Turkish-style red lentil soup (Mercimek Çorbası)

Walk into any Turkish eatery and you’ll find Mercimek Çorbası (lentil soup) on the starter menu. I visited Turkey during their winter and this soup was one of my favourite things to order.

I may have had it daily at lunch, when in the middle of walking around in the cold in the city, my stomach would remind that it needed warming up. This soup was the perfect midday filler, a great start to a dinner meal and, I even had it for breakfast one morning at our hotel as this was one of the offerings on the buffet. 

The addition of fresh lemon squeezed over takes the soup to another level of greatness. 

When I came back home one of the first things I attempted to recreate was this soup. I put a few of my own little twists on it – like adding a bit more carrot than they do and adding a chilli.

Mercimek Çorbası is hearty, healthy and, very simple to make. It’s also light on the stomach so you may want to consider adding it to your Ramadan menu as a start. Now that Ramadan in South Africa is in the colder months, soup is one of the most welcoming dishes at iftar. 

Mercimek Çorbası (Turkish lentil soup)
A bowl of comfort
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup red lentils
  2. 1 onion
  3. 2 cloves garlic
  4. 1 chilli
  5. 1 tomato
  6. 2 tbsp tomato paste
  7. 2 stalks celery
  8. 4 large carrots
  9. 1/2 tsp cumin
  10. 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  11. 2 tbsp vegetable stock powder
  12. salt to taste
  13. 1 tbsp olive oil
  14. Enough water to cover vegetables while they boil
  15. Lemons for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Saute onion, garlic, and chilli in olive oil until onion has soften and turned golden.
  2. Add in tomato, carrots celery, tomato, tomato paste, spices, stock and seasoning and cover with water and allow to boil until all the vegetables have softened.
  3. Once the vegetables are soft, blend the contents of the pot.
  4. Once it's blended and smooth it's ready to serve.
  5. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with crusty, buttered bread.
From My Fingertips http://www.frommyfingertips.com/

What to eat in Turkey

You’ll get a taste of Turkish hospitality and generosity at almost every restaurant you step into. Warm welcomes, generous portions, and tasty foods are the name of the food game.

From comforting lentil soups, grills, kebabs, pides to indulgent baklava and Turkish delight, there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Even the carts selling simit (Turkish bagels), chestnuts, and corn will have you drooling and they’re ideal snacks while you’re walking around exploring the city. 

Here are some of the most mouthwatering foods I ate while there. 

Have you been to Turkey? Which food did you enjoy the most? Talk to me in the comments below. 

Bulgur and lentil salad

This salad is inspired by a Hellenic grain salad I saw on an episode of Masterchef Australia.

I looked up a few recipes and found one by Masterchef Australia judge George Colambaris. It’s also the one that appealed to me the most.

But I adapted it to make it more budget-friendly and according to what I had at hand. 

His recipe also calls for adding pomegranate kernels but I couldn’t find any at the shops so I used cranberries instead. I also excluded the pumpkin seeds (didn’t have any and couldn’t get at the shops for a decent price but I’ll add this in next time) and capers (I do not like capers).

I also used brown lentils as opposed to green. I had brown lentils in the cupboard so I used that rather than buy a new packet of green. It also has the same nutritional value so you’re not losing out on anything. 

Overall this salad is packed with goodness and can serve as a meal on it’s own. It’s really filling so if you’re going to have it as a side dish it’s going to serve quite a number of people so make it when you’re feeding a crowd. Or it can be a week of work lunches. 

Bulgur and lentil salad
A wholesome, filling, and delicious salad.
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 ½ cup bulgur wheat, cooked
  2. 1 cup brown lentils, cooked
  3. ½ red onion, finely diced
  4. 1 large carrot, grated
  5. Small bunch coriander, chopped
  6. Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  7. 3 tablespoons flaked almonds
  8. 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  9. ½ cup dried cranberries
Dressing
  1. 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  2. 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive
  3. Salt and pepper to taste
Topping
  1. 1 cup double cream yoghurt
  2. ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  3. 1 tablespoon honey
Instructions
  1. Combine cooked lentils, cooked bulgur wheat, almonds, pine nuts, cranberries and prepared vegetables in a bowl.
  2. Whisk together ingredients for dressing and pour over the vegetables, lentils and bulgur wheat. Mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, cumin and honey.
  4. Place salad into a serving bowl or onto serving platter. Top with yoghurt mix and sprinkle with toasted almonds and cranberries.
  5. Enjoy!
From My Fingertips http://www.frommyfingertips.com/

Broccoli salad

As the days get cooler, I prefer a heartier salad to accompany my proteins instead of having something leaf-based. 

That’s why this broccoli salad was a great side to the roast chicken I cooked for dinner. It also is nice as a braai salad or it can be eaten on it’s own as a scrumptious work lunch or meat-free dinner option. 

I added dried cranberries for a little tartness, but you can add raisins too if you’d like something a little sweeter in it. Or leave it our altogether. As I always say recipes are a guide and you can play around and adapt it to suit your own tastes.

Enjoy!

Broccoli salad
Serves 4
A quick and easy salad. Have it as a full meal or a side.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
20 min
Salad
  1. 1 head of broccoli, steamed and chopped
  2. 1 large carrot, pealed and grated
  3. half a red onion, diced
  4. 1/4 cup walnuts, crushed
  5. 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  6. 100g strong cheddar cheese cubed
Dressing
  1. 1 tbsp sour cream
  2. 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  3. 2 tbsp white grape vinegar
  4. 2 tbsp sugar
  5. salt
  6. pepper
Instructions
  1. Steam broccoli and then chop into small pieces.
  2. Add steamed broccoli into bowl and mix with all other vegetables, nuts, and cheese.
  3. Whisk dressing ingredients together.
  4. Pour dressing over salad when serving.
From My Fingertips http://www.frommyfingertips.com/

Appetisers: Zucchini and feta fritters (Mücver)

I love cooking and trying foods inspired by the places I visit. My most recent holiday was to Turkey and on my second night in Cappadocia we dined at an amazing restaurant called Topdeck cave restaurant (I’ll review this separately). On the mezze plate was a zucchini fritter I just knew I had to try making when I came home. 

From the recipes on the web, I saw the main herbs used to flavour it are parsley, mint, and dill. I didn’t have dill so I excluded that from this recipe. Still turned out tasty so you can totally add it in or leave it out when you make yours. 

I also added some chilli. Chilli isn’t commonly used in Turkish cuisine but it is in mine. This addition is optional so if you know kids are going to eat then don’t add it in. I also always have lemons in my fruit bowl so added the zest of half a lemon. I find lemon and zucchini a match made in heaven. 

Fritter batter

It’s tasty, moreish, and light. 

Try my recipe and let me know how it turns out. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s quite forgiving. You can adapt it to suit your own tastes.

Zucchini and feta fritters (Mücver)
A tasty and light fritter that will keep you coming back for more
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Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 medium zucchinis, grated
  2. 3 eggs
  3. Half a red onion, diced
  4. 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  5. 1 clove garlic, minced
  6. Handful of parsley
  7. Handful of coriander
  8. Tablespoon of mint
  9. 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  10. 1.5 cups flour
  11. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  12. 1 tsp cumin
  13. Salt
  14. Pepper
  15. Oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Grate zucchini, add to colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow it to sit for a bit.
  2. After 10 to 15 minutes, squeeze the excess moisture out of the zucchini and add this to a mixing bowl.
  3. Add in the onion, chilli, herbs, feta, seasoning and combine.
  4. Mix in the eggs and then slowly add in the flour and baking powder until a nice batter is formed.
  5. Heat some oil in a pan to shallow fry.
  6. Drop tablespoon fulls into the oil and fry until golden on each side.
  7. Serve with yogurt or dipping sauce of your choice.
Notes
  1. Red onion can be substituted for spring onion.
  2. Dill can replace coriander.
  3. Chilli is optional.
From My Fingertips http://www.frommyfingertips.com/