UKook: Turkish lentil soup

It's UKook, the cooking show starring international students and their favourite foods from home. This week, Turkish student Turan Gül prepares lentil soup.

6 servings

Red lentils (1 cup per person)
4 tablespoons bulgur
2 tablespoons rice
2 medium onions
1 tomato
1 lemon
1 tablespoon flour (optional)
2 tablespoons butter (but not margarine) and a bit of olive oil
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons dried mint and a bit of thyme
2 tablespoons salt
Red pepper flakes (found in Turkish supermarkets) and black pepper
2 litres boiled water
Brown bread to serve on the side

Turan Gül is a 29-year-old PhD candidate in Analytical Biochemistry and the president of GUTSA (Groningen University Turkish Student Association). Upon arrival at his place, he offers his guests a pair of leather slippers to make them feel at home immediately.

Turan learned how to cook when he started university, and now he loves it. Once, he even cooked this Turkish lentil soup for 80 people! Besides cooking, he likes salsa dancing and playing guitar in his free time.

Today, he prepares Turkish lentil soup Ezogelin çorbası, a popular dish in Turkey with a moving story behind it. According to legend, a heartbroken bride from the southeast of Turkey named Ezo, who was in the hospital dying of tuberculosis, created the recipe a century ago. She hated the food in the hospital so much that she decided to make her own ‘recovery’ dish – that’s how it became popular at the hospital and later in homes and restaurants across Turkey. Whether you believe the origin story or not, check out this easy recipe, full of rich ingredients and perfect for cold, rainy days!

Stay tuned for a bonus recipe – Turkish coffee – plus some Turkish fortune telling.

Dish: Turkish lentil soup
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Special considerations: Vegetarian, but vegan-optional if you skip the butter. To make it gluten free, skip the bulgur and flour.

While melting the butter and oil in a medium-sized pan, finely dice the onion and tomato. Fry the onions and tomato until they have a soft, golden texture. Add the tomato paste and a litre of boiled water. Stir.

Pour the lentils, bulgur and rice together into a container and add water to wash them. Drain all the water. Add the mix to the pan and let it boil until the legumes are super soft – about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks on the bottom.

When the mixture is soft and “soupy”, season it to taste with red pepper flakes, black pepper, dried mint, thyme and salt. Add another litre of water if the mixture is too pasty. Let it boil for another 5 minutes. At this point, you could use a blender to create a smooth, puree texture, or you can simply leave the soup as it is if you want to feel the lentils.

Serve hot with a slice of lemon to squeeze over the soup. Pair it with bread, preferably fresh Turkish brown bread.

Did you enjoy this recipe? Do you like cooking, too? If you are a RUG student, this is your chance to show off your culinary skills! Contact us at [email protected] with the name of the dish you’d like to make and your availability!