Have you ever been inspired by a recipe from a fiction/novel. Well I have been. Countless times. The first of the recipes to have caught my attention was the Hot Chocolate, recipe from Joanne Harris’ Chocolat. I simply fell in love with the dark rich liquid, so seductive, sensuous and decadent. I could live the rest of my life drinking this liquid. Well man does not live by hot chocolate alone; so moving on.
This image is not mine ( I returned the book yesterday) Taken from Betterworld Books
Lately, I have been reading Jason Goodwin’s An Evil Eye. This the third of his five book series, that a friend recommended. A mystery thriller set in Istanbul under the Ottoman Turks finds his series hero, the eunuch Yashim, solving the deep dark mysteries of the Turkish Harem. He is well suited for , as a eunuch, he is one of the few outsiders to have access to this secret world. From a body bearing a strange tattoos to secret Russian organisation along with mysterious illness the Harem Yashim has a lot on his plate. On the larger political scene, Turkey the “Sick Man of Europe” is already in decline and the Great Powers are waiting to pounce.
Amongst all this turmoil and upheaval, Yashim has his way of relaxation; cooking that is. Even in the most complex and difficult situation Yashim manages to whip up some of the most lip smacking delicacies. The one I am writing about is a simple lentil soup from the Royal Kitchens of the Sultan. Packed with flavour and goodness, it will leave you wanting for more. I mean not just the soup. The best thing I like about Jason Goodwin’s Yashim is that, he does not measure his ingredients, that kind of leaves a lot to you, as in you can gauge ans cook. Something I have learnt from growing up from my mother and grandmother.
Lentil Soup from the Sultan’s Kitchen ( Adapted from An Evil Eye by Jason Goodwin) Though I have made certain changes, the basic recipe is on page 203 of the book. Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup or mixed lentils ( I used red lentils and golden gram i.e. masoor and moong dal)
- Onion – 1 medium sized finely chopped
- garlic 3 cloves chopped
- green chillies -2/3 sliced ( or you can use one Jalapeno, de seeded)
- Carrots- I had baby carrots diced ( 2 medium sized should be fine)
- Cabbage 1/4th of a big round head thinly sliced
- Leek 1 medium sliced ( if no leek use any other like bell peppers, spinach , choice is endless)
- cumin powder- 1 teaspoon
- coriander powder- 1teaspoon
- Paprika – 1teaspoon
- vegetable stock- 4 cups ( i had a store bought carton, you can use the stock cubes as well)
- freshly ground pepper- 2 teaspoon
- salt as per taste
- chopped parsley
- lime juice
- Bay leaves- 2
- olive oil 1table spoon
- Butter ( nob)
- red chilly flakes (optional)
- We start by heating a pan/ stock pot to medium heat with the oilve oil and the butter. Next we add the finely chopped garlic and bay leaves. Once they begin to change the color add the onions, leek and the chillies/ jalapeno. Continue to saute till the onions go limp.
- Now add the carrots, cabbages and the lentil mix and toss the vegetables around for about 2-3 mins. Next throw in the cumin, coriander and paprika powder and mix well.
- Finally, add the vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Cover ans let the liquid simmer at medium to low heat for about 15-20 mins, by then the vegetables would be nice and soft . Finally, remove the cover and bring the soup to a boil. Now if you are using spinach, this is the time to add them, It will take about a min or so to wilt the spinach.
- Finish it off by adding a teaspoon or so ( 1 whole lime ) juice and chopped parsley leaves along with some red chilly flakes ( this is optional) and you are good to go..
- If using bell pepper, I suggest, in a separate skillet/ pan stir fry the peppers so that the rawness is no longer there and just before you finish off the soup with the parsley and lime juice, add the peppers, this way they will retain their crunchiness.