Istanbul is the epicentre of food culture. It is also the best place on earth to source and consume a wide variety of my favourite food (and part-time obsession) — soup! Super tasty, heart-warming soup! During these winter months, this fantastically nutritious super-food has quite literally become my life’s blood! Being not only utterly delicious, but also essential to keeping warm, soup is the best way to eat cheaply and efficiently in Istanbul.
Soup is constantly available in Istanbul, from posh restaurants to takeaway food chains, trendy snack bars and pokey cafes to late night kabab houses. Unlike us Brits, instead of eating a greasy kabab or soggy bag of fish and chips, Turks go to ‘drink’ soup after a night on-the-town. All season round the streets of Taksim are busied with gaggles of drunken friends, stumbling out of bars in the early hours of the morning, gravitating like zombies towards the nearest soup place. In my opinion, the fantastic Turkish tradition of eating soup after a night out drinking is, quite frankly, genius. This healthy post-boozing habit rehydrates the body and helps towards undoing some of the alcohol poisoning incurred over the course of a fun-filled evening. Soup is so important to Turkish people that it was the main food that they shared during the Occupy Gezi movement; protestors cooked and shared soup everyday on the ground in the park, feeding each other, the poor and rich alike. My fellow soup fanatic Turkish friends told me that while Gezi was going on, soup was their food of choice because it was convenient. One of my friends who is a particularly dedicated activist in the Gezi movement explained to me that “Soup is the best riot cuisine because it’s quick and easy to prepare and, most importantly, it helps combat the toxins protestors ingest from all that tear gas”. Soup is important in Turkey for many reason. For me, soup is yet another reason why Turkey is the perfect place to have ended up living, as Turks seem to be the only people on the planet as obsessed with soup as I am.
Now, I am no cook. But, luckily for me, my very own ‘in-house’ chef—and lovely boyfriend—is! We regularly cook soup together and most recently created this little adaptation of the traditional Turkish soup, Mercimek Çorbası.
Mercimek Çorbası (adaptation) Recipe:
- Prep: soak x2 large cups of chickpeas in water over night
- Make Lamb stock: place lamb bone in water with x2 onions, x4 cloves of garlic, x4 carrots
- To cook: chop x1 white onion, x2 cloves of garlic and one inch of ginger and fry on a low heat
- Put the chickpeas on to boil in a separate pot and simmer until plump and tender
- Add some dried chilli and mint to the frying pan and stir until onions and garlic become translucent
- Then, add a large soup-spoon of tomato puree, or red pepper paste
- Add x1 large cup of red lentils and stir together
- Add the lamb stock to the veg and stir on a low heat
- Let the mix cook on a medium to low heat for 45 mins until the lentils are soft/disintegrated
- Once the mix is thick and creamy, add the chickpeas and serve with a large squeeze of lemon and extra chilli sprinklings on top and—voilà!—the perfect cold-busting, high protein, delicious lentil soup is ready to gobble up!
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Traditional Turkish soup is largely inherited from Anatolian cuisine, fused over the years with the refinement of Middle Eastern, Central Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. However, in my humble (and potentially biassed opinion) Oli’s adaptation of Mercimek Çorbası is worth the subversion from the traditional method. The main difference between Oli’s Mercimek Çorbası and the traditional Turkish recipe is the added ginger and chick-pees, which do change the flavour slightly but also add extra nutrients. This is super easy to cook, wonderfully warming to eat and a great cold-beater.
If you love soup as much as I do, I think you’ll like this one. However, whether you find this recipe suits your taste-buds or not, one fact is undeniable — Oli and I make a mean ‘Naked Chef‘ team in the kitchen!
*Simply Soupelicious! 🙂