This is my version of the oh so humble Turkish lentil soup that can be found in every worker's lunch place (esnaf lokantasi). It is cheap, wholesome and delicious. I never grow tired of lentil soup, especially on a cold winter day. Sometimes I vary the veggies I put in depending on my mood. The croutons can be whipped up in no time from day-old bread and the spiced red pepper flakes (pul biber) found here in Turkey, but Spanish smoked paprika or any chili powder will do. —Ulli Allmendinger
red pepper, diced
home-made vegetable (from scraps) or chicken broth
butter or ghee
day-old good bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
butter or ghee
Turkish red pepper flakes (Spanish smoked paprika also works wonderfully)
Rinse red lentils and soak in water for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.
Add lentils, chopped onion, red pepper, bay leaf and 6 cups of broth of your choice to a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are beginning to dissolve.
Remove bay leaf and puree soup in a blender or with a hand-blender until fine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
In a small pan, melt butter, then add mint and saute for a few seconds. Turn off heat and set aside.
For the croutons, melt butter with red pepper flakes, then add bread cubes and fry in the pan until reddish golden.
Serve the soup drizzled with minted butter, a few spicy croutons and a squeeze of lemon. Afiyet olsun!