Aug 25, 2009

Read Pomegranate Soup and slurp red lentil soup

It is hard to believe Pomegranate Soup is Marsha Mehran’s first novel. It is not so hard to believe her love affair with food. It comes across through the novel’s heroine Marjan who cooks everything in her restaurant with the utmost care and attention. The oldest of the three sisters, she is thrust into the role of a parent and caretaker to Bahar and Layla at an early age. The novel moves deftly between Khomani revolution era Iran and the present day Irish village of Ballinacroagh (Ba-li-na-crow).

The sisters escape the increasingly volatile Iran with their lives and a few treasured possessions and manage to find a life in England for a few years before they have to flee Bahar’s dark past once more. They try to make a new life for themselves in the little Irish village by opening The Babylon Café that serves Persian fare. With its rich aromas of spices and herbs it attracts an eclectic mix of villagers, from the local priest to the town hairdresser and the church social ladies to teenagers and children who come to eat the elephant ears Marjan cooks every day.
The sisters quickly discover that all is not well when the town bully Thomas McGuire finds out that the Italian café he had coveted for years has been converted into the Babylon Café. He starts a campaign to run the sisters run out of business by every means possible and they find themselves fighting a different enemy altogether. This time around their weapons are the cherished recipes Marjan took with her as they fled Iran and their shield the few patrons who find their lives changed when they eat her delicious food.
Mehran cooks a sweat and spicy tale of the three sisters and the bond they share. They are not unlike a pomegranate with its seeds sticking together under a hard shell. But once the shell is broken, the sisters give up their sweetness for the world to enjoy.
For the recipe inspired by the book I wanted to make the elephant ears that Marjan makes every day by rolling out the dough, deep frying in oil and sprinkling with sugar. But since I am on calorie count I decided to go with the red lentil soup. Red lentils or split masoor dal do not take long to cook on the stove top. However, you can cook these in the pressure cooker. This is my shortcut recipe adapted from the book’s original recipe.
Red Lentil Soup (Masoor dal)
I am sending this click off to Jugalbandi's CLICK - ALLIUM.
1 cup dry red lentils
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 tsp ground cumin
3 cups water / chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste
2 tsp ground black pepper

For garnish:
1 small onion, chopped in half moons
2 tsps olive oil

Wash the lentils thrice in water and keep aside.
In a pot heat a tablespoon of oil and fry the chopped onions, garlic, turmeric and cumin until soft and fragrant. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook till soft. Add the lentils, broth and water to the pot. Add salt and black pepper and bring the soup to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or till the lentils are cooked through.
Fry the onion for the garnish in olive oil until crisp but not blackened. Add as a garnish over individual bowls of soup.

I am sending this off to Susan’s MLLA – 14 and to Sireesha's Soup and Juice event.


  1. This is my favorite dear, anything with Masoor is always welcome.

  2. mmmm...looks good. I heard about this book from somewhere else, now you've wet my appetite - recipes and a good story - good combo!

  3. i love this.......pass me the bowl please..
    you write so well jaya...

  4. Wow i love the onions on top! slurp!

  5. Looks great! I loved the book, but am yet to cook from it. Will make something over the weekend and post on sunday.

    Have ordered Eat Cake by the way. Lovely choice.

  6. strangely, I didn't quite like the book, but I loved the recipes! Your red lentil soup looks gorgeous

  7. We are having yet another rainy day here. Would love to slurp this flavorful soup while contemplating the doings out the window.

    Thanks, Jaya, for another MLLA recipe!

  8. Looks yummy and interesting...

  9. Great synopsis and great recipe...I hope I can make it before the many things to do !!

  10. Hi jaya...soup looks very delicious..nice pic

  11. Oh wow...that's an simple and yum recipe....

  12. Hey Jaya...I am even more glad you found me! I love your blog too and will put you in my sidebar. I think we might have quite a bit in and I...grin. I love to write but I am thinking you are way more accomplished than I. Keep those book reviews coming. I so rarely have time to read these days and when I do...I want it to be meaningful. This book I will enjoy...I am sure!

  13. Yum Yum I love soups and this one looks great.Great to read your review Jaya

  14. "They are not unlike a pomegranate with its seeds sticking together under a hard shell. But once the shell is broken, the sisters give up their sweetness for the world to enjoy."

    ..that is one lovely way to summarise the story Jaya. the soup looks sooo good!

    ~ Siri

  15. soup looks yumalicious...

  16. I dearly love to look at recipes. I started out looking at a site that had bread recipes and kept following links.... and here I am. I really enjoyed reading the lentil recipe. Now to get down to the kitchen and see if I have everything to make it. Thanks for sharing.


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