Whether a restaurant is fancy and expensive, or intended for quick, cheap lunch service, one thing you can always find on the menu in Turkey is mercimek çorbası (red lentil soup). For as little as 2 lira (about $1), you can get a substantial bowl of this soup and plenty of bread to dip in it.
This soup is enjoyed by Turkish people of all social classes, and even the Ottoman sultans are known to have drank this soup before meals as a way to help with digestion. Soup is also a common breakfast item, especially in rural areas, because of how hydrating and nutritious it is.
While this soup is sometimes made with just lentils, I have included a recipe for one that includes a variety of vegetables. This means that if you are missing one of the ingredients in my recipe, you can still make the soup!
Serves 8-10: makes 1 large pot
1 leek (white part) sliced (sub: 1 onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 potato, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 red or green sweet bell pepper, chopped
2 cups dry red lentils
6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (+ more if you prefer thinner soup) (sub: water)
1/2 tablespoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Red (Aleppo) pepper flakes to taste
Melted butter or olive oil with red pepper flakes
Fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Heat olive oil in a large soup pot. Add leek and garlic and sauté.
- Add carrots and potato and cook for about 3-5 minutes.
- Add tomato and red pepper and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add lentils, water, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes until the lentils are softened and falling apart.
- Use an immersion blender to blend the soup together into a homogenous mixture. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can put the soup into a regular blender in 3-4 batches to blend together.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- For topping, heat some butter/olive oil and mix in red pepper flakes. Drizzle over soup and serve with a lemon wedge.
Tips & Additional Information
This soup is a great thing to keep stocked in your freezer. To do this, use less water (about 4 cups) so you have a thick, more pasty substance. Freeze this into containers and when reheating, add water to thin it out.