In a large pot sauté the onions in olive oil. Cook until yellow, and then add the chicken, stirring often, and adding several teaspoons of cinnamon, pinches of black pepper, and salt to taste.
Add to the pot all of the water mixed with the dissolved tomato paste. Add about 4 cardamom pods, or a teaspoon of cardamom power. Bring the pot to a boil, cover, and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 10 minutes.
Open the pot and add in the rice.At this point taste to see how you like it, and add any more spices as you see fit. Allow to come to a boil again, then cover, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for 25 minutes covered.
You can enjoy shorba as a main dish or as a starter soup. Garnish with cilantro for a special touch!
As with many Iraqi recipes, you can make shorba vegetarian. Simply exclude the chicken and add the rice immediately after the onions. Reduce the cooking time accordingly.
As a substitute, I often sauté a scrambled egg mixed with cinnamon, pepper, and salt. Cut the scramble into small pieces and add to the soup at the end. Another alternative is to cook the soup with soy 'chicken'. Any way you cook it, shorba is sooo good!