The weather has turned, one day warm and humid, the next wet and cool. Difficult to know what to wear, difficult to know what to cook.
The soup I posted last week with red peppers and tomatoessuddenly seems light and frivolous. It’s a real change of season.
Turkish soups are based on grains and pulses. They are hearty affairs not suitable for dinner parties. In the countryside, soup is often served for breakfast which may sound like a leap of faith if you are used to muesli or toast, but makes complete sense if you think of shepherds going out into the elements needing all the warmth and sustenance they can get.
The Turkish national soup must be mercimek or lentil. It is served in most little esnaf lokantas or local restaurants, on a daily basis.
I have a new soup book called Çorbanın Kitabı – the book of soups – written by Ebru Omurcalı. It’s a collection of mostly Turkish soups with a smattering of soups from other countries. It’s the Turkish ones that interest me most.
Basically, they include more or less the same ingredients: lentils, chickpeas, bulgur, erişte (homemade noodles) or wheat. Store cupboard ingredients to you and me. The amounts and types vary slightly according to region. Plus there is often yogurt.
Here’s a soup that is thick and tasty hailing from Çorum in the heart of Anatolia: it would certainly sustain a shepherd or two in the direst of weathers.
½ cup green lentils/yeşil mercimek, soaked at least a few hours beforehand, then drained and rinsed
1 onion, chopped
3/4 cup erişte/homemade Turkish noodles OR wheat/büğday (if you haven’t got either, regular pasta would do)
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dried mint
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
5 cups water
sprigs of fresh mint to garnishMethod
- Boil the lentils in 2 cups of water until softened (NB if using, soak the wheat overnight before boiling). Drain.
- Melt the butter in a small frying pan and add the chopped onion. Cook gently until it changes colour and softens.
- Separately,in another pan, beat the yogurt until smooth. Add the seasonings, mint and red pepper flakes and then gradually add 3 cups water. Add the onion and lentils and mix gently. (NB add the cooked wheat if using at this point).
- Bring to the boil and then add the erişte or homemade noodles.
- Stir and cook until the erişte are done which is very quick – 5 minutes or so.
- Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint if desired.