Even if I’m not really “feeling” it with this mild and sunny 65°F weather, soup season is in the air and dizi is a soup of Persian origin that I learned about on Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. Dizi are the green cooking vessels shown below, but the term also refers to the dish itself that contains lamb, chickpeas, beans, onion, tomato, potato and seasonings in a simple yet very aromatic broth. It’s a unique dining experience in that you eat it in 2 steps: first you drink the delicious broth, then you mash the remaining solids into a thick paste. This mixture is then devoured with pickled garlic and fresh herbs with a pile of flatbread.
Like a good Bourdain fan, I snapped a screen shot in hopes of finding dizi pots in Milan.
Dizi for two
4 cups water
6-8 ounces lamb pieces, excess fat trimmed and removed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1/2 cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 dried lime, pierced (see note below)
1/2 cup chickpeas, cooked
1/2 cup white beans, cooked (I used cannellini or zolfino)
2 medium tomatoes, skins blanched and removed, then cut in half
2 medium potatoes, halved lengthwise
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 packet saffron powder
Salt and pepper
Fresh herbs (mint, coriander, tarragon, parsley)
Thinly sliced radish or carrot ribbons
Pickled garlic cloves or onions
Place all ingredients into a large pot except the saffron. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 60-90 minutes or until lamb is fork tender. Add the saffron powder. Remove dried lime and cinnamon stick. Check seasoning and add salt if necessary.
To serve, ladle legumes and lamb into deep soup containers, making sure each serving has a piece of tomato and potato. Cover with broth. Traditional dizi will have you pour the broth into a separate soup dish but I serve mine in one single bowl. Drink the soup first, then mash (I use a fork) what’s leftover into a thick mixture. This is finger food heaven, scooped on a piece of warm flatbread and topped with yogurt, pickles, and fresh herbs.
NOTE: There really is no substitute for the unique flavor of dried lime but if there’s no way of obtaining it, use the peel of 1 organic lemon (white pith removed).