This healthy and vegetarian Middle Eastern lentil soup is enjoyed in households and restaurants across the Levant and the Middle East and comes in endless varieties. Tasty and extremely easy to make, today’s red lentils recipe is made with simple, plant-based ingredients like olive oil, onions, and rice. Serve this flavourful soup in the winter as an accompaniment to meat-based dishes like “Kibbeh.” And don’t forget a squeeze of lemon just before eating to add a zesty Levantine twist to your soup!
Before meeting my husband, I used to add veggies, cumin and sometimes turmeric to my lentil soup, but not anymore! For a pristine and velvety soup that has a straightforward yet extremely delectable taste, you must try this recipe!
This particular recipe is actually from the Eastern Mediterranean country of Syria. Although there are many variations on the lentil-soup-theme in the Middle East, this is the recipe that resonates most with my husband’s Italian rationale.
“Simple Ingredients, Maximum Taste”
You see, the Italians like to use ingredients that are simple, flavourful, fresh, whole, and natural, making the Italian cuisine one of the world’s healthiest diets. As an aficionado of Mediterranean food, my husband has collected recipes over the years from across the Levant that share the Italian cooking philosophy of “simple ingredients, maximum taste.”
With this in mind, the recipes we both make in our multi-cultural Mediterranean kitchen, including the ones in my Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes blog series, adhere to this food philosophy. In all honesty, this has been a real game-changer for me as someone who used to add lots of spices to my food and who now enjoys more straightforward Mediterranean flavours, with just the necessary spices needed to uplift the taste sensation.
That being the case, my cooking has changed drastically ever since meeting my hubby. No more unnecessary spices that drown the main ingredients of the dish; let the principle ingredients shine! I’ve also learnt that with just a few ingredients you can create a truly sublime culinary experience. In fact, this recipe is a very good case in point. Try it and let me know what you think!
Dishes that Pair Perfectly with Middle Eastern Lentil Soup
Often served as an entrée during the Holy Month of Ramadan, or in chilly winter months, this soup can also be served in the summer with delicious homemade “Kibbeh” (minced meat and bulgur shells stuffed with a filling of gently fried meat, onions and pine nuts), and a side dish of “Mutabbal.”
Furthermore, other dishes that go well with lentil soup include tasty treats like the meat-filled Turkish “Borek” (known as “Burak” in Lebanon and the Levant). Alternatively, you can serve this soup as an accompaniment to Middle Eastern meat-based flatbreads and pies like Turkish “Lahmacun” (a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat), “Sfeeha” (Lebanese and Syrian flatbreads with minced-meat topping) and “Lahm bi Ajeen” (a Syrian-Lebanese filo pie topped with minced-meat and pine nuts).
For a more filling meal, try serving this Middle Eastern lentil soup with fresh, baked, or fried pita bread squares on the side. Also, don’t forget a squeeze of lemon to add a zesty tang.
Side note: Middle Eastern households usually cut pita bread chips into squares and dip them into the bowl right before eating the soup. Interestingly enough, food bloggers from Europe and the US tend to cut the pita bread into triangles. I’ve always wondered why!
Shorabet Adas: The Recipe
Enjoy this easy and filling red lentil soup as a side dish with meat-based pastry. Many Levantine gastronomes like to add a squeeze of lemon to the soup just after serving. Vegetarians and vegans can also enjoy this dish with fresh, baked, or fried pita bread squares or triangles.
Shorabet Adas: Middle Eastern Lentil Soup
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1½ tbsp olive oil
- 1½ cups red lentils
- 4 cups water
- 2 tbsp short-grain rice
- A pinch of salt to taste
- Heat olive oil in a pan and gently sauté the chopped onions for 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in the lentils then add the water and wait for it to boil over medium-high heat.
- After it's boiled, turn down the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes over medium-low heat.
- Stir the soup regularly to make sure the lentils are evenly cooked and to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pot.
- Once the lentils are well-cooked, add the rice and wait for a few more minutes until the rice is cooked.
- Add a pinch of salt to taste.
- To create a velvety texture, stir the soup with a silicon whisk until all ingredients are homogenous and well combined.
- Serve with pita bread and a slice of fresh lemon on the side.
I treat my illustrated blog as an ongoing project. I feel it’s where I get the chance to revisit some of the illustrations I’ve done in the past and that I’m no longer quite happy with. So, on 24 September 2018, I created a new food illustration for this lentil soup recipe, as seen at the beginning of this post. Meanwhile, the illustrations seen below were posted originally on 24 July 2017. I’ve always regarded them as “draft ideas” that bring in the Middle Eastern atmosphere to the artworks, however not as fully-realised as I would have liked them to be. That’s why I re-did the artwork, and I must say, I’m much happier with the new illustration!
Illustrated Recipe + Middle Eastern Food illustration | These illustrations are part of the Illustrated Middle Eastern Recipes blog series on “The Illustration Blog of a Nomadic Mediterranean Foodie” by illustrator and artist Yaansoon