Thursday, June 25, 2009
Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup Recipe (Ezogelin Çorbası)
I have had a lot more cheese, here in Switzerland, than I have even written about. I have shared fondue, and cheese tarts, and for breakfast, I just cannot turn down the earthy gruyère on my toast with a little Swiss alpine butter. It’s great, but I needed a break. This is not my usual diet, and for some grounding, I made a favorite Turkish red lentil soup from my childhood. It is disappointingly chilly here, so instead of sunbathing at the bains de paquis, and then relishing the cooling effects of the clear lake, I bought a pair of shoes that aren’t sandals, and to warm us, I made soup.
One of the few inexpensive places to eat in Geneva are the Turkish and Kurdish kebab houses. While tasty, I’m sad that kebabs have become the quintessential Turkish food outside of Turkey, when there is enormous variety and sophistication to the country’s food left unrepresented. No matter, I’m happy to eat a good döner kebab when I can, so one day, caught without lunch, we stopped in for one. The Swiss are polite and kind, but the Turks are warm, welcoming, and once you’re friends, friends you are for life. In Turkish, there are even two words for the word friend, highlighting the spectrum of possible closeness. At first meeting, one may be referred to as an arkadaş, or usual friend, and if the relationship becomes longer-term, more like family, then one is called a dost, an intimate, or kindred spirit.
After having eaten at this local place, and speaking briefly in my flawed Turkish with the server and with the owner, Turks from all over the neighborhood began to recognize me. Now, if my husband and I enter a different kebab house and ask, in French, for a savory yogurt beverage called ayran, I’ll hear someone sitting at a nearby table alert the owner, saying, “onlar Türkler”, meaning “they’re Turkish”, and they’ll switch from French to Turkish. “They” are Turkish, not “she” is Turkish. My husband, looking clearly western European, welcomed, too, into the warmth of the Turkish culture, even from Switzerland. Thank you, Turks, for helping make chilly Geneva feel more like home.
Turkish Red Lentil, Bulgur, and Mint Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)
adapted from The Sultan's Kitchen, By Özcan Ozan
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted clarified butter (I don’t bother clarifying the butter, and you could use only olive oil if you wanted to leave out the dairy)
1 large Spanish onion, finely diced (3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 medium tomato, peeled,
seeded and finely chopped (1/2 cup) (or you may use 1/2 cup of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes)
2 tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turkish red pepper or ground red pepper (you may use cayenne, or leave it out)
1-1/2 cups red lentils
1/4 cup long-grain white rice (I sometimes use brown rice here)
6 cups chicken stock or water
1/4 cup fine-grain bulgur (you may also use regular bulgur. I find the resulting textural contrast nice)
1 tablespoon dried mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Plain bread croutons (optional)
For the Topping:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or olive oil, but butter really makes it here)
1 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon paprika (I also add spicy Turkish pepper to this mixture for a little heat)
In a heavy medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for about 2 minutes, or until they're softened but not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato (or tomato sauce or diced tomatoes), the paprika, and Turkish pepper. Add the lentils, rice, and stock. Cover the saucepan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the lentils have blended with the stock. Add the bulgur and mint, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the soup is too thick, add a little water.
To make the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the mint and paprika, and stir the mixture until it sizzles. Ladle the soup into individual bowls and drizzle the butter mixture over each serving. Top with the croutons, if you're using them. Serve at once with lemon wedges.
Similar recipes from A Hungry Bear Won't Dance: Sorrel and Stinging Nettle Soup Recipe, Oven Baked Börek with Mustard Greens, Feta, and Walnuts Recipe, and Spring Fava Beans with Garlic Yogurt Recipe.