presentation. Happy Shabe Yaldā! ~ Fae.

  • "Where there is dusk, there is dawn." A beautiful, hopeful sentiment. I'm going to hold on to that one as 2014 comes to a close and 2015 begins. xo

  • Absolutely stunning Naz! I can't wait to try your recipe, Happy Yalda 🙂 xx

  • Naz, You're incredible. There is so much beauty in this post, the photos are amazing, the writing is phenomenal, and the feeling that I get from reading your blog is pure joy. Thank you xo

  • Thank you for a beautiful post and a delicious recipe. Happy Yalda!

  • Your incredible post left me speechless. You took me to a far far place I had never even been to. Amazing writing, beautiful Ash.
    I'd drink to this if I had a glass at my hand.

  • Naz what a wonderful post – like everybody else said, it really takes us on a journey and your gift is this lovely recipe!! Thank you for sharing – I can't wait to make your Ashe Anar.

  • I always love a story that starts with 'yeky bood, yeky nabood', but even more so when it ends with a hearty and satisfying meal, and has three girls dancing with reckless abandon in the middle. So lovely, all the way through.

  • Your pictures are so beautiful and your words are mind blowing! I just want to continue reading & reading & reading 😛

  • Hi Leilee! Yes, the addition of a small beet really helps maintain the lovely color of the soup. I also add all the green herbs to the meatballs. The herbs usually turn the aash dark. Thanks!

  • Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Fae!

  • Thanks, Tannaz! And Happy New Year!

  • You're so sweet. Thanks so much for reading and your lovely comment, Parisa!

  • Dear Fariba, your comment has just filled me with the inspiration I was missing for my next post. I'm getting to work now! Thank you as always for reading!

  • Thank you so much, Homa!

  • Saghar, I raise my glass to you and your lovely comment. Thank you!

  • Thanks so much for your sweet comment, Ahu!

  • Thanks, Tannaz. Most meals around here end up with three girls (and one boy!) dancing with reckless abandon! I hear it's good for digestion!

  • Thank you so much, Mahroo. Your comment fills me with happiness!

  • I so love the recipes….will definitely make it….thanks for sharing 


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