What is October like in your part of the globe? Is it fall or spring where you live? In our Aegean city, it’s pure joy to be able to spend time outdoors without dripping sweat now that summer is finally over. We're enjoying cool sunny weather and occasional rain. Another thing I enjoy about fall is making soup again.
Turks are masters in the art of slow food, and soup is an important part of their repertoire. I remember my Turkish “mother” 20 years ago in Istanbul. She spent 4 to 5 hours daily preparing food for her family. It was literally her life occupation, one she enjoyed. As much as I loved her food, I don’t want to be in the kitchen for 5 hours! Labor intensive cooking every day does not fit my lifestyle, but I do share with Turks a love for soup.
Most Turkish housewives serve small bowls of soup as a starter to every evening meal. Homey favorites like chicken noodle or yogurt and mint soup are popular. Restaurants specialize in folksy typical soups like kelle paça (sheep head and feet!).
My family’s favorite is lentil soup. It is a humble Turkish soup made at home and served in restaurants too. Most of our visitors to Turkey comment on how good it is. So here’s a simple fall recipe for you, a taste of Turkey that almost everyone likes:
Ezo Gelin Çorbası
Ingredients: 1 3/4 cup red or yellow lentils 1 chopped onion 3 TBSP olive oil 3 TBSP tomato paste 2-3 tsp. dried mint 1-2 tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. dried pepper flakes (Add more if you like heat!)
10 cups of water 1 large. chicken bouillon cube salt to taste 1/4 cup rice
2 TPSP fine bulgur (if you have it, if not, just omit!)
lemon wedges to garnish
Preparation: Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil. When the onion is translucent, add the seasonings and the tomato paste. Fry the paste in the oil for a few minutes while stirring continually.
Add 10 cups of water with the chicken bouillon cube. (For an even more delicious soup, use real chicken broth.) Bring the water to a boil and add the lentils, rice and bulgur. Give them a stir and turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the soup simmer about 40 minutes, or until the lentils have blended with the liquid. Be careful to stir occasionally, especially at the end of the cooking because the lentils will scorch easily. If your soup turns out too thick, add a bit of water or broth. If it’s too thin, whisk 2 TBSP of flour into 1/2 cup of water, and whisk the mixture into the soup.
Serve as a starter, or as a simple meal with rice or bread.
For a true Turkish touch, melt 2-3 TBSP of butter with 1 tsp. mint and 1/2 tsp. paprika, and drizzle a few drops over the surface of the soup in each bowl before serving. Serve with lemon wedges so everyone can squeeze a few drops into their soup.
What is your favorite fall recipe or food? If you live south of the equator, what’s your favorite spring food?