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There are several Red lentil soups in Turkish cuisine. I can count at least 4 of them. This one is from a town named Kilis in Southeastern Turkey right north of Syria. Often other grains like rice and bulgur are added to the lentil soup in order to give it a different texture. This one, however, has no grains other than lentils. It has lots of garlic, some mint and lemon juice to give it a tangy taste. My husband’s family is from that region. I found a hand-written family recipe from 45 years ago. I remember the day when I sat down with my mother-in-law and wrote down several recipes from the region she grew up in. This recipe included some tips for variations, however, as I read it, I realized that it was a typical Turkish recipe, very vague with measurements. It had quantities like “A small bowl of lentils, enough water to boil, etc.” Unfortunately, she is no longer with us. I wanted to double check the recipe. My husband and I called uncle Meray, my mother-in-law’s cousin. He is a very good cook, an amazing story teller and a great musician too. We had fun remembering the good old days and tightened up the family recipe together. It is a perfect comfort food for winter. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cup red lentils
- 8 cups boiling water
- 1 head of garlic, divided
- 1 Japanese eggplant (optional)
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- 2 heaping tablespoon of dried mint
- 1/4 cup olive oil or 2 tablespoons butter
- Peel garlic cloves. Press three of them, set aside.
- Slice the rest of the garlic cloves, set aside.
- Rinse lentils and strain them in a sieve.
- In a large pot, combine lentils and boiling water. Let it come to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Lower heat to medium low and continue to stir occasionally. Using a slotted spoon, remove and discard any froth that forms on top of the soup. Let it simmer until the grains are fully cooked, about 15 minutes. Lentils will dissolve, turning the color of the soup to yellow.
- Peel the eggplant and cut it into cubes.
- When lentils are fully cooked, add crushed garlic, eggplant (optional), red pepper, lemon juice and salt to taste.
- Continue to cook over medium-low heat until eggplants are soft and lentils are dissolved.
- In a pan, heat olive oil or butter, add sliced garlic to it. When its color turns golden add mint to it. Take the pan out of heat, pour it over the soup and stir.
- Serve hot with a pinch of crushed red peppers on top
- I use Japanese eggplants since they don’t have a lot of seeds like some other varieties. They are tender and give the soup a delicious texture.
- Replacing 2-4 cups of water with chicken broth will make it taste more delicious
- If soup thickens, add water to your liking.
- You may want to serve it with pieces of toasted pita bread or croutons.
- You can use paprika instead of hot chili peppers.
- A handful of spinach can be added when you add the eggplant.
- It freezes well. You can store them in the freezer in Ziplock bags.