I am little nervous every time I am cooking something new for somebody new. Which happens all the time. Because I think it is boring to cook the same thing over and over again. And I always find new hungry people to feed. My nervousness grows as I cook in different settings too: what works at the professional kitchen of Zeliha Hanım in Sapanca may not suit my home kitchen in Istanbul. So every time I keep thinking: Will the recipe (that I tested five times in other settings) work? Will people (who approved on many other occasions) like the dish?
I feel the same about my Istanbul food walking tours. I have a program which I have delivered about a hundred times. Great customer feedback serves as a solid proof of my capability. Yet I am so anxious that before every tour I spend my morning commute walking the walk in my mind. It is just like putting a dish you made on the table and waiting for the comments with a sinking heart.. How can you be sure? Every customer, every tour is different. Today we start earlier, from a different meeting point; the groups is larger than I usually do; there is a professional chef, food writer and a gluten-free eating person on board; it is the third day of Kurban Bayram, first day of the new year, Sunday.
I have figured I cannot fight this anxiousness with numbers. It is not a matter of confidence which you build through extensive practice. Cooking a dish or making a walking tour over and over again does not eliminate anxiousness of getting started with another dish or a tour. This anxiousness is excitement about what I do and desire to treat my customers to the best. This is how I learn and how I can inspire other people – by being excited and somewhat anxious.
Being anxious means pouring a bit of your heart out. It is a risky affair of course because a disapproval of your effort will definitely heart more. But with a bit of your heart a dish or a tour cannot go wrong.
I thought of how I can cheer up the crew here at Sapanca as the customers are less, days are shorter and everyone seats in their own rooms in front of the computers and TVs. A bowl of hot hearty soup with a touch of bright color and freshness, generous loaf of the countryside bread from our baker and a steaming teapot at the long communal table. I was worried a lot about turning this Turkish classic red lentil soup to the all-Turkish crew here. But tell me – how can you go wrong with such intentions, a bit of your heart .. and a good recipe?
Fantastic Winter Red Lentil Soup (Ezogelin çorbasi)
Hearty red lentil soup (if prepared with love and care) can warm up and bring cheer to any house on a cold winter day.
Source: Adapted from The Sultan’s Kitchen by Özcan Ozan
Prep Time: 5 Min
Cook Time: 45 Min
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 small onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 small tomato peeled and finely chopped
- 1⁄2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 8 tbsp red lentils
- 2 tbsp long-grain rice
- 9 cups boiling water or stock
- 2.5 tbsp fine bulgur
- 1⁄2 tsp dried mint
- 1 tbsp salt
- fresh parsley for serving
- lemon wedges for serving
- In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes, or until tender yet not brown. Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomato, red pepper flakes, lentils and rice – mix well and then add 5 cups boiling water. Cover and bring to boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils fall apart. After about 20 minutes check the soup to make sure lentils do not stick to the bottom of the saucepan – stir it with a large whisk.
- After 10 more minutes (30 minutes of cooking in total) stir the soup with a large whisk, add 4 cups boiling water, bulgur, dried mint and salt. Cook for another 10 minutes stirring with the whisk occasionally.
- Serve immediately – sprinkle some fresh parsley on top and lemon wedges on the side.