It’s been a while since you’ve seen Farzad Mashhood’s name in the paper.

Up until a little more than a year ago, Mashhood was covering county government for the American-Statesman, but he left to pursue a master’s degree in community and regional planning at the University of Texas.

He’s loving life in academia, but after years running around Central Texas as a reporter, being stuck at home reading books for class left him a little restless. Mashhood, whose parents are from Iran, grew up in Southern California eating all kinds of Persian food.

Traditional dishes such as fesenjoon and ásh aren’t so easy to come by in Austin; so earlier this year, he started making big batches of both — fesenjoon is a thick stew made with chicken, walnuts and pomegranate syrup; and ásh is a barley stew — for his friends and fellow Persians in town.

Throughout the month of October, he’s hosting mini pop-up dinners with his friend Daniel Heron. Together, they are planning a trip to Israel in May to participate in the Baha’i pilgrimage to Haifa. These dinners and to-go orders of fesenjoon and ásh are a way to help raise money to get them there.

They are calling the event Oshtober. You can buy tickets ($15 per person for fesenjoon, ásh, tea and dates) and find out more at This month’s dinners are scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 14, 20 and 28 at a residence in North Austin. To get a behind-the-scenes look at their process, check out the Instagram at @farzadskitchen.

Ásh is a traditional Persian soup — and Farzad Mashhood makes his with sweet potatoes. Photo by Addie Broyles.

Ásh-e-jo (Barley Soup)

“Ásh” — pronounced like the a in “awesome” — is Persian for soup, and “jo” means barley. Mashhood’s mom used to make this soup with regular potatoes, but he has put his own spin on it with sweet potatoes.

1 cup dried barley
2 cups water
2 small onions, chopped
Olive oil
3 carrots, grated
1 sweet potato, grated
3 cups vegetable broth
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bunch parsley, chopped
2 cups milk
Salt and pepper

In a medium saucepan, soak the barley in water for 30 minutes and then bring to a boil. Adding more water if necessary, boil the barley for about 30 minutes, with a lid over the pan that is slightly tipped to release some of the steam.

In a large skillet, saute the onions in a little bit of olive oil until they are translucent. Add the grated carrots and sweet potato and cook for 5 minutes. Combine the barley and vegetables in a large soup pot and season with salt and pepper. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a simmer. Add herbs and simmer for 10 minutes. Add milk and adjust seasoning to taste. Serves 4-6.

— Farzad Mashhood