January 16, 2010

Ash-e Jo - Barley Stew with Beans and Herbs

Persian Barley Soup

Barley is an ancient grain with an obscure origin. However, as old as barley is, it has never gotten to be a popular grain for cooking in our culture. In the land where wheat bread (taftoon, lavash, barbary and sangag) is the staple of Iranian food, barley has never had a chance to compete for first place. Barley may be nutritious, versatile, and economical to buy but the only recipes that I know of which use barley as a main ingredient are the barley soup(soup-e jo) and the barley stew (ash-e jo).

In the following Persian quatrains (do-bayti) by Baba Taher Oryan, the great Persian poet and Gnostic of the late 4th century, there's a reference to barley bread being the poor man's bread:

If I could ever get my hands on the universe
I'll ask, "What's with this?"  and "What's with that?"
You give one person a hundred folds of blessings,
To another only a loaf of barley bread soaked in blood.

آش جو  - Ash-e jo  is a thick soup made of barley, lentils, chickpeas, and beans (white beans or small red kidney beans). The vegetables that are usually used in this soup are parsley, leeks, and cilantro. I like to add  some dill and spinach as well. Some people might like to add some meat to the stew too but I think this soup tastes much better without any added meat. I use the following proportion to cook for my family of four and I usually have some left-overs that I freeze for later use. However, if you rather cook fresh on a daily basis or you are cooking for one or two people, then cut the amount of the ingredients in half.

Ash-e Jo - Barley Stew with Beans and Herbs

Serves 4-6

1 cup barley, soaked overnight  
1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight
1/2 cup beans (white beans or red kidney beans) soaked overnight, I used white beans.
1/2 cup lentils
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped leeks
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped spinach, *optional
1/2 cup chopped dill *optional
Salt and pepper taste


1/2 cup liquid whey (kashk)
1 large onion, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons dried mint
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Olive oil or vegetable oil


  1. In a large stew pot, place barley, chickpeas, beans, lentils and add 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Add the chopped vegetables, salt, and pepper. Add more water if necessary. 
  3. Cook for another 30 minutes on low heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  4. In the meantime, in a small pan heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium high heat, saute onions until golden brown. add turmeric and stir well. Add dried mint and remove from heat. Set aside.
To serve, pour soup in a serving bowl, drizzle some kashk and top with the fried onions and mint mixture. Serve with warm bread.



  1. Yummy! It's good for me 'cuz I'm a vegetarian :))
    BTW, Azita joon, thanks for your comment. The problem just got solved and I am gonna be out of state for a week in february =D Thanks to my dad. hahaha...I'm going to make "fesenjoon" while I am in europe for my friend. My mom gave me a good Persian "Robbe Anar" today-She brought it from Iran, I guess. You know the one they have here is liquidly form.

  2. Congratulations! I'm so happy for you Niloufar jan. Enjoy your vacation, the cold weather, snow and the change of scenery with your friend.

    Wishing you all the happiness in the world,
    Lots of love,


  3. dear azita
    it's so nice for me to see such a useful weblog in english, i suggested this weblog to my non-persian freinds.
    wowwwwwwwww! ashe joo! i miss it alot!
    in malaysia i cannot find fresh vegetables,but i think sabzi polo is ok?am i right?

  4. Dear Nafiseh,

    Thank you for your kind comments and for suggesting my blog to your friends. I appreciate it. To answer your question about using dried vegetables that are used for sabzi polo instead of fresh vegetables for ash-e jo, if that's what you meant, then yes, of course you are right! There are many times that I can not find what I'm looking for either and I have to use the best substitute ingredient that is available for me here.

    Please do visit again with your friends. I still can't get over the fact that there are no fresh vegetables in Malaysia! What do Iranians do? We grew up having fresh "sabzi khordan" every day.

    Best Wishes

    1. I live in Malaysia too and of coarse there is fresh vegetables here, you just have to go to the right grocery stores.

  5. Yum!! i love barley!! and with chickpeas and spinach; delicious!! i will be trying this for sure... thank you :)

  6. What a delicious combination of ingredients and such a nutritious dish!

  7. oh this looks wonderful like a thick dal and so healthy Rebecca

  8. Trudy, Thanks for visiting and commenting.

    5 Star foodie, Thanks you for commenting and stopping by.

    Chow and Chatter, Thanks, it is a healthy dish.

  9. This is a nice looking school. Very warm and comforting.

  10. Totally love barley,the stew sounds fantastic :D

  11. tastes so good thanks for contributing recipe

  12. Your recipes are so good, I cheat and make all these goodies and declare them as my own talent. Please forgive me but accept my gratitude

  13. MMMM, lentils & barley & spinach -- or possibley kale? I love both, so that would depend on which I have on hand. This sonuds so good that I think I'd skip the meat too, even though I usually "need" a bit of meat to feel happy with a dinner. Thanks for expanding my dinner horizon!

  14. Hi what type of lentils do you use please. Many thanks