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Meliz Berg’s Red Lentil Soup (Mercimek Çorbası)

As seen on This Morning, this simple, soothing soup for the whole family is topped with grilled black olives, croutons and lots of extra freshly squeezed lemon juice.

From the book

Introduction

My children love this soup. It was one of the first things I would make when I started weaning them, exactly as my mum did for us. Their favourite soups are the Cypriot ones, like this Mercimek Çorbası which they both affectionately refer to as çorba (soup), or Nene’s (Grandmother’s) soup. This, again, is my mum’s recipe and is loaded with caramelised onions which are added, for sweetness and texture, once the soup is cooked. Occasionally, we also add finely diced carrots, celery and potatoes which cook together with the lentils and rice. My kids always ask for extra lemon juice, grilled black olives and some gabira (grilled bread) or croutons made from stale Kıbrıs Çöreği (Cypriot seeded bread) to eat with their Red Lentil Soup. We’ve taught them these traditions well, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

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Ingredients

350 g (10½ oz) split red lentils
100 g (3½ oz) long-grain white rice
3 litres (5¼ pints) cold water
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
500ml (18fl oz) boiling water
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, finely diced
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground black pepper
To serve:
pul biber
dried mint
grilled black olives
toasted bread
lemon wedges
sea salt
cracked black pepper

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Method

In a sieve, wash the red lentils and rice under cold running water until the water runs clear. Add the drained rice and lentils to a large pan and fill with the 3 litres (5 pints) of cold water. Place the pan over a high heat and bring to the boil for 5 minutes, skimming off and discarding the foam that forms on the top. Reduce the heat a little.

Dissolve the stock cube in the boiling water in a heatproof jug. Add the stock to the pan, then stir and simmer over a low heat for around 25–30 minutes until the soup thickens.

While the soup is cooking, add the olive oil to a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions to the hot oil, reduce the heat and soften for 15–20 minutes until translucent. Increase the heat a little so that the onions caramelise and turn a lovely golden-brown colour, then remove from the heat.

Add the lemon juice, salt and black pepper to the soup pan, give everything a gentle stir, cook for a further minute and then remove one-third of the soup and blitz carefully in a food processor. Return the blended soup back to the pan. Stir in half of the caramelised onions, cook for a minute, then remove the pan from the heat.

Serve bowls of the soup with the remaining onions, a sprinkling of pul biber, dried mint, grilled black olives, large croutons or toasted bread and an extra squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

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From the book: Meliz’s Kitchen: Simple Turkish-Cypriot comfort food and fresh family feasts

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