This creamy dish combines two of the Azeris’ favourite things (soup and yoghurt), so it’s no wonder it’s considered a national dish. It is often served chilled in summer, gazpacho-style, with the tangy herbs and yoghurt providing a refreshing flavour. But in winter, it’s served piping hot, and thanks to its rich creaminess and nourishing rice, offers about as much comfort in a bowl as you could possibly wish for.
- 2½ tbsp olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 onions, very finely chopped
- 110 g (½ cup) medium-grain white rice
- 1 litres (4 cups) chicken stock
- 350 g minced lamb or beef
- 1.1 kg (4 cups) Greek-style yoghurt
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 400 g canned chickpeas, rinsed, drained
- 2 bunches dill, finely chopped
- 2 bunches coriander, finely chopped
- 1 bunch mint, finely chopped
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 150 g baby spinach leaves, thinly sliced
- dried chilli flakes, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and three quarters of the chopped onion, then cook, stirring, for 6 minutes or until translucent. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until rice is lightly toasted. Add chicken stock, stir to combine, then bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until rice is tender.
Meanwhile, to make meatballs, combine mince and remaining onion in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Using clean hands, mix to combine, then shape into 2 cm balls. Add meatballs to simmering stock mixture and cook for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Using a slotted spoon, transfer meatballs to a bowl.
Place yoghurt in a large bowl, then add flour and egg and whisk until smooth. Add half the hot stock mixture to yoghurt, stirring to combine, then pour back into remaining stock mixture in pan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes or until thickened and gently simmering.
Add meatballs and chickpeas and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until heated through. Add chopped herbs and spinach, and cook for a further 2 minutes or until greens are wilted. Season, then serve immediately, scattered with dried chilli flakes.
Photography Brett Stevens. Food preparation Leanne Kitchen. Styling Vivien Walsh.
As seen in Feast magazine, November 2014, Issue 37.