It is that time of the year again: Ramadan. Time to give our bodies a break from all the havoc we cause all year round by feeding it all sorts of healthy and not to so healthy foods. Time to prepare for a balanced cleanse!
In the Islamic medicine, it is advised to break the fast with a warm liquid or soup so as not to overwhelm the digestive system after long hours of fasting. So if you are searching for a light, yet filling Iftar meal, look no further; the yogurt soup is a perfect dish that delivers a healthy dose of protein, carbohydrate and fat. The herbs used in this recipe not only make it very fragrant but they help the body to keep cool and maintain its internal temperature, especially in a hot season like summer. The recipe only calls for split peas therefore the bloating and discomfort of ingesting legumes is at its lowest.
This is a fairly easy recipe to make sans the intimidating task of making cherry-sized meatballs and will surely satisfy a fasters taste buds.
Prep time: 30 min.
Cooking time: 1 hr 30 min
Ready in: 2 hrs
2 medium yellow onions, chopped, divided
3 tablespoons canola oil
½ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup split peas, sorted for debris, rinsed
½ cup brown rice, soaked & rinsed
½ bunch each Spinach, Mint, Parsley, and Cilantro, risned & chopped
Salt & Cayenne pepper to taste
½ pound ground beef
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon salt & pepper
1 cup plain yogurt
1. Drizzle oil in a Dutch oven/pot over high heat. Add about 1 cup of chopped onions and sauté until it becomes translucent. Add turmeric powder and stir for another 2 minutes. Then add the split peas. Lower heat to medium and stir frequently until the split peas turn deep in color. The key to a tasty Yogurt soup is to sauté split peas long enough so they maintain their crunch throughout the cooking process.
Note: The use of Dutch oven is not mandatory but due to its structure, meals like soups and stews that contain more water and require less frying tend to taste better when prepared in Dutch oven since it locks in the moisture and hence, flavor.
2. Next add the rice along with 6 cups of hot water. Put the lid on and allow the mixture to simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes. Depending on the type of rice used, it might take longer or even shorter for the rice to cook. The goal is to get the rice completely tender to the point where it starts to lose its shape and no longer resembles a long grain.
Note: The soup is originally made with crushed white rice. I opted for a healthier version and replaced it with brown rice. Since it takes longer for brown rice to cook compared to white rice, it is better to soak it overnight to cut the cooking time in half.
3. While the soup is thickening, prepare the mini meatballs. Mix the ground beef with the remaining finely chopped onions (about ½ cup) as well as turmeric, salt and pepper. Massage it for 3-4 minutes. It is important to knead the meat before shaping them into meatballs to prevent them from falling apart while being sautéed. It is best to make the meatballs as small as a cherry.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add the meatballs and sauté until no longer raw looking on the outside. After being cooked halfway, fish them out of the skillet and set aside.
Note: An alternative to making meatballs when time is of essence is to sauté the meat instead. For this method, drizzle the oil in a skillet over medium high heat and sauté the onions for 3 minutes. Add turmeric powder and sauté. Then add the ground beef. Stirring frequently helps make it into crumbles. Add salt and pepper. As it absorbs back the fat and starts to look dry, remove from heat and add to soup mixture. The pro in this method is that it will save you quite some time. The con is that the taste might be slightly compromised. Whereas serving the meatballs in the soup gives a choice to savor the soups taste with or without them, the sautéed ground beef will make the taste a tad too meaty in every bite. However, the choice is yours.
5. When the rice is thoroughly cooked, add the herbs. Stir and let it simmer for another 15 minutes or until the herbs have turned dark green.
6. Add the meatballs. Season the soup with salt and cayenne pepper.
7. The final step is to add the yogurt to the soup. The yogurt must be in room temperature. Adding cold yogurt to the hot soup will break the yogurt texture and lumps will float. Gradually add the yogurt and mix well. The yogurt can also be served on the side if lactose intolerance is of concern. Although yogurt is essential to this dish, it is possible to omit it and serve it with freshly squeezed lemon juice.