Orthodox Mission – Hyde Park, Chicago

Mercemek (Turkish Red Lentil Soup) by Claire Roosien

It’s actually called Mercemek Corbesi; Mercemek just means “red lentil” in Turkish.

Also, it’s a nice quick recipe too – once you get it down, it should take about 40 minutes, and most of that is cooking time (You can sit in the kitchen with a book and get up to stir occasionally, you busy students you).

  • olive oil
  • one small/ medium onion, minced
  • one carrot, chopped
  • tomato paste
  • salt
  • red lentils
  • fresh lemon juice
  • vegetable stock or water (I usually use water, and it’s just fine.  Sometimes I add vegetable bouillon for flavor)
  • dried mint (optional)

This soup is not a rocket science – don’t worry about proportions too much; just go with what feels right :)

Saute the onion and carrot in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are transparent.  Add a couple cups of red lentils, washed and picked over, and saute them for a couple minutes with the veggies.

Cover everything with water or stock – the liquid should cover everything and then some.  Add salt to taste (about a teaspoon to start).  Cook until the lentils are soft – about 20 minutes.  Watch the soup the whole time, and stir it regularly; if it starts to scorch or get too dry, add more water.  Once everything is cooked, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature.  Blend everything until fully pureed, and reheat whenever you want to eat it, adding salt to taste.  Fresh lemon juice squeezed on each bowl really makes this delicious.  Turks traditionally eat it with a bit of dried mint as well; I don’t like it, but it’s another good way to make the flavor more interesting.

Toward the end of the cooking, add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste (or less of the kind in the tube, which I like because it keeps indefinitely in the fridge, unlike the canned kind).  It adds a nice interesting flavor and also makes the color more rich.

In college I would make a big pot of this soup and eat it all week long – it keeps very well.  It can also be made without oil – just skip the sauteing.

Claire Roosien