Today I’m sharing my Shorba recipe at the request of one of my dear readers. Shorba is one of the most ancient Tabrizi/Azeri recipes. It is a stew and soup combination made with braised bone-in meat, split peas, garlic chives and tarragon. Shorba is mainly a rich meat stew that has some potatoes and eggs (only one piece of potato and half a poached egg per person), and a small bowl of very rich and delicious soup. The soup is separated from the other ingredients and is served mixed with a few pieces of Sangak on the side. There is also a meatless Shorba called “Sozi Shorbasi,” that has rice and chives (sozi or tareh). The Sangak is mixed directly into the bowl with all of the ingredients in Sozi Shorbasi.
As I explain the process and history of this dish you’ll get a sense of what is involved in making Shorba. The meat is braised in its own fat until it is totally browned and sealed on the outside, then it is cooked slowly to a perfect tenderness. This technique combined with the herbs in this recipe gives Shorba a very special flavor that is different from Abgoosht which is another Azeri/Persian stew.
I have used bone-in beef short ribs in this recipe, but bone-in lamb meat may also be used. In fact a very long time ago lamb was the meat of choice for this dish. Before there was any refrigeration and before there were any ice chests gourmet cooks had to prepare and preserve their meat for the winter months using a very interesting technique that usually used the entire meat of a small lamb.
First all the fat from the tail section was fried in a very large heavy copper pot called “gazan,” with the diameter of the bottom reaching 3 feet or more. A large amount of liquid fat was produced during this process. Most of the fat was reserved and poured over the browned meat at the end. The remaining fat was used to braise and completely brown chunks of meat and bones that were sprinkled with a lot of salt (shor means salty in Azeri). This meat is called “gorma” that comes from the frying technique called “gormakh in Azeri. The large chunk of boneless meat prepared for Shorba is called “nijar.”
The browned meat pieces and bones were then placed in a very large clay pot along with all the bones and covered completely with the reserved fat; this was called “bastirmakh,” which in Azeri means to be covered, or to be tucked in. The fat and salt preserved the meat for the winter months. The clay pot was stored in a cold basement with frigid temperatures that would freeze the meat and fat.
During the winter months the frozen meat, bones and fat were dug out with metal spatulas and used in Shorba, soups, shilah (a thick soup) and different Khoresh recipes. Simmering the bones adds a lot of flavor to the recipes. In old times Shorba was exclusively cooked in winter months and was always enjoyed with an assortment of Torshi (pickled vegetables).
The browned meat and bones are added back to the pot and slow cooked for about 2 hours with water and caramelized onions until very tender. At this point all the bones should readily separate from the meat.
Remove and discard the bones. Poke some holes in a few limoo amani and add them to the pot and continue cooking until tender; depending on the limoo amani this could take up to an hour. Next, add the par-cooked split peas, tomato paste, spices and tarragon.
Add the thinly sliced chives (Persian Tareh) or scallions and potatoes (one potato chunk per person). Cover the pot and simmer the Shorba until the potatoes are fork tender. Gently add 4 whole eggs one by one in the simmering Shorba. Cover the pot and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, or until the egg whites are set.
To serve, using a slotted spoon transfer all the ingredients to a serving platter and the remaining soup to the serving bowl. Add pieces of Sangak bread to the bowl and allow a few minutes for the Sangak to soak up all the soup before serving it. Serve Shorba with Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs), Torshi (pickled vegetables and extra pieces of Sangak. Enjoy!
- 10 large bone-in beef short ribs (trim most of the outer fat)
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced thin
- ⅛ cup water
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¾ cup slow-cooking split peas (pick through and rinse under cold water before cooking)
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 cups hot water
- 4 limoo amani (Persian dried lime), poke some holes with a fork
- 1 TBSP dried tarragon leaves (do not crush)
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 cups sliced garlic chives (Persian Tareh), or scallion greens
- 4 medium white potatoes peeled and cut in half (will serve half a potato per person)
- ½ cup boiling water
- 4 large eggs, to be added to Shorba right before serving
- Sangak (Persian flat bread) or pita bread
- Trim and discard the large outer fat from the short ribs. Add the short ribs with ⅓ cup water to a large dutch oven or any heavy bottomed pot. Bring it to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for about 15 minutes. The water will cook off and the natural fat from the ribs will come out. Uncover the pot.
- Gently braise the meat in the fat over medium low heat for about 45 minutes, or until it is completely browned on all sides. Some of the bones might fall off during this process, don’t discard them. All the bones are going to be simmered with the meat for added flavor.
- Meanwhile add the slow-cooking split peas to a small saucepan. Cover the peas by 1 inch with cold water and add ½ tsp salt. Bring it to a boil then cook over medium heat until just tender but firm. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside.
- Remove the browned meat and bones from the pot and set aside. Brown the sliced onions in the meat fat. Scrape the drippings and bits of browned meat with a spatula into the sliced onions and fry over medium high while stirring frequently. When the onions start to get golden brown add ⅛ cup water and ¼ tsp Kosher salt and keep stirring until the onions caramelize.
- Add the meat and bones and 3 cups of hot water to the onions. Bring it to a boil, then cover the pot and cook over the setting between medium low and low for about 2 hours, or until the meat is very tender. Remove all the bones and discard.
- Add 4 prepared limoo amani to the pot and continue cooking for another hour, or until very tender.
- Add 1 TBSP tomato paste to the pot and stir to dissolve in the broth. Add 1 TBSP dried tarragon leaves, the par-cooked split peas and ½ teaspoon each of kosher salt, ground turmeric and ground black pepper.
- Add 2 cups sliced garlic chives, potato halves and ½ cup boiling water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are fork tender (15-20 minutes).
- Break 4 large eggs and gently drop them one by one right into the simmering Shorba with some space between them. Cover the pot and cook only until the egg whites are set (about 5 minutes).
- To serve, dish out all the ingredients onto a serving platter with a slotted spoon and leave as much of the soup in the pot as possible. Pour the soup in a serving bowl and add some pieces of Sangak bread. Use a spoon to stir and coat the bread pieces. Allow a couple of minutes for the Sangak pieces to soak up all the soup. Divide this wonderful delicacy among your guests!
- Serve the Shorba warm with extra Sangak bread, Sabzi Khordan (assortment of fresh herbs), Torshi (pickled vegetables), Piaz (onions) and Mast o Khiar (yogurt mixed with chopped cucumbers. Enjoy!