Mini Giant of the Kitchen: The Lentil


The most abundant of the legumes, the lentil adorns tables in the form of steaming hot soup, especially in winter. In fact, it’s there in the pantry all the time, summer and winter. Its yellow version likened to topaz, its red to the ruby and its green variety to the emerald in Ottoman poetry, it was the jewel of the palace kitchen. In Middle Eastern cookery it is the constant companion of rice. Lentil soup is even mentioned in the works of Mevlana.

Each one of these mini-giant grains is at the same time a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals. What’s more, with its innumerable benefits the lentil is healthy and nourishing as well as filling. High in nutritional value and plant proteins, it strengthens mind and body, fortifies the immune system, supplies iron, and overcomes tiredness by strengthening the heart and raising one’s energy level. Readily found everywhere, lentils are easy to grow and store and not hard to cook either, adding delicious flavor and aroma to any dish in which they are used. Lentils appear in many different guises in everything from meat dishes and stews to soups, salads and lentil kofta. Pureed yellow lentils with their starchy, nutty taste, salads and soups of red lentils with their high starch content, and the highly popular green lentil stews and salads are just some of the many forms in which lentils appear on our tables.

Appearing deceptively ordinary due to their frequent use, lentils are now gracing our tables in new and different innovative recipes. Lentil soup, for example, a classic dish going back centuries, is being reinterpreted, and lentil kofta now dazzles the eye in shades of topaz, ruby and emerald.

Hummus with lentils
140 g tahina, 300 g yellow lentils, 30 ml olive oil,
1 1/2 tsp cumin, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped,
1 1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of white pepper, 90 g ‘süzme’ (strained) yoghurt, juice of 2 lemons, 600 ml water.

Ingredients for the Flat Bread:
200 g flour, 25 ml olive oil, 10 g fresh yeast, 2 tsp sugar, 125 ml warm water, 25 ml milk, salt.

Boil the lentils in water. When thoroughly tender, set aside. Add the remaining ingredients and puree in a blender.

PREPATION OF the Flat Bread:
Mix the yeast with the water, milk, olive oil and sugar at room temperature. Add the flour slowly, mixing after each addition. Knead the mixture well to form a dough. Add the salt last. Divide into small portions, cover and let rise in a damp place. When the dough has risen, cook on both sides over very low heat in a skillet lightly greased with olive oil.

Three-color Lentil Kofta
Ingredients for the yellow lentil kofta: 100 g yellow lentils, 325 ml water, 20 g fine bulgur, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp sumac, 1 tsp pepper paste, 1.5 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp flat-leaf parsley finely chopped, 2.5 tsp chives, finely chopped.

Ingredients for the red lentil kofta: 100 g red lentils,
300 ml water, 20 g fine bulgur, 2 1/2 tsp flat-lear parsley finely chopped, 3 tsp chives finely chopped, 2 tsp lemon juice,
1/2 tsp pepper paste, 1/2 salt, 2 tsp sour pomegranate syrup, 1/2 tsp sumac.

Ingredients for the green lentil kofta: 100 g green lentils,
425 ml water, 20 g bulgur, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp flat-leaf parsley finely chopped, 2 1/2 tsp olive oil, 21/2 tsp sunflower oil,
2 g black pepper, 2 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp fresh dill, 1/2 tsp sumac.

Cook the lentils of each color separately until completely tender. Remove from the heat and add the bulgur. Mix well and let cool. Add the remaining ingredients to each mixture, mix well, divide into portions and serve.

Green Lentil Soup with Pastırma
and Dried Tomatoes

300 g green lentils, 250 g thinly sliced pastırma,
100 g grated potatoes, 80 g grated carrots,
100 g onions finely chopped, 1 liter chicken stock.
1/2 tsp allspice, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes,
1/2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp lemon juice, 600 ml water,
1/2 tsp salt, a pinch of black pepper, 1 tbsp sunflower oil, 3 tbsp dried tomatoes, cubed and soaked in water for 24 hours.

Rinse and drain the lentils. Sauté the pastırma slices lightly in sunflower oil and set aside. In the same oil, brown the onions, potatoes and carrots by turns. Add the green lentils. Add the chicken stock and water and simmer over low heat until the lentils are tender. Add the remaining spices and puree in a blender. Transfer to bowls. Garnish with the crisp pastırma and dried tomatoes before serving.