I lived on this delicious lentil soup when I was in Turkey for three months in 1988. My recipe is adapted from one that I had on the Black Sea coast made by a young lady called Zerrin. A Turkish friend translated for me as she told us how to make it but, like many cooks, Zerrin held back one secret ingredient. Years later I tasted a Turkish lentil soup from a stall at Frenchs Forest markets and realised what had been missing from mine … the aroma and flavour of dried mint took me straight back to Turkey! Enjoy it with a cold glass of Brash Higgins wild-ferment CHN chenin blanc, the balanced acidity is a perfect foil for the earthy lentils. Afiyet olsun!
Serves 8 as an entrée
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- Salt flakes, to taste
- 2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon Aleppo pepper chilli flakes (see below)
- 2½ cups (500g) red lentils
- 2 litres water
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- ½ teaspoon chilli paste (see below)
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Bread, for serving
Aleppo pepper (pul biber in Turkish) has quite a mild heat, if it’s unavailable use any mild chilli flakes, or just a pinch of a hotter chilli. This soup is often served drizzled with a chilli oil, I make mine by combining sambal oelek with olive oil.
- Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a saucepan over low heat.
- Add onion and a good pinch of salt, cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until soft but not coloured.
- Stir in tomato and chilli flakes and cook for a further minute or so.
- Stir in lentils and water and bring to the boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft.
- Remove from heat, stir in dried mint, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.
- Puree with a stick blender, leaving a little texture. Taste and add salt.
- Serve drizzled with remaining oil combined with chilli paste and with lemon wedges and bread on the side.