About this Recipe
An immortal recipe with staff-of-life kind of ingredients, this is a classic Middle Eastern red lentil soup. Children since biblical times have grown up on shorbat adas. Recipes in the Arabian Peninsula make do with one or two hardy vegetables in the lentil-rice mix. Richer variations include garlic, leeks, celery, squash, potatoes, carrots — and more recently — even tomatoes.
This hearty soup is restorative and full of gut goodness. Red lentils are rich in soluble dietary fiber, protein, and plant compounds called phytochemicals, which help stabilize blood sugars and improve digestive, immune and cardiovascular health. A dash of spices – turmeric, clove, cumin and black pepper amp up the nutrient absorption and provide antimicrobial benefits.
- 1 Tbsp (14 g) salted butter
- 1 Tbsp (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (225 g) large onion, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 (140 g) large carrot, diced
- 1½ cups (285 g) split red lentils, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
- 2 Tbsp (25 g) unpolished rice, any variety, washed
- 5 cups (1.2 L) water
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 Tbsp (45 ml) milk (optional)
- A few springs of fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1 lemon
Step 1In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, add the onions.
Step 2Sweat the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the bay leaf and clove; sauté for a minute. Then add the turmeric, cumin, and coriander and sauté for another minute. Add the carrots (or any other vegetables of your choice) and give a good stir.
Step 3Add the lentils, rice, and water, and stir in 1 tsp salt. Partly cover the pot and cook over low heat until both the lentils and rice are completely tender (mushy even), stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. If it’s too thick for you, add more water.
Step 4Season with freshly ground pepper and add salt to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the warm milk (if using). For a creamier version, blend the soup with an immersion blender (or in a blender). This is best done once the soup has cooled down. Heat again just before serving. Serve warm, garnished with cilantro or parsley and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.
Level Up: Play with spices: add saffron or safflower for fragrance and a deeper orange color. Use vegetable (or chicken) stock instead of water or drop in a stock cube for more flavor. But nothing beats the smoky, sour, umami flavor from dried limes, a feature in Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates versions.
Try it with: Leftover bread, toasted crisp papadums, or crackers
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