Friday, 29 March 2013

Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint

Here is something we ate a lot of in Turkey. Soup was almost always lentil, or tomato, or lentil with tomato, which this kind of is. You can add your pepper or tomato element as you see fit, using canned tomatoes or peppers if you have them. I used dried because I have a lot we saved from the garden last year. Everyone's soup recipe varied a little, so you should feel free to tweak it to your liking as well.

One of the reasons we ate so much soup in Turkey was the Unfortunate Chicken Incident. We had left one town very early in the morning, skipping breakfast. When we were set up at a hotel in the next town, we went out and wandered around. When we saw a restaurant with chickens cooking on a rotisserie, we decided to have an early lunch. I ignored the little voice in the back of my head saying, "Who has cooked chickens by 11:30 in the morning? I hope they aren't left from yesterday."

You guessed it. They almost certainly were, and had not been handled properly in any case.  After that we spent most of the next week on the çorba diet. The çorba diet, as you may suppose, consists of çorba; çorba for lunch; çorba for dinner, and yes, çorba for breakfast. You can nibble on a little of the bread that comes with it if you want, but you mostly won't want.

We noticed, in one bus terminal we had breakfast in, that we weren't the only ones having it for breakfast. In fact everyone in that cafe ignored the sad little breakfast plates in the glass display case, and ordered soup and tea. It's a perfectly civilized way to start the morning, and we may start doing it regularly even though our tummies are now fine.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour prep time, better served next day

Turkish Lentil Soup with Mint

1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup red lentils
1/3 cup dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika
OR 1/3 cup dried sweet red peppers
1/2 teaspoon cumin seed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups water
1/4 cup fresh mint
OR 1 tablespoon dried mint

lemon wedges to serve

Peel and chop the onion and carrot. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, and cook them gently in it until they are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes. If you are using the paprika, add it about halfway through this process.

Meanwhile, put the lentils, dried tomatoes, dried peppers if using, dried mint if using, cumin and salt in a large soup pot. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until the lentils are very soft. Add more water if the level drops noticeably.

When the onions and carrots are ready, add them to the soup as it cooks.

Let the soup cool, and purée it in a food processor or blender with the fresh mint, if using. It will take 2 patches, I'm sure. To serve, reheat the soup and pass a wedge of lemon with each bowl to be squeezed in. As ever with legume-based soups, it gets better after sitting in the fridge for at least a day.

Last year at this time I made Vietnamese Beef and Carrot Stew (Bo Kho) and Smoked Salmon or Trout Loaf.

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