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Yogurt Soup with Fresh Herbs and Chickpeas (Dovgha)


I wrote on AZ Cookbook facebook page that the epitome of spring and summer in Azerbaijan was coming soon to my blog. I gave a hint, alright, that it was going to be a soup. Most people guessed it right! Dovgha! Yes, it is dovgha, a popular Azerbaijani yogurt soup cooked with lots of fresh herbs!

I  was saving this recipe for my yet to be published (big sigh) cookbook, but since publishers are not knocking on my door (if you are a publisher, write me) or have been rejecting my knockings, and because I am a nice girl (modesty thing again), I am letting the recipe out before the book is out. Not that the recipe is a grand secret, but there are some tips that one should be armed with if aiming for a perfect dovgha, and I will gladly share them with you.

Dovgha has it all to be sought after. A creamy soup, it is generously nutritious, pleasantly refreshing and flavorsome from the bounty of fresh herbs simmered in yogurt, with a good doze of tender bite provided by the chickpeas, which by the way, can be omitted if you are not a big fan of them. I personally like my dovgha with chickpeas. In Azerbaijani countryside, dovgha is particularly delicious; in place of generally known fresh herbs listed in the recipe below, copious varieties of intensely aromatic edible herbs populating the lush fields and mountains, far from the reach of city dwellers, find their way into the soup, making it extra delectable.

How is dovgha served? Typically, chilled dovgha is served ladled into traditional deep individual bowls called kasa that are placed next to serving plates. It is up to you whether to enjoy dovgha as a starter soup before the main course arrives, or afterwards, to wash down a hearty meal. Dovgha is also great as a stand-alone light meal. Serve dovgha either chilled or at a room temperature, always with chunks of bread on the side.

Here’s the recipe with all the right tips you need to succeed in dovgha making. Also, check out my blogger friend Sofya’s (who hails from Baku too) for her dovgha recipe with some fantastic photos.

Yogurt Soup with Fresh Herbs and Chickpeas (Dovgha)

Serves  6

A few notes before you begin:

* The key to obtain the best tasting dovgha is to use the freshest yogurt (go for home-made yogurt) and herbs possible. The yogurt must be only somewhat sour but not overwhelmingly so, or the resulting soup will be too acidic in flavor. To decrease the acidity of dovgha if using sour yogurt, instead of 3 cups of plain yogurt, use 2 cups plus 1 cup sour cream. Or, once you remove dovgha from the heat and bring it to room temperature, gradually stir in 1/3 cup or more as needed milk.

* Hold off seasoning the soup with salt before it is completely cooked and removed from the heat; if you add the salt earlier, it will curdle the soup.

* Another worthy point to mention is that the herbs you will be adding to the soup should be washed together once they have been chopped (but wash the bunches thouroughly to remove any dirt before chopping the herbs). This is done to rid the herbs from their green juices to prevent the dovgha from coloring in green once the herbs are added to it.

* The consistency of dovgha depends on individual taste  – some like it real thin, others like it thick and hearty, like in this recipe. For a thinner variation, simply add more water to the yogurt at the initial stage.

* A variation of dovgha is prepared without chickpeas – just omit them altogether if you wish.

* Note that the main ingredients here are cilantro and dill and others come as secondary. If you do not have any of the secondary herbs, do not worry – use cilantro and dill instead.  Mint adds a nice flavor too, so try not to skip it if possible. Other possible secondary herbs include chives, sorrel, wild cilantro (you can find it in Azerbaijan) or any other of your choice, provided they are not bitter.

* And here’s a teaser – a variation of dovgha calls for the addition of small meatballs that are cooked separately and added to the soup at the very end. Further details to be revealed in my yet to be published cookbook.

Ingredients

½ cup dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight or 1 cup canned, drained
2 cups chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
2 cups chopped fresh dill
½ cup chopped fresh spinach
½ cup chopped fresh green garlic (if in season; leaves only)
½ cup chopped fresh mint
½ cup chopped fresh parsley or celery leaves
3 cups plain yogurt
4 cups water (or more if your yogurt is too thick and if you want a thinner soup)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg
1/3 cup medium-grain rice, rinsed
Salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste (optional)

Method

If you are using dried presoaked chickpeas, put them in a small saucepan filled with water and boil until the chickpeas are tender, about 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Place the chopped herbs in a colander and wash, tossing with your hands, under running water to remove the green juices. Do not squeeze the herbs. Allow the herbs drain on a colander.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, whisk together the yogurt, water, flour and egg until smooth. Add the rice and stir to mix. Constantly stirring (very important, do not give up!) clockwise with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from curdling, bring it to a boil over medium heat. The soup should boil in 7-10 minutes.

As soon as it boils, stir in the fresh herbs. Stirring occasionally, simmer for another 7-8 minutes, or until the rice is cooked.

Add the cooked or canned chickpeas and remove the saucepan from the heat.  Allow to cool to room temperature, then salt to taste and serve the soup ladled into individual serving bowls.

If you wish, sprinkle decoratively with black pepper. You can also chill the soup in the refrigerator before serving. Note that dovgha thickens as it stands. Loosen with cold water. Nush  Olsun! Enjoy!

And here’s a typical market scene with stalls laden with generous bunches of fresh herbs in Baku’s Teze Bazar, a downtown farmer’s market.  Fresh herbs in Azerbaijan are very aromatic and make perfect dovgha. I took this picture last summer during my stroll in the bazaar.

25 Comments
  1. It’s such a joy to read your posts, and everything you make is so wonderful!!! Wish I was a publisher…they don’t know what opportunity they’re missing… It will happen soon, no worries! Can’t wait to buy a copy!
    Love your work! Cheers!

  2. Melita, you are so encouraging. Thank you, thank you. Things happen for a reason and I believe something better will happen. There is no stopping me:) I love your work too! Post often.

  3. I’ve been a fan of your blog since a long time. I look forward to your posts and enjoy reading about Azerbaijan cuisine. In fact, Ive tied out many of your recipes and have had winderful successes with them. Though I could find time to post about only one of your recipe (the baklava). Don’t worry about the publishers… before you know it, they will be queuing outside your door…
    I love the idea of a yoghurt soup with greens and chickpeas. Sounds so refreshing.

  4. Farida, I am not sure if I love the recipes more or the photos… :) Loved the picture with the old fashioned looking bowl (did you bring those from home)….

  5. Sarah, thank you for your lovely comment. I am glad you tried the baklava recipe. Just checked your blog and loved it:)

  6. JALE – Yes, the bowl is from Baku:) It is very old. I grew up with it:) Mom gave it to me to use in my photo shoots:)

  7. That’s funny Feride, I made the same soup a la Turque and was writing up the post with a reference to you, since you would know the best about its story than any Turk would :) perfect timing!

  8. That is a great soup! What a delightful combination of ingredients and flavors.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  9. Very rich and healthy soup

  10. Have not dovga since we moved from Baku. Have to convince my mom to make some. :)

  11. Hope you find a publisher soon; especially if this recipe is anything to go by. There’s a yoghurt soup in this region of Turkey that we’ve yet to try but it doesn’t contain as many aromatic herbs as this or the chickpeas. This looks so lovely. I think I’d eat it as snack on its own. Lovely!
    Julia

  12. Feride, I swear my grandmother (or both of them) had the same bowls. In red and blue they came. I ate dovga in them for years :) Still remember the chipped part of it… The photo took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen table, long afternoons after school or dinner times…
    Thanks for posting!

  13. can I omit the eggs???

  14. Lovely soup.Perfect for Indian summer .Nice post.

  15. DEESHA – Eggs are important – they act as a binding ingredient, binding the water and egg together.

  16. Dovgha.
    A new word in my vocabulary. And one that will make me hungry every time I think of it.

    Querida Fari, may this Easter be as delightful as you are!

  17. Hey Farida,

    Where is your blog?
    This recipe sounds delish; gonna check it out! The herbs I have growing at this time are oregano, sage, thyme, mint and lemon balm, but I can get dill and cilantro at the grocery store. I live in North Carolina, USA.

    Thanks!
    LPS

  18. First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you sooo much for all these !!!
    Your recipies helps to most people living abroad and doesn’t really know that much how to make their favorite foods, including me.. but with pictures and very detailed explanations you let us know everything how to make.. And it comes out so easy and tasty just like magic :-)) Thank you so much, and keep going , please. never stop. We need you !!!

    Ilaha
    New York

  19. Qiza, bu ayin 10u AZ. culture haqqinda presentation eleyecem ve dovga haqqinda xususi sual var:-))))) i’ve decided to prepare some:-))) I’ll go wtih your recipe and will bug you wtih my question as the date gets closer:-)

  20. thank you very much , gonna try it today :)

  21. Farida jan
    Thank you for wonderful childhood recipes. is your cookbook out yet?

  22. SOPHIE – The book should be out in fall.

  23. Hi Ferude,

    I am trying today your Dovgha recipe for iftar when we break the fast. I have one question though. Can you reheat the soup? And i guess it can be eaten cold too?

    Hope you are having a wonderful time in Bagu and good luck with your book.

    P,S, I am looking forward to iftar today. :)

  24. GEHAB – Sorry for not replying right away. Yes, you can reheat the soup. It can be eaten cold, at room temperature and warm. Enjoy!

  25. Thanks Feride,

    I enjoyed your soup very much and am having it again today with family. thanks again.

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