Persepolis onion soup with soft-poached eggs

Persepolis onion soup with soft-poached eggs

New Middle Eastern Food
Mark Roper

This is our twist on a simple, rustic onion soup known as eshkeneh that we ate on a chilly spring evening at the Apadana hotel at Persepolis. Eshkeneh is an ancient dish thought to date back several thousand years. Onions traditionally give courage and strength in battle and legend has it that eshkeneh was the daily diet of Persian soldiers under the parthian King Arsaces back in the third century. It was bulked up with pieces of dry bread that would soften in the soup — similar to the way that croutons are used in french onion soup. In some eshkeneh recipes the eggs are whisked into the hot broth, where they create long eggy strands. Poaching them, as we’ve done here, makes this a more elegant dish, and we can’t resist the way the creamy yolks ooze into the warming, golden broth.

Serve with a small jug of verjuice or mild vinegar, and perhaps a few tiny sour grapes as an extra tangy garnish.


Quantity Ingredient
2 tablespoons olive oil
20g unsalted butter
2 onions, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds, lightly crushed
freshly ground black pepper
250g kipfler or other waxy potatoes, peeled and cubed
1.25 litres good-quality chicken stock
few sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 long strip orange, zested, all pith removed
sea salt
2 tablespoons verjuice
1/2 lemon, juiced
6 small free-range eggs, at room temperature
flatbread, lemon wedges or additional verjuice and tiny sour grapes, (optional) to serve


  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. Add the onion and garlic and fry gently until soft and translucent. Stir in the spices and 1 teaspoon ground black pepper and cook for another couple of minutes. Add the potato and cook for a minute, stirring to coat well with the onion mixture. Add the stock, herbs and orange zest. Add salt to taste and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  2. Just as you are ready to serve, remove the bay leaf and orange zest, then stir in the verjuice and lemon juice. Crack the eggs, carefully slip them into the simmering soup and poach gently for 3–4 minutes or until the yolks are barely set — they will continue to cook in the broth after you remove the pan from the heat.
  3. Ladle the soup straight from the pan at the table, ensuring everyone has an egg. Season with salt and pepper and serve with flatbread and lemon wedges or verjuice, and a few tiny sour grapes, if you like, to garnish.
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