Persian Lamb Soup (Abgoosht)

It’s always fun when Adrian’s aunt Fattaneh is visiting the US from Australia. We spent time with her in Santa Barbara over Christmas, cooking some of our favorite dishes, and perfecting former recipes. But because our time in Santa Barbara was limited, we needed to have a Facetime session with her to learn a new dish! 

Adrian remembered that he hadn’t tried Abgoosht, a very traditional Persian soup, since he was a child visiting his grandma in Adelaide. So we Facetimed Fattaneh last night to get the scoop on how to make it, and it turns out, she was making it too! Adrian’s dad told her a few days before that we had abgoosht on our radar, and they were all excited to make it as well.

Now, while learning live on Facetime sounds like an opportunity to perfect a recipe, it wasn’t really side-by-side cooking that I prefer. Fatteneh gave us a demonstration/lecture for about 10 minutes and then checked in with us after we had purchased the ingredients and after they had finished eating. I thought I had it all under control, BUT, there was one critical method I was missing in my recipe: making the mash! 

Besides Adrian being a little depressed that he was missing out on the mash, my accidental version turned out really good! All it needed was those fine Persian flavors, and it was still super yummy with the chunks of lamb and potato I reserved. I wouldn’t be surprised if the way I made it is how it is made in some households in Iran.

In any case, I’ve posted the traditional recipe with the mashing method below. Feel free to make “AbGoof” like I did instead, haha, by using an immersion blender to blend the beans with the soup, potatoes, tomatoes, and onion. It’s pretty good too. But I think we’ll try this one again in a couple weeks, mash included.

Persian Lamb Soup (Abgoosht)

Time: 2 Hours 10 Minutes
Serves 4

3 lamb shanks
1 tbsp turmeric
1 tsp Koher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 large onion onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium boiling potato, peeled, quartered
½ cup white beans
½ cup cannellini beans
½ cup red kidney beans
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 dried limes (cut hole at end, slit on side) or juice of 1-2 lemons 

In a large pot or Dutch oven, cover lamb shanks with turmeric, salt, and pepper. Add bay leaves, onions, and garlic, and cover with water, about two inches over the lamb. Bring to a boil and then down to a simmer. Cover and cook for one hour.

Add potato, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, and dried limes, adding additional water if needed to keep lamb covered. Return lid and and simmer for another hour, until the lamb is tender. Adjust seasonings as needed. 

Transfer 1/2 of the potato quarters and the lamb shanks to a plate. Let cool. Discard bay leaves and dried limes. Reserve 4 medium pieces of the meat from the bones. Pick off the rest of the meat from the bones and scrape out marrow (if desired) and place in a colander set over a large bowl. Strain the remaining contents of the pot over the bowl, and return the strained soup to the pot. Adjust seasonings as necessary.

Return contents of the colander to the bowl. Mash the meat and vegetables with a wooden spoon. Ladle the soup and reserved lamb and potato quarters into four bowls. Serve with the mash on the side. 

Note: this dish is best served with a "sabzi" of radishes, tarragon, mint, white onion as well as barbari (Persian flatbread), and yogurt.