You know your kids grew up in the Middle East when their favorite food is stuffed grape leaves, and they like plain yogurt with raw garlic. One of the best things about living in Turkey is the food, and soup holds an important place in Turkish cuisine.
Most Turkish housewives serve small bowls of soup as a starter to the evening meal. My family’s favorite is lentil soup. Ezo Gelin is a humble Turkish soup made in both homes and restaurants. Friends who visit us from America always comment on how good it is. This makes a great starter or stands alone as simple main dish with salad and bread.
Here’s a taste of Turkey that almost everyone likes:
Lentil Soup (Ezo Gelin Çorbası)
1 ½ cups red lentils
1 chopped onion
3 TBSP olive oil
3 TBSP tomato paste
2 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (Add more if you like higher heat!)
3 quarts water
1 large. chicken bouillon cube
1/4 cup rice
2 TBSP fine bulgur (Not a big loss if you don’t have any.)
Salt to taste (I used ½ tsp.)
Lemon wedges to garnish
Saute chopped onion in the olive oil. Add the seasonings and the tomato paste. Fry the paste in the oil for a few minutes while stirring continually.
Add 3 quarts of water with the chicken bouillon cube. (Real chicken broth makes a more delicious soup if you have it.) Bring the water to a boil and add the lentils, rice and bulgur. Stir and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the soup and let it simmer about 45 minutes, or until the lentils have blended with the liquid. Be careful to stir occasionally, especially at the end of the cooking because the lentils will scorch easily. If your soup turns out too thick, add a bit more water or broth.
Note: For a smooth consistency, blend half of the soup in the blender. (I’m too lazy for that!) Most Turks use their trusty hand blenders for smooth soup.
For a true Turkish touch, melt 2-3 TBSP of butter with 2 tsp. mint and 1 tsp. paprika or crushed red pepper. Drizzle a teaspoon over the soup in each bowl after you ladle it out. If you’d rather do without the butter, just sprinkle a bit of mint and pepper on each serving. Serve with lemon wedges, so everyone can squeeze a few drops into their soup.
Have you ever tried Middle Eastern food? What’s your favorite Middle Eastern dish?