Mehregan/Mehr is an ancient Iranian festival celebrating the start of the beautiful fall season. With its vibrant foliage, crisp days, and harvesting of crops, مهرگان (Mehregan) is traditionally celebrated a few days after the first day of fall (Autumnal Equinox) on the 10th day of (Mehr) (the seventh month of the Iranian calendar). In the past, festivities would last for several days. Opinions about the exact date of Mehregan may differ since the historical records show that the date has been changed a few times throughout history. The wordمهر "Mehr" in Mehregan means 'sun, kindness, love and friendship' in Persian. جشن مهرگان Jashn-e Mehregan is attributed to Mithra/Mehr, the goddess of the sun and brightness and also the angelic divinity of friendship, justice and oath dating back to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism. One of the most valuable lessons of prophet Zartosht (Zoroaster), that is still cherished today, is his teachings of good thoughts, good words and good deeds.
It's also believed that Mehregan marks the triumph of Kaveh Ahangar, the blacksmith who fought the tyrant king Zahak and defeated him, saving the people from his brutal reign which resulted in the crowning of Fereydun as king in the epic Shahnameh (Book of Kings), written by the great Persian poet Ferdowsi. Therefore, Mehregan is also considered a day when good destroys evil, a common thread in many old Iranian fables.
Food is an integral part of most celebrations and Mehregan is no exception. On this date, fresh fruits such as grapes, pomegranate, apples, quince, figs and persimmon were served along with an assortment of nuts, dried fruits, sweets and rosewater. In my research for a Mehregan main dish I came across the آش هفت غله - Ash-e Haft Daneh (seven bean soup) in a few written records of a typical mehregan feast. And in my quest for preserving traditions I decided to recreate this recipe which was perhaps once served on our ancestral sofreh (spread).
آش هفت دانه - Ash-e haft daneh is a combination of beans, seeds, whole wheat and some vegetables. The main ingredients in the original recipe were listed as wheat, barley, rice, chickpeas, lentils, mung beans and millet. There are many different variations of this traditional ash (stew/soup). You can make this soup with lamb shank or lamb/beef stock and add vegetables such as parsley, cilantro, chives/leeks, spinach and dill. However, since this is a hearty and flavor-packed soup I didn't think adding any kind of meat was necessary. Also, it is not loaded with vegetables like ash-e reshteh and it does not have noodles either. I replaced millet and mung beans with two other kinds of beans and used tomatoes for added flavor.
Ash-e Haft Daneh
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/2 cup pinto beans
1/2 cup white beans
1/2 cup lentils
1/2 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup bulgur
1/3 cup rice
2 large tomatoes, grated
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 bunch chives or scallions/leeks, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
Juice of a lemon
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Liquid kashk (whey) or yogurt
- Place the chickpeas, pinto beans, white beans and barley in a large bowl, rinse, add a quart of water, soak for six hours.
- Drain and place in a large pot.
- Rinse the rice, lentils and bulgur and add to the pot.
- Add water to cover by at least two inches, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cook for one hour over medium-low heat.
- Add the grated tomatoes with their juices to the pot.
- Heat 1/4 cup vegetable oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onions, saute for 20 minutes until golden, add the garlic and turmeric and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add the dried mint, saute for an additional minute or two.
- Add parsley, chives and 1/2 of the sauteed onions to the pot. Add salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 45-50 minutes on low heat or until the beans are all very tender. Add lemon juice toward the end of cooking. Add more water if needed and adjust the seasoning.
Ladle ash into a serving bowl and top with kashk and fried onion. Serve hot with warm bread and yogurt.
A group of Iranian food bloggers have prepared delicious recipes to celebrate the ancient Persian Festival of Mehregan. Please check out the following links:
Mehregan 2014 Round Up:
Ahu Eats: Badoom Sookhte Torsh
All Kinds of Yum: Jeweled Carrot Salad
Bottom of the Pot: Broccoli Koo Koo
Cafe Leilee: Northern Iranian Pomegranate Garlic and Chicken Stew
Coco in the Kitchen: Zeytoon Parvardeh
Della Cucina Povera: Ghormeh Sabzi
Family Spice: Khoreshteh Kadoo | Butternut Squash Stew
Fig & Quince: Festive Persian Noodle Rice & Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Yummies
Honest and Tasty: Loobia Polo | Beef and Green Bean Rice
Lab Noon: Adas Polo Risotto
Lucid Food: Sambuseh
Marjan Kamali: Persian Ice Cream with Rosewater and Saffron
My Caldron: Anaar-Daneh Mosamma | Pomegranate Stew
My Persian Kitchen: Keshmesh Polow | Persian Raisin Rice
Noghlemey: Parsi Dal Rice Pie
Parisa's Kitchen: Morasa Polow | Jeweled Rice
Sabzi: Ash-e Mast, Yogurt Soup with Meatballs
The saffron Tales: Khoresht-e Gheimeh
Simi's Kitchen: Lita Turshisi | Torshi-e Liteh | Tangy aubergine pickle
Spice Spoon: Khoresht-e-bademjaan
The Unmanly Chef: Baghali Polow ba Mahicheh
روز مهر و ماه مهر و جشن فرخ مهرگان
مهر بفزا ای نگارماه چهر مهربان
مهربانی کن به جشن مهرگان و روز مهر
مهربانی کن به روز مهر و جشن مهرگان
مسعود سعد سلمان ~
Happy Mehr & Happy Mehregan!