So as the weather starts to change so my cook’s heart turns to soup. Turkey is a great soup-drinking nation after all and in many regions it is even served for breakfast. The soups here are wonderfully hearty and nutritious often full of grains and pulses and enriched with herbs and spices. They are not the stuff of dinner parties as they are pretty filling; more suited to family meals really.
It’s very easy really: there are two kinds of lentils or mercimek (pron: mer-ji-mek) in this country: red and green. The reds are mainly for soups as they soften up very quickly, while the greens are more for salads and yemeks/meals since they hold their shape better.I remember when the only soup/çorba (pron: chor-ba) I knew came in a can. It took some time for soups to find their way into this young bride’s fledgling cooking repertoire but once I got it, there was no holding me back. This is because I immediately saw how easy and quick, not to mention cheap, they are to make. Today we all have stick blenders too, no need for time-consuming sieving. Soups keep so well: the taste even improves with a few days in the fridge.
A typical Turkish meal will usually include a soup, an olive oil dish, and a main course. The most traditional soup of all here is probably tarhana, a sun-dried mixture of coarsely ground wheat and yogurt, spices and tomato paste. It is the original packet soup as it is mixed with water in order to reconstitute it.
Another great favourite is lentil soup. In winter I make this about every 10 days. My recipe produces a tasty,robust soup but the method of making the one below is entirely different to mine, and so is the consistency. The taste too is much more subtle. I highly recommend it.
4 tbsps cubed, stale bread1 tbsp cooking oil
- Put the prepared lentils into a saucepan. Add the whole onion, cumin, salt and 8 cups of water. Bring to the boil and cook gently for 30 mins on a low heat, stirring from time to time.
- Remove the onion and discard. Use your hand blender to puree the remaining mixture.
- In a separate pan, melt the butter. Add the flour cautiously, stirring all the time so that it blends smoothly. Cook for 1 min.
- Bit by bit, add the lentil mixture to this, stirring continuously, and add the lemon juice. If your soup is too thick, add up to one extra cup hot water.
- Add salt and simmer gently for 10 more mins.
- Melt the butter in a small frying pan and let brown slightly. Stir in the red pepper.
- Serve the soup piping hot with the garnish swirled on top, and pass round the croutons.
Why don’t you try lentil soup tonight?