You always have to think of some kind of spiel before you give the recipe out. Seems like an afterthought on most blogs. Some waffle about their dog being sick or the cat learning a new trick. But it’s always followed by the hard sell; hold little time and effort it takes to make the dish. I think in the 1980’s when people really started to take interest in cookbooks and cooking as a ‘hobby’ and not simply a necessity of survival, often it was how complicated the recipe was that was the deal-breaker. This is not one of those. It’s simple and easy to suit the modern-day crazy-London lifestyle.
Measuring out the spices, or indeed possessing them, is the hardest thing you’re going to do for this soup. I searched a lot of recipes for our definitive mix. I wish I could say I looked through all our cookbooks (2 bookcases full) but as so often, it’s so much quicker to type into a browser. It appears there’s a lot of variation when it comes to Turkish cooking; but whatever you do, don’t leave out the mint. This is the distinctive quality that always reminds me of my time in Istanbul.
Traditionally, tomato paste only goes in and a little potato and onion. However, to Theresa’s irritation, I only ever use recipes as starting blocks a kind of inspiration for creativity. This works well with savoury, not always so well for deserts; but either way, we don’t get left with a sink full of tiny easing spoons and cups as we do when she cooks, so there.
Serve warm with some bread and a squeeze of lemon. Then head to Istanbul and have it by the Bosphorus. I can’t bring that to you. This soup is ubiquitous there, but its just an appetiser to what is probably the broadest cuisine for vegetarians we’ve found in any city. Naturally, we love it there.
- 1 cup red lentil
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 large stick celery (sliced finely)
- 1 large carrot (sliced finely)
- 1 tbs tomato paste
- 2 tomatoes (roughly chopped)
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp mint
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp chilli flakes
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper
- chopped fresh dill to garnish (optional)
- 1. Rinse the lentils and place in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, semi cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until almost dry. Mash coarsely, and set aside.
- 2. Heat the olive oil and sauté the celery and carrot. Add the tomato paste and cook for another minute.
- 3. add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, mashed lentils and 4 cups of water (or stock if you have it). Season with salt and pepper, then bring to the boil, turn to a medium low and simmer for 15 mins, partially covered.
- 4. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon, garnish with fresh herbs.
- lots of olive oil renders this soup such enough as a main meal alone. Use good quality and extra virgin. Don't hesitate on this, you won't regret it.