Keeping your finger on the pulse

Shorbat adas, the perfect dish to warm your soul

Being an avid food blogger I need to keep my finger on the pulse of all things foodie. While these cold snaps and polar fronts stay with us, soup is on my radar, and everywhere I look, phone, computer, point of sale, I am being told lentils. Pulses make just the sort of starchy, comforting bowls of broth we need to survive these cold snaps of tail end winter, and none more so than red, split lentils. Their obliging habit of disintegrating into a soup and providing it with backbone and breadth make them a boon companion for the cook. There are lentil soup recipes and there are lentil soup recipes but this one for me beats them all. Pulses are a staple of the Mediterranean diet (and all heritage diets for that matter!) and have been used for millennia to add flavour and texture to any number of dishes, including soups and stews. Pulses are not just good for people, they’re also good for the earth.  Consuming pulses contributes to environmental sustainability, as legume crops require very little nitrogen-based fertilizer to grow, have a small carbon footprint, increase soil health, and use less water than other crops. Lentil soup is a dish you can find in most countries around the world, from Scotland to China. But few places hold it in such high regard as in the Middle East, where it's known as shorbat adas. The history of the lentil goes back to the dawn of civilisation and, as a result, the region takes pride in being home to so many varieties of this humble dish. Recipes will vary from one household to the next, but the concept of it is very simple. First a stew is made using an assortment of fresh vegetables and lentils. When the lentils are soft and tender they are blended into the broth with the vegetables until a smooth and creamy soup forms. Fried vermicelli or fried bread croutons can then be added to the soup to give some textural contrast. This one takes inspiration from the Indian subcontinent, using spices such as turmeric and cumin, these warm spices will keep you warm until summer comes along.Here´s hoping. 

Shorbat adas ( middle eastern Lentil soup )
Serves 4-6
Preparation and cooking time: 1 hour 

1.25L vegetable stock (you can also use chicken, meat or water. Or a good-quality stock cube)
250g (1/2 lb) red split lentils
150g (5 1/4 oz) carrots (about 1 large or 2 medium)
1 brown onion
1 tomato
4-6 garlic cloves
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chilli powder (cayenne or leave it out if you don’t like it too spicy)

Peel and slice your carrots into large chunks about 1 cm or 1/2 an inch thick
Peel your onion, remove the root and top and slice into quarters
Wash your tomato and slice into quarters, the skin will be removed later on once boiled as it’s a lot easier
Peel your garlic cloves, mince 2 of them and set aside, the rest should be crushed slightly with your hand until they have just broken open
Add your chopped vegetables, the lentils and crushed garlic to a large stock pot
Add your stock or water to the pot as well as 1 teaspoon of cumin, turn the heat up to high and bring the pot to a boil
When the pot boils, retrieve the tomato quarters and peel their skin, then add them back to the pot
Turn the heat down to low and allow the soup to simmer for 45 minutes. When done simmering, the carrots should be cooked through and the lentils should be swollen and mushy
Using a hand or stand blender (be careful when blending hot liquids), blend the soup and all the vegetable pieces into a uniformly smooth mixture. Once blended it will have a creamy texture. Remove the soup from the heat and set aside
In a small pot add 1/2 a tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat and add the 2 minced garlic cloves. Fry the garlic for about 30 seconds then add the remaining cumin
Fry the garlic and cumin for another 15 seconds then add the vinegar
Mix and fry for 15 more seconds and pour the garlic mixture into the lentil soup
Add salt, pepper and chilli powder then mix the soup well. Taste your soup and check for seasoning. You may need to add another 1/2 tsp of salt if your stock is low in sodium, or add more chilli powder if you'd like it spicier.

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