Yahni, which is also known as yakhni, is a spicy stew or soup made with fish, seafood, lamb, chicken, beef, vegetables and lentils. The word yahni is Turkish, while the word yakhni is Urdu. It is named after a Persian earthenware vessel in which the food is traditionally cooked; the earthen vessel infuses the yahni stew with a distinctive earthen flavor. It is a dish of Grecian origin that is now part of Greek, Indian, Turkish, Persian, Romanian and Bulgarian cuisine; the Turks introduced the dish to the Balkans and it has since become quite a culinary favorite in those parts. This stew is considered a comfort food and is especially recommended on a cold day; it can be very spicy and hot in taste.
There are many regional variations of yahni, including vegetarian, non-vegetarian and mixed versions. The main ingredients required for this dish include carrots, potatoes, lentils, zucchini, onion, garlic, coriander seeds, sage leaves, bay leaves, parsley, olive oil, tomato paste, vegetable stock or water, sugar, salt and pepper. Beef, chicken, lamb and fish are added to make a non-vegetarian version. Yahni ingredients also include cheese, eggs, vegetable cubes and curry powder. Sometimes almonds, spur cherries and honey are added to the dish.
It is quite easy to make this dish at home. For a basic vegetarian dish, the lentils are boiled in a pot of salted water for about 10 minutes, and they are then removed from the heat, drained, washed in cold water and set aside. A little olive oil is heated in the pot next and a finely chopped onion is fried with garlic, coriander and sage for several minutes until the onions turn translucent. The rest of the well-chopped vegetables, along with salt, sugar, spices and herbs for seasoning, are added to the pot and fried.
The lentils and vegetable broth are now added to the pot, along with more salt and pepper for taste if required, and the pot is left to boil for half an hour. The mixture is cooked until much of the broth has evaporated, and then tomato sauce is added to the pot. If tomato sauce is not added, it is known as white yahni.
Yahni is served and eaten piping hot. It may be eaten with rice; with Indian flat breads like naan, roti and chapati; or with white or brown bread. It is served in many restaurants specializing in Persian, Turkish, Greek, East European and South Asian cuisine.