Egyptian Lentil Soup

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Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Serves

    4

    Generous Portions

Appears in

Fogg’s journey continues on towards Port Said and the mouth of the Suez Canal aboard the steamship Mongolia. I imagine Fogg on a cold October day, with the coast of Egypt in sight, warming his hands with a steaming bowl of soup as he looks over to the minarets on the shore, which ‘loomed above the houses in the pale rays of the sun’. I was sitting aboard the ancient Thelginos, sailing a sunset sea to Mount Athos, when Andy (of Arabia) Harris first fed me this delicious soup. The next time I supped on it I was watching dhows leave a Bahrain seaport in the late evening mists on their way to their shrimp catch.

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 475ml/16fl oz chicken stock
  • 200g/7oz dried red lentils, washed and checked for stones
  • 475ml/16fl oz water
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Caramelized Onions

  • 4 or 5 onions, cut into small wedges
  • Salt
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • Fresh thyme leaves (optional)

Method

Melt the butter in a large pan and add the carrots, garlic, celery, onions and bay leaf. Cook gently on a medium heat until the onions are soft and golden.

When the vegetables are tender, add the tomato, spices, chicken stock and lentils. Pour in the water, bring to a gentle simmer, cover the pan with a lid and leave for about 30–40 minutes, until the lentils are soft. Take the pan off the heat.

For a smooth soup, you should give it a good whiz in a blender. If you prefer more texture, just give the ingredients a gentle mash with a fork. If you do choose to blend, pour the soup back into the pan when smooth. Either way, bring it back to the boil, add salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly for a few minutes, stirring constantly.

Serve topped with a small hill of caramelized onions. Onions are naturally sweet, and easily melt down to a sticky caramelization. Just throw the onion wedges into a pan with a pinch of salt, and cook on a medium heat until they turn a glistening golden brown. Serve them as they are, or try adding a splash of balsamic and a sprinkling of fresh thyme leaves at the end. Either way, the onions are a yummy garnish for a yummy soup.

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