DUCK SOUP WITH OMANI LIMES, CHICKPEAS AND SAFFRON
This simple dish is a filling treat: when I know I’m going to cook it, I start eating less beforehand so I can really stuff myself! A typical dish in roadside cafes, the lamb shank is slowly cooked in a broth of dried limes, saffron, onions, chickpeas, tomatoes, white beans and potatoes. The broth is then strained and the solids are mashed together, meat and all, into a paste similar to French rillete. In fact that’s what gave me the idea to use duck instead of lamb! The texture is more delicate and the taste more refined.
This dish is normally served with sangak bread and Sabzi Khordan (fresh herbs, page 132), and must be eaten in a specific way. Spread the bread with the mashed mixture, take a bite and sip a spoonful of the hot golden broth at the same time. Then cleanse the palate with a bunch of herbs and torshi (pickles, page 84) after every bite. Dizi restaurants in Tehran serve only this dish and each diner has their own individual copper pot of soup.
500g (1lb) duck breast
1 medium onion, quartered
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and quartered
1 tbsp tomato puree
125g (4oz) 1/2 cup dried white beans (chitti or borlotti), soaked overnight
75g (3oz) 1⁄3 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
1 tsp turmeric
3–4 small dried Omani limes, pierced several times with the tip of a knife
1 very large potato, skinned and cut into 10cm (4in) pieces
1⁄3 tsp saffron threads, pounded then dissolved in 2–3 tbsp hot water
1–1 1/2 tsp salt
few twists of pepper
This dish can bubble away unattended, so there’s no need to hang around in the kitchen. Take a big enough pot and add the meat with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil, then skim several times. Add the onion, tomatoes, tomato purée, dried beans, chickpeas, turmeric and 1.2 litres (2 pints) 5 cups of water. Simmer for 30 minutes then add the limes. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Add the potato and saffron liquid, and cook for another 30 minutes. Adjust the seasoning and set aside to cool a little.
Pour the soup through a sieve into a bowl. The duck may have deliciously fallen apart by now. Don’t throw away any of the fat! This will add flavor to your dish. Spoon out all the potato and a few chickpeas, to add to the clear soup before serving.
This next step is optional but it will make your rillete a little more refined. Separate out the rest of the chickpeas and remove their skins; simply roll them between your fingers and the skins will easily peel off. Now mash all the ingredients (except the reserved potato and chickpeas) with a potato masher – or use a pestle and mortar as they do in Dizi restaurants. I don’t use the food processor to do this, as the texture becomes stretchy. Mash until you get a rough paste.
Put the paste in a serving dish. Reheat the broth with the reserved potatoes and chickpeas, then serve in either a large tureen or in individual dishes. Remove the marrow from the bones and give it to whoever wants to eat it – my mother loves it!
If you have one, a pressure cooker is ideal for this recipe – it will cut the cooking time in half.