“Good soup is one of the prime ingredients of good living. For soup can do more to lift the spirits and stimulate the appetite than any other one dish” (The Soup Book 1949).
See, when I sat down to have my bowl of soup, I was gazing at it for a moment and thought, what a wonder this bowl of soup is; a delectable golden bowl of a sun with blood orange streaks swirling about, smoothly blended to make a luscious and sheeny gravy that falls off the spoon when tipped, as sleekily as a calm waterfall.
This setting of a sun coloured soup is not only appealing to the eyes but it’s enticing to the taste senses, I tell you, you won’t forget it’s taste for days just as if you ever experience a gorgeously setting sun with it’s orange, red and dusky haze, you will not forget it for days. This bowl of soup is much like that gorgeous setting sun. Let me tell you, The Turkish Red Lentil Soup or mercimek çorbasi (myer-ju-mek chor-Bha-su) is Turkey’s most favourite and most loved soup and there is a good reason why it is so, no Turkish household is without it. It’s indigenous to Turkey and it has taken the soup world by casting it’s orange haze eminently and proudly stands in august company of soups. Red Lentil Soup is a staple for Turkish Kitchens and if you are ever in a Turkish restaurant or a turkish household or even Turkey this soup will definitely be making a mark on the menu.
There is another reason why I have come to love this soup so much. I will tell you a little story; I have a neighbour who has lost her parents and lives just across from me. The day I made this soup, she was in my thoughts because I distinctly remembered what she once told me about her love of lentils and Curries and how she was a vegetarian. So as sweet a lady she is, always returning the love you give her tenfole, ofcourse she deserved a good hearty bowl of soup and so I gave her some to enjoy. The next day, she came up to me as I was bringing my kids back from school, and she goes how the soup reminded her of her mother who was an extremely good cook in particular of Curries. The reason being her mum had lived and was brought up in India during the colonial times and ofcourse living amongst the natives gave her a profound understanding of the native food culture. So, my neighbour goes on to tell me how her mother always used to say that “the sign of a good soup is when it makes your nose runny” and my soup had made my neighbours nose runny. Ofcourse, her mother was right, a good soup is what awakens your senses and entices your tastebuds but what melted my heart was that my soup warmed her with a memory of her mother’s. I was touched just as she was. It’s true “the gentle art of gastronomy is a friendly one. It hurdles the language barrier, makes friends amongst the civilised people and warms the heart” (Samuel Chamberlain) and that is exactly what the Turkish Red Lentil soup is for me.
Okay moving on to the soup, it is extremely easy to make; boiling Red Lentils with carrots, onions and Turkish spices is all it takes and an hour and a half tops to enjoy this deliciousness. I have had this soup many a times at a Turkish restaurant in London, where it never seems to disappoint served alongside a stone-baked Turkish bread. It is absolute pleasure I tell you. However, when I made this at home, ofcourse being me, I tweeked the recipe a little to my Asian taste. Now, don’t think it turned into an Asian soup because it really didn’t effect the authentic taste of the soup rather enhanced it. It gave it an enlightened uplifting notch. Usually, roasted Red peppers are not used in this soup, but I added them because I love the ambiguous charred flavour of the sweet red peppers very common to Turkish cuisine. I bought the pre-preped ones from my local super store but if you can’t access them then just char them on a gas stove, remove the skin and just add them to the boiling soup as whole because you will be blitzing up the soup anyway after. If you can’t find Turkish Red pepper, a regular red bell pepper will work just as fine, slightly different in taste but still gorgeously delectable. Just for your info though, if you have never worked with These pointed peppers, they are sweet in taste and very mild in spice and once they are dunked into vinegar and oil or are smoked, their taste is indescribable. They are finger licking good.
I also added a very small amount of All-spice at the end just to give it that umph that I found missing from the soup and trust me when I say, you won’t want to skip that. One last thing I added was a very small amount of the yellow Lentil i.e. Mung Lentil, easily available everywhere. I personally thought, it gave the soup a little depth and plump and just so you know, coming from Asian roots, we know that Red Lentil and Yellow Lentil (mung) are the best of friends in taste. They blend tastefully together augmenting each other perfectly. I would recommend you add it, just a small amount, to the soup.
The other umph to the soup comes from the Paprika oil which is basically a tempering of olive oil with paprika and a little red chilli flakes which gives the oil it’s red and a blood orange colour to the soup. The garnish is ofcourse a squeeze of lemon, which I don’t prefer but my hubzy loves it.
Now, this can be served on its own with a side of lemon wedges, dried mint and red chilli flakes but like I said, I am the kind of person who likes soups as an entreè, so, I prepared crispy golden Naan breads alongside. Let me tell you one thing for certain, once you have a bite of these particular crispy crusty Naan bread, your taste buds will sing. As you bite into it, the crackling of the crust is extremely beguiling, you can’t stop yourself from eating it and to top it off with a bang, dunk it into the soup and hear yourself lost in “ummmmm’s”. It hits all the right buttons in your being.
For a comfort food and escape from a dreary, wet and freezing winter night, this gorgeous grandeur of a soup is your haven.
Absolutely top notch!
1. Red Lentil — 1 cup
2. Yellow Lentil (Mung) — 1/4 cup
3. Onion — 1
4. Carrot — 1
5. Tomato paste — 2 tbsp
6. Roasted red pepper — 2 slices
7. Salt — 1-2 tsp
8. Cumin powder — 2 tsp
9. Paprika powder — 1 tsp
10. Dried mint — 1 tsp
11. Thyme — ½ tsp
12. Oregano — ½ tsp
13. Red pepper flakes — ½ tsp
14. Vegetable stock cube — 1
15. Water — 8 cups
16. Olive oil — 2 tbsp
17. Garam Masala — ¼ tsp
Tempered Paprika Oil
1. Olive oil — 4 tbsp
2. Paprika Powder — 2 tsp
3. Red chilli flakes — ½ tsp
Fried Crisp Naan
1. Naan under water — 4
2. Oil — 8 tbsp
1. Prepare the soup
a. Wash the lentils and set aside.
b. In a cooking pot, heat oil and add chopped onions and sauté until translucent. Do not brown them.
c. Add the diced carrot and fry for a minute.
d. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute.
e. Add salt, cumin powder, paprika, dried mint, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes.
f. Mix to fry for a couple of minutes.
g. Add the washed lentil, roasted red pepper, water and vegetable stock cube and stir to mix.
h. Cover the pot and let cook for 1 hour.
i. Turn the heat off, add the garam-masala, stir to mix and let the soup stand for 5 minutes.
j. Blend the soup either in a blender or with a hand blender and return back on to the heat on medium low flame.
2. Prepare the Paprika oil
a. In a fry pan, heat the oil and add the spices.
b. Fry for only 15 seconds and pour over the soup.
3. Prepare the Fried Naan
a. Soak the Naan under tap water for about 1 minute or until a little soggy.
b. Heat a tbsp of oil in a fry pan and place the naan carefully on top.
c. Fry one side until crisp and golden from places.
d. Pour another tbsp of oil on the top side and flip to crisp up the other side.
e. Continue with all the Naan bread the same way until all done.
f. Serve with the soup.