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Friday, January 7, 2011

Red Lentil Soup-Mercimek Çorbası

Go to any Middle Eastern restaurant and you'll find, most likely, some kind of lentil soup. It might be puréed, it might have crushed lentils, or they might be whole. It might be red with tomatoes and spices, it might be green, it might be yellow—but odds are, it'll be delicious.

The lentil is one of the oldest foodstuffs, originating in the Near East, with evidence of culinary usages reaching back to the times before humans produced pottery. Quite simply put, they're an excellent source of nutrition and have been used as such for a long time, in many traditions the world over.

About the soup served at the State Dinner at the Dolmabahçe, Oz has this to say: "A fan-favorite when the grandparents come to town, this pureed soup is made with red lentils, rice, onion, carrot, and garnished with the hot paprika butter, paprika, and fresh mint."

Mercimek Çorbası

1 carrot, small dice
1 sweet onion, small dice
1 c (237 ml) Red Lentils
1/4 c (59 ml) White Rice
5 c (1.183 L) Water
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt
Black pepper
Hungarian Paprika
Crushed Red Pepper
Chopped Parsley
Mint Leaves

Sorting Lentils
Prep notes: Always sort lentils before using them. Often, a few little stones will make it into a package of lentils, and stones are not delicious in anyone's culture. Pour out your lentils on a sheet pan so they make one layer, and carefully look through them. Remove all stones and off-looking lentils (too small, wrong color, etc.) and then measure the proper amount from the sorted lentils.

1. Sauté onion and carrot in olive oil or clarified butter until the onion begins to become translucent.

2. Add rice, lentils, and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until lentils and rice are tender.

3. Purée with immersion blender, or pass through a fine food mill.
Oz prepares to blend the soup.

4. Season to taste with ample salt (it will take quite an alarming amount,) pepper, and lemon juice. For our version, we also added hot Hungarian Paprika and crushed red pepper. (Sumac, curry, or any number of other spices could be used to create variations on the theme.) Simmer gently until the flavors have combined—maybe five or ten minutes, and serve immediately. (This soup will dry out on top and form a skin very quickly, so the closer to service it is prepared, the better.)

Garnish the bowls of soup with paprika butter, chopped parsley, and either chiffonaded or whole leaves of mint.


  1. Outstanding work, sir! Quite looking forward to more of your delectable works!

    Dr. Rafael Fabre,
    Editor, The Steampunk Tribune

  2. Thanks you very much! More to come in the coming weeks and months—I've been trying to keep a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule as much as possible.

  3. Hello, you made this at TeslaCon 3, but I think you made it a little differently. Can you let me know what spice blend you added in addition to the paprika and if you did anything different besides using all chicken broth instead of water? The spice blend you used was a blend of around 20 different spices (I think this was what was said...maybe it was 30). Thank you!!

  4. Hello! I'm glad you were at my panel. For that version, I exclusively used Ras al Hanout, an Algerian/North African (more broadly) spice blend. The (rough) recipe for what I made at the con was:

    1 onion, diced
    2-3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 c Red Lentils
    1 c Rice
    2 qt chicken stock
    1 Tbsp Ras al hanout (or to taste)
    salt and pepper to taste


Your opinions and comments always are welcomed, but do be civil... this isn't a kitchen, after all.