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Shorba means soup in Arabic. Ads means lentils, so shorbat ads translates literally into soup of lentils.
This popular soup is a Ramadan staple and will be found at Iftar (the daily meal of breaking the fast during Ramadan) tables quite frequently in the Arab world. It is a beautiful, creamy, yellow soup that is both hearty and healthy. It is naturally vegetarian and vegan, has virtually no fat, is gluten free, and is full of heart healthy fiber and vegetables. So almost every diet will love incorporating this dish.
The velvety texture might surprise you because there is no fat, milk, or cream added. The orange lentils, along with the aromatic root vegetables of carrot, onion, and garlic are what scent and flavor this delicious soup. I’ve already discussed what a fantastic legume lentils are for your diet in my recipe for lentil pilaf, and you can read more health benefits here. This creamy lentil soup is often found in many Middle Eastern restaurants nowadays, and while the flavors can vary, this is surely going to be the best recipe.
This recipe comes straight from my Egyptian grandmother’s kitchen (Teta), God rest her soul. While turmeric is used in many modern recipes today, it is actually not a part of this authentic recipe. I presume it is used to boost the yellow color, and it certainly does not hurt to add it. I use it because I love the nutritional benefits of fresh turmeric root, but beware it will dye your fingers and spoons yellow 😀 Chopped tomatoes are added to the recipe to boost the flavor and the secret ingredient I incorporate is chicken or vegetable stock. Water is perfectly fine, but I find the broth gives an extra depth of flavor. I don’t use any Maggie cubes or other MSG catch all seasoning with who-knows-what in it, so I definitely prefer the flavors added by the tomato, broth, turmeric, and root vegetables.
The delicious base of this soup’s fantastic flavor starts by simply sautéing the vegetables in some olive oil over medium heat, just until fragrant. Pour in the broth or water, the lentils, and spices and you’re pretty much done. I used to shred the carrots and turmeric, but I realized this isn’t neccesary because I blend the entire soup into a velvety smooth texture at the end of the simmer anyway. So a rough chop of all the vegetables is perfectly okay!
Prepare the lentils by picking them over for dirt particles, and wash thoroughly then drain.
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This soup quickly simmers until the lentils break down into a creamy consistency, which takes all but 20 minutes. The orange shelled lentils cook soft very quickly, unlike the brown shelled lentils. So be sure to use the correct lentils.
I then puree the entire mixture once it is cooked soft, into a thick and velvety consistency. The soup thickens significantly when sitting so be sure to stir in some extra water over low heat before serving if this happens. Like many grandmothers love to do, my Teta went the extra mile and added another step to make this soup REALLY lip smacking good. In another pot, she would brown some delicious tiny vermicelli noodles (sha3reya in Arabic) in butter, then pour the pureed soup over it and simmer until the noodles are cooked. This tastes really great and adds a nice texture. However, I typically omit this step because I am trying to keep the soup healthy and paleo- and mostly because I don’t want to wash another pot! But I will usually do this for guests because it makes the soup extra special 😀
I serve with pita chips on the side, which is optional.
Fresh squeezed lemon juice is a must, if you ask me!
Enjoy! Bil Hana wil Shifaa (Arabic for with health and healing)
- 2 cups of red lentils (they are actually orange, but called red)
- 3 cups of broth (or water)
- 4 cups of water, plus more to thin later
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2- 1 tsp salt (to taste)
- pinch of pepper
- 1 tsp minced turmeric root, or 1/2 tsp powder (optional)
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 4 cloves of garlic, diced
- 1 tsp olive oil
- First sort the lentils for any stones, grains, or sand. Wash thoroughly and drain.
- In a large pot, over high heat, add the olive oil and onions with carrots and toss lightly until yellow and fragrant. Only sautee until soft; do not brown it.
- Add the garlic, turmeric, and tomatoes and stir for another minute.
- Immediately add the lentils, broth, water, and spices. Stir well.
- Once the soup begins to boil, reduce to medium-low heat. Allow it to simmer for about 15-20 minutes, covered.
- Once the lentils are softened and cooked, puree with a blender, and remove from heat. If the soup looks too thick to you, you can add more water over low heat and stir until homogenous.
- Serve immediately with lemon wedges, a cilantro garnish, and optionally pita chips.
- Soup will thicken when it sits or when refrigerated. Simply add some water when reheating, and stir.
- By Noha ElSharkawy
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