When I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more soup-like than the curry, though. I think they look reasonably different, so trust me I am not recycling photos! No lost photos for this dish…
In truth, it was the success of the tikka masala that had me throwing bountiful fists of spinach into yet another red lentil dish.
I have made the traditional Turkish red lentil and bulgur soup before, having learned it while travelling in Turkey. A humble, yet decidedly filling and nutritious soup, it was one of our favourite meals on our trip, especially when we learned how to cook it ourselves. This version, courtesy of Turquoise, is billed as a humble peasant soup. The lentils must make it peasant-like because there is nothing bland about this. I love the addition of two different kinds of smoked paprika and cumin (I did not stifle the full amount of smoked paprika and it was ok!). I added in the spinach, because, well, I had tons of it and it is easy to incorporate into thick soups. However, the best part of this soup, is the finishing spiced oil. I am used to this in Indian dishes, which is called a tarka, when spices like cumin, coriander, garlic and ginger can infuse oil that is added at the end of the cooking. This isn’t an Indian dish, so dried mint and smoked sweet paprika are fried at the end to permeate the oil. It was actually very pretty when drizzled over the soup. Sorry, you guys got photos of leftovers! Have no fear, the leftovers tasted as good with the tarka already stirred into the soup.
Do you use the tarka method for your cooking? Outside Indian foods?
Turkish Red Lentil Peasant Soup with Sizzling Mint
Adapted from Turquoise
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil, divided
1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked bittersweet paprika
1 1/2 tsp smoked sweet paprika, divided
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup fine bulgur
1 cup tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 bunch spinach, stemmed and coarsely chopped (300g prepped)
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp dried mint
3-4 tbsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste (juice from 1 medium lemon)
1. In a large saucepot over low heat, heat 1 tsp of the oil. Once hot, add the onion and carrot. Sprinkle with salt and saute for 5 minutes until softened. If things start to stick, add in some water or broth. Add the garlic, cumin, bittersweet paprika, 1 tsp of the sweet paprika and saute for 5-8 minutes more, until the onions are translucent and soft.
2. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for one minute, until slightly browned. Add the lentils and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the lentils are soft, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bulgur and tomato and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach, in batches, allowing it to wilt. Cover and remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice.
3. Meanwhile, in a small frypan heat the remainder of the oil (2 tsp) over medium heat. Add the mint and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika. Remove from heat and drizzle overtop soup.
4. Serve soup with additional slices of lemon, if needed.