Red lentil soup is sort of the hamburger of the vegetarian world, or at least it has been for me: endlessly mutable, unceasingly tweakable, and deeply personal. I have made my way through at least ten different versions of it, but this one takes the cake. It’s smooth and creamy, and the eggplant on top is out of this world.
This is another recipe from our Turkish cookbook, which I am wholeheartedly in love with. I have never met a bigger eggplant fan than Eric, so he is pretty happy too. This is some of the best eggplant I’ve ever had–it just explodes with paprika and mint, and it would be just as lovely atop couscous or pita. I must add, though, that the way it mixes into this soup is pretty divine.
My parents are back from Istanbul, so now I have their pictures and stories to live vicariously through, and they will likely be going back in July. Lucky ducks! We don’t know when we’ll make it back ourselves, but at least we have this soup in the meantime (and Turkish restaurants to look forward to on our trip to Berkeley in April!)
Red Lentil Soup with Minted Eggplant
Recipe from Leanne Kitchen’s Turkey
5/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
2 1⁄2 cups red lentils
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1⁄4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
2 tablespoons salt
1 lb 2 oz eggplant, cut into 1 cm 1⁄2 inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 teaspoons dried mint
2 1⁄2 teaspoons sweet paprika
3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, to serve
-Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6–7 minutes, or until softened. Add the lentils and stock, then bring to a simmer, skimming the surface to remove any impurities.
-Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and simmer for 40–50 minutes, or until the lentils are very soft and have collapsed. Add the lemon juice and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
-Meanwhile, sprinkle the salt over the chopped eggplant in a colander and set aside for 20 minutes. Rinse the eggplant well, then drain and pat dry on paper towels.
-Heat the remaining olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over medium–high heat. Add the eggplant and cook for 5–6 minutes, turning often, until golden and tender.
-Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes, then add the mint and paprika and cook for another 2 minutes, or until fragrant. To serve, divide the soup among bowls and spoon over the eggplant and garlic mixture and scatter with the mint.