Quince-Flavored Tarhana Soup with Chickpeas and Paprika Sizzle

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

Tarhana is a rustic cereal with a gentle, sour flavor, which comes from the addition of, among other things, yogurt, soured milk, or yeast. There are many versions of rustic pasta in the eastern Mediterranean with different combinations of grains and flavorings.

Most of the tarhana soups I’ve tasted—even in Turkey, where they are a winter evening staple—have been filling and nutritious, but also somewhat bland. Not so this version from the Black Sea town of Amasra. It is, in my opinion, absolutely wonderful.


  • ½ cup quince-flavored tarhana
  • 1 dried New Mexican chile
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 ounces lamb shoulder meat, trimmed of excess fat and erisde, and cut into ¼ - inch dice (½ cup)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups meat stock
  • ½ cup cooked chickpeas, drained
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Turkish red pepper flakes (see Mail Order Sources)


  1. Soak the tarhana in 2 cups water for a few hours, or until soft. Drain and gently squeeze out the excess moisture.
  2. About 1 hour before serving, soak the chile in warm water until soft, about 30 minutes. Stem and seed the chile; cut it into shreds.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a heavy saucepan. Add the meat and cook over medium heat, turning, until lightly browned on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste and fry for an instant. Stir in the chile pepper, drained tarhana, and meat stock. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the drained chickpeas and cook 5 more minutes. Thin with water to a nice soupy consistency. Correct the seasoning with salt to taste.
  6. Just before serving, in a small pan or skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the red pepper and 1 teaspoon tomato paste; heat until sizzling. Dilute with 1 teaspoon water and pour over the soup in swirls. Cover, wait 5 minutes, and bring to the table. Serve right from the pot.