Ezo Gelin Çorbası – Red Lentil Soup

Cem Yucesoy, our chief local guide and location manager in Turkey – whom many of you have met on our gulet cruises and tours – has sent in this recipe for another Turkish classic, a delightful and comforting soup, known as Ezo Gelin Çorbası or the Soup of Ezo the Bride.

The origins of its somewhat unusual name are shrouded in mystery, but there is general agreement that it refers to an actual person who was alive in the first half of the twentieth century, remembered in folk tales and songs, and whose story was a sad one. It seems to be the case that this Ezo died more or less soon after being married, but the exact reason is unclear: either she was forced to marry someone other than the man she loved and subsequently succumbed to a broken heart, or she was married to a man from far away and thus had to leave her homeland to join him (probably in Syria), eventually perishing from homesickness.

If we accept the latter version, we can easily imagine her trying to conjure up the memory of better days and beloved places by preparing the soup that was to later bear her name. In a less poignant spirit, those of us stuck in wintry climes (there is a constant and chilly drizzle outside the window as I am writing this) may enjoy it as a reminder of the beauty, the aromas and the flavours of the Mediterranean, to think back of past adventures and look forward to future ones.

Ezo Gelin Çorbası – Ingredients (serves: 4):

8 tablespoons of red lentils, washed
2 tablespoons of fine bulgur (cracked wheat)
1 tablespoon of rice
1 medium-sized onion
1 tablespoon of butter (no, not margarine)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of dried mint (unless you have fresh mint handy)
Salt
Red pepper flakes (if your local supermarket does not stock these, try a Turkish, Arab or Italian delicatessen – if that’s to no avail, use a little tabasco)

Ezo Gelin Çorbası – Preparation:

Start by peeling and dicing the onion (relatively finely), while heating up the butter in a saucepan at medium temperature. Once it has melted, fry the onion until it starts to become glassy and softens, then mix in the tomato paste and continue frying for another minute. Pour in about 1.5 litres of water, add the lentils, bulgur and rice, give everything a good stir and raise the temperature.

Once the mixture begins to boil, turn it down to a low heat and put the lid on the saucepan. Leave the soup to simmer until all the ingredients are soft – it should take between 30 and 45 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally and do check if the mixture is drying out – in which case add some extra (hot) water. When the texture is just about right, season with salt and mint, as well as with the red pepper, to your own taste. If you have met Cem, you’ll know that he loves things fiery, regularly challenging others to hot pepper eating competitions, as such he is extremely liberal with the sprinkling of the red pepper. Let the soup boil for another five minutes and serve it hot, with a slice of lemon and some good fresh bread.

Ezo Gelin Çorbası is usually served as it is, which results in a relatively thick and satisfying soupy texture. If you prefer you can pass the soup through a sieve or food mill before serving, to give a more strained but very creamy texture and a more striking orange colour. Try if you like, but we recommend you start with the basic recipe first.