There is a wonderful Turkish restaurant named Istanbul Grill in Rice Village in Houston. Their meats are always full of flavor and they have a rice pilaf with chickpeas that I could eat forever. But what always makes me think of going there is their red lentil soup. A few years ago a friend recommended it to me and I’ve been in love since. It is the perfect soup for a cold day.
Unfortunately right now in Houston it’s been hitting the 80s in February. But between bouts of existential dread at global warming we have had a few chilly days and I decided to try making Turkish red lentil soup myself.
I do have a Turkish cookbook, but unfortunately I don’t think anyone tested the recipes. They tend to lead to disasters such as one that uses ten cups of mashed potatoes. If you haven’t seen ten cups of mashed potatoes in the flesh, I guarantee you that no one who isn’t running a restaurant needs that much. However, I found a great recipe online at a blog named Lands and Flavors that, with a little modification, is just right. I even brought home some red lentil soup from Istanbul Grill to do a side by side comparison to get it just right!
When I first made this recipe I left out the tomato paste and it was not nearly red enough. I also did the pot-blender-pot dance that one does when one does not have an immersion blender. I now have an immersion blender.
This soup is a go to for me when I’m wanting a light dinner when I get home late from a class. I usually have soup with some good bread, often spread with hummus.
Turkish Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Turkish Red Lentil Soup by Lands and Flavors
- 1.5 cup red lentils
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tsp cumin
- 1tsp paprika
- .5 tsp dried mint
- .5 tsp oregano
- .25 tsp black pepper
- .25 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups vegetable broth (or just more water if you don’t have it)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Remove any stones or debris from lentils, then rinse.
- In a large pot, sauté onion and carrot with a pinch of salt for five minutes over medium high heat.
- Add tomato paste and stir. Then add cumin, paprika, mint, oregano, both types of pepper, and stir for a few seconds. Then add water, broth, and lentils. Bring soup to boil.
- Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cover pot halfway. Let cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are dissolved and carrots are soft.
- When soup is done, blend either with immersion blender or by transferring to a stand alone blender (be careful with the hot soup if you do so).
- Add lemon juice. Adjust spices and salt to your taste.
- Serve with lemon wedges, extra dried mint, and a side of good bread.