So let’s see if we can get this experiment started. I wanted to share this super-simple recipe for lentil soup, in part because it’s inspired by Turkish cuisine (which in its purest form has absolutely nothing to do with döner!) Mercimek çorbasi, like so many other Turkish dishes, is about simplicity and good ingredients. Which for our purposes, translates to yummy food for not a whole lot of cash.
The two caveats with this recipe, in light of the rules: there are spices involved that you might not already have in your spice rack, but that are easy to come by. HIB recommends getting your bulk spices at an Asiamarkt or local Turkish grocery, as they’re way cheaper and much fresher than the sort you’d find at an Extra or Rewe.
Also, a drizzle of decent olive oil on the soup is a nice touch before serving; if you don’t already have a bottle around, a dollop of yogurt will also do.
The shopping list:
Red lentils (Rote linsen or mercimek, in Turkish) — comes often in 500g packs; prices range from 1.75 to 2.75 Euro for organic varieties.
Onions — bulk (non-organic) is cheaper; 2 kg runs from 79 cents to over 1 Euro.
Bouillon — A six-pack of Gemusebrühe (organic, non-MSG) runs around 1.19 Euro.
Lemon — I bought an organic three-pack for 1.39 Euro; singles might be cheaper.
Turkish bread — Ranges from 1 to 1.50 Euro for a large round or two smaller rounds. You can find flatbread at Turkish markets, corner stores, or sometimes at the “Mediterranean” counter at Kaiser’s.
Spices: cumin (Kreuzkümmel), paprika and chili flakes. Most packs of these (at Turkish or at a local Asiamarkt) will run from 99 cents to 1.50, and last for months.
Serves TWO: 1 cup red lentils (or about 160-170g); 1 onion, minced fine; 1/2 bouillon cube, or to taste; 1 1/2 tsp. cumin; 1 tsp. paprika; 1 tsp. chili flakes, or to taste; lemon; S&P; olive oil (or yogurt.)
Cook minced onion in a deep soup pot over medium heat until slightly wilted, 2-3 minutes; add spices and heat for one minute; add lentils and cover with water, enough so there’s just less than twice as much water as lentils in the pot. Crumble bouillon cube and stir to combine. Bring to a low boil, turn down the heat slightly, and cook until the lentils have fallen apart and the soup is thickened, but still fluid. (This takes from 20 to 30 minutes.) Taste and adjust seasonings if needed; remove from heat and puree in a blender or in the pot with a hand blender. (If you don’t have a blending thing, just mince the onion super-fine at the start; the lentils practically blend themselves as they cook.) Put back on the heat and stir for a minute or two, add a bit of pepper and salt, if desired. Ladle into bowls; cut a lemon in half and squeeze juice over each bowl; drizzle with olive oil or yogurt. Eat with Turkish bread (even nicer when crisped in the oven.)
1/3 of a packet of 500g of red lentils @ 2.75 Euro per packet = 92 cents for two people
1 onion from a 2 kg bag @ 0.79 Euro per bag = 4 cents for two people
1/2-1 bouillon cube from a 6-pack box @ 1.19 per box = 20 cents for two people
Turkish bread loaf @ 1.50 per loaf = 1.50 Euro for two people
1 lemon from a 3-lemon bag @ 1.39 per bag = 46 cents for two people
Meal cost for two people (not including spices) = 3.12 Euro, or 1.56 per person.
This works great for lunch, can be doubled easily and cooks quickly for those who like the bean soup but hate the soaking-and-waiting part. You could also add carrots; cooked rice; diced tomatoes (although out of season, that’s a pricey addition — consider tomato paste).
Since we’re still under our 2.50 Euro limit per head, you could add a side green salad to the soup for more veg, and a more complete meal.