Ash-e Somagh (Sumac Porridge)
Okay, first thing is first, What the hell is sumac?
Somagh (سماق) is the crimson colored berry-like fruit of a shrub with peculiar tangy taste. Interestingly enough, I have come across the wild ornamental Staghorn Sumac on my nature hikes in Montana, and it sure is gorgeous to look at in the Fall.
The finely ground fruit of the edible genus (Rhus) is reddish-deep purple and is used mainly on rice and Kababs in Persian cuisine. Known for its anti-oxidant properties now, it was used medicinally in Middle Eastern countries (where it was more readily available), during the medieval times.
Due to the unique flavor of sumac, it is hard to find a replacement for it in cooking, especially when it plays a key role. I get my stash from an herbal store in Missoula, but you can also order it online.
It works best with red meat, but I have tried it with chicken too.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1 bunch (~1.5 cup) flat-leaf parsley, hard stems removed & chopped
- 1 bunch (~ 1.5 cup) cilantro, hard stems removed & chopped
- 1 bunch (~1 cup) green onion, bulbs removed & chopped
- 1 Tbs dried mint
- 2 Tbs ground sumac
- 1/2 lb ground meat (beef, bison, lamb, etc.)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- salt & pepper to taste
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- 4 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1Tbs dried mint (look for Middle Eastern or Egyptian mint. Peppermint, spearmint or wild mint are poor substitutes)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
Time~ 1 hr
- In a mixing bowl, combine all the meatball ingredients. Knead lightly with your hand. Shape into meatballs the size of walnuts.
- In a pan over med. heat brown meatballs on all sides (~5-10 min). Set aside.
- In a large pot, add lentil and rice and enough water (4 cups). Cover and bring to a boil on high heat. Lower and simmer for ~ 10 min. Stir in the herbs, sumac & meatballs, and continue for at least 1/2 hr or ’till everything is cooked.
- Meanwhile, in a large pan saute onions in enough oil/butter ’till translucent (~10 min). Lower heat and continue ’till semi caramelized (~10-15 min). Add the minced garlic and cook (~1-2 min). Stir in the turmeric ’till fragrant. Add the dried mint and saute for another 5 minutes. This is the topping.
- When ready mix in 1/2 of topping. Save the rest for garnish.
Ladle into a serving bowl, garnish with onion topping and sprinkle more sumac, if desired.
Serve warm or cold.