Yayla Çorbası: Turkish Yogurt and Chickpea Soup

Yayla ÇorbasıWe had so many fabulous meals in Istanbul, but our favorite by far was at Çiya Sofrası, a culinary anthropologist’s dream. We chose small portions of ten or twelve dishes to share, but the real showstopper was a deeply lemony and minty yogurt soup: Yayla Çorbası (pronounced yai-lah chor-bas-uh). After we got home, Eric did some hunting to find out if we could recreate it, and he found a plethora of recipes that fit the bill. This soup is, of course, not identical to the one we had there, but it is still pretty amazingly delicious.

Çiya SofrasıHere is our spread at Çiya Sofrası, with the soup of all soups in the middle of the left hand side.

Yayla ÇorbasıThe rice thickens the soup, along with the yogurt, and the chickpeas give a perfect toothy bite to each spoonful. The mint grown in Turkey is a little different than the mint we have here (which is why I am super selfishly asking my mom to bring us back a big bag of it when she goes later this month with my dad!), but it is the perfect complement to the lemon. I have never tried, much less made, a yogurt soup before, but now I am in love.

Yayla ÇorbasıAnd that seems as fitting a sentiment as possible for Valentine’s Day.

Yayla Çorbası: Turkish Yogurt and Chickpea Soup
Adapted from A Seasonal Cook in Turkey (a truly fantastic blog!)

½ cup of rice, rinsed and drained
1 cup chickpeas
2 tbsps plain flour, gently heaped
1 egg
2 cups yogurt
8 cups water
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsps butter
4 tsps dried mint
Lemons, for serving
Flaked red pepper (optional)

-Cook the rice in 2 cups of the water till softened ( 15 mins). The starch is released and will help to thicken the soup.
-Add the remaining water to the same pan along with the chickpeas, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 mins.
-In a bowl, combine the yogurt, flour and egg and beat till smooth.
-Carefully take a ladle of the hot liquid and mix into the yogurt mixture. Stir until incorporated. Add one more. Then add all the mixture into the pan and simmer gently till thickened.
-In a separate pan, melt the butter and add the mint. You can also add the pepper flakes at this point if using.  Cook on a very low heat for 30 seconds. Whisk this butter into the soup. Squeeze the juice of one half lemon (or more, to taste) into each bowl, and stir. Serve warm.

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