Turkish lentil soup
Building on the theme of my last post – how not to fry the sh*t out of everything – here I present to you one of the mainstays of Turkish cooking that does not involve my three main bug-bears: (much) frying, meat or dairy products.
Lentil soup is a classic dish. Everywhere you go in Turkey, they serve it slightly differently. Some use red lentils, some yellow. Some flavour with mint, some with cumin. Some blend until smooth, others leave thick and chunky. Whatever which way it’s served, it’s a light, super healthy break from all the kebab. What’s more, lentils are a much more environmentally sustainable way to get your protein (even if they do tend to have an, er, quickening effect on the bowls).
My own version tends to take a scenic tour of each of these variations, depending on what’s in the house. It’s so simple that I rarely actually consult a recipe when making it. Aside from the staples – onions, lentils and stock of some kind – I tend to chuck in whatever is to hand. The below is the absolute basics, my knee-jerk reaction of a recipe. Vary it by adding a diced carrot or a boiled chopped potato at the same time as the onion. Cumin is a nice addition too (add just before the lentils and stir-fry for a couple of minutes), but I wouldn’t combine cumin and dried mint if I were you). Fresh stock is better, obvs, but really, who has the time? Go wild with this one, and make it your own.
What you need
1 dst spn olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 mug of red lentils, washed
6 mugs of water
1 stock cube
1 tsp salt
1 tsp blackpepper
2 tsp dried mint
1 tsp red pepper flakes (pul biber)
How to make it
- Take a deep sauce pan and heat the oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the onion and fry until just turning golden (about 5-10 minutes).
- Add the washed lentils and stir fry for 5 minutes or so, without letting anything burn.
- Next, add the water and the stock cube. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for around 15 minutes. You can generally partly cover the pan and leave the lentils to do their thing at this stage – they’ll be soft and almost disintegrating when they’re cooked. But keep an eye on the water level. Depending on how you like your soup, you might need to add another mug of water if it’s getting too thick.
- Check the seasoning. Depending on how salty your stock is, you might want to leave the salt out here. Add the other herbs and spices and stir well.
- At this stage, I use a stick blender to produce a velvety smooth soup. In keeping with traditional Turkish style, I also might add some more water to keep it fairly thin. But again, this is a judgement call so make it how you want to eat it.
- Serve with wedges of lemon and some fresh bread for dunking.