20 November 2013

Recipe: Turkish Red Lentil Soup

 We recently visited our daughter, a student at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to spending time with her, one of our favorite things to do while there is try out the many ethnic restaurants. Bloomington has more than its share of fantastic places to eat and although we've tried, I'm sure we won't be able to visit them all before she graduates!

On this visit, we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant, the second one we've tried in Bloomington. It was incredibly good, and the pictures below do not do it justice! I tried the eggplant pide, pictured in the lower right of the collage, a chewy bread filled with a delicious eggplant/veggie mixture. I also had a cup of their famous red lentil soup. It was so good that I decided to hunt down a recipe and make it at home!

I picked a recipe (printed below) that looked similar to the one we had tasted. It called for two ingredients I had never purchased: bulgur and red lentils. (I have cooked both brown and green lentils, but red lentils have a different taste and consistency, making them perfect for pureed soups like this one.)

At the grocery store, I found the red lentils with the soup beans and finally tracked down the bulgur in the baking section. From the size of the packages, it looks like we will be having this soup a LOT! The recipe also called for dried mint which I could not find, so I substituted fresh mint in double the amount listed. You can't go wrong with fresh herbs.

 The recipe doesn't specify the type of rice, so I used the basmati brown rice which I had on hand. Basmati rice is used in Middle Eastern cooking. This particular rice was grown in Texas -- hence the "Texmati" label.
 Although I don't know if it was necessary, I rinsed the lentils and bulgur before starting the recipe. (Helpful hint: Do not put the bulgur in a strainer with big holes!!!)

 I wish you could just touch the picture and smell this soup! Oh, my goodness...the kitchen smelled so good!

After it cooks on the stove, you need to puree it in a blender (or with an immersion blender) to achieve a smoother consistency. Helpful hint: Do NOT think you can do this with your regular hand mixer, unless you want to end up with red lentil soup splattered all over your kitchen!

After a bit of clean-up, I dug out the blender and did as the recipe suggested! :) Then I put the soup in the crock pot for a couple of hours, just to keep it warm and let the flavors meld a little bit more. It thickened up just a little in the crock pot.
This soup is soooo incredibly delicious and filling! I put a spoonful of plain yogurt (often used as a condiment in Turkish/Indian restaurants) on top of my soup and stirred it it for a little extra smoothness. Can't wait to make this one again!

 Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Mint 
(from Allrecipes.com) 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced tomatoes, drained
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup fine bulgur (could probably substitute couscous)
1/4 cup rice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tablespoon dried mint (I used 2 T of fresh mint)
salt and ground black pepper to taste 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Cook and stir the onion in the hot oil until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir the garlic into the onion and cook another 2 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes to the onion mixture; continue to cook and stir another 10 minutes.

Pour in the chicken stock, red lentils, bulgur, rice, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne pepper, and mint to the tomato mixture; season with salt and black pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook at a simmer until the the lentils and rice are cooked through, about 30 minutes.

Pour the soup into a blender to no more than half full. Firmly hold the lid in place and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree in batches until smooth; pour into your serving dish. Alternately, you can use a stick blender and puree the soup in cooking pot.


Heather said...

I've never had Turkish food, but hubby & I love trying new things. We both like lentils but haven't had red ones. I want to try this soup. I'm not sure about the mint...I'm usually only a fan of mint in sweets. How strong is the flavor? Does it really work with the other ingredients?

Janet said...

Heather, I'm the same way...I don't care for "sweet" in my "savory" dishes! Truly, I could not taste the mint at all. I think it just adds a flavor complexity that makes this a uniquely Turkish dish. That said, I'm sure it would be great even without the mint! :)

LMK if you try it!!

Jill/Twipply Skwood said...

That looks yummy! I like Turkish food. Well, I like food. :-) Food's my favorite.