Some of you may have heard the story of Esau and Jacob in the Bible. Allegedly, according to Genesis 25:34, Esau gave up his birthright to his younger, shrewd brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil soup! I cannot imagine how or why anyone would give up lifelong privileges for a bowl of soup. I guess it must be that good to get Esau to sell his entire inheritance … or, maybe he was just really really hungry!
As with most dishes, there are many ways to make Egyptian lentil soup, but the red lentils are the base for each one of them – hence, the ‘lentils’ in the name! Many Egyptians simply add spices to the lentils, blend it to smooth and call it a day. But I like recipes with a strong flavor and added nutrition, so I opted to add a couple of veggies that go well with the lentils. My mom taught me that adding potatoes to most soups yields a delicious flavor, so I added two potatoes to my soup, and snuck in a few carrots too for good measure. The key to making an authentic Egyptian lentil soup is in the spices – the cumin is a staple in most Middle Eastern soups, and this one’s no exception. Add a generous amount (but you can always add more later to your liking, so don’t overdo it). The sauteed onions and garlic make it quintessentially Egyptian and impart a nice, rich flavor. And if you like it spicy, make sure to add a couple of extra pieces of crushed red chili peppers!
Egyptian Red Lentil Soup (Shurbet el-Ads)
Prep Time: 15 min + soaking time
Cook Time: 1 hour
Keywords: boil soup/stew vegetarian vegan sugar-free soy-free low-carb nut-free gluten-free red lentils winter fall
- 1 cup organic red lentils, rinsed and soaked overnight in filtered water with a tablespoon of acidic liquid like apple cider vinegar, liquid whey, or fresh lemon juice
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 medium organic potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup organic baby carrots, diced
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1½ tablespoons grass-fed clarified butter (samna) or avocado oil (for a vegan version)
- 2-3 whole bay leaves
- 1-2 tablespoons organic ground cumin, to taste
- unrefined mineral salt and freshly ground black pepper pepper, to taste
- a few crushed red chilli peppers (optional)
- extra virgin olive oil and freshly squeezed lime (to season after cooking)
- filtered water or homemade broth, enough to cover the lentils while cooking
(1) Soak lentils: Rinse lentils in warm water several times and soak overnight in filtered water with a tablespoon of something acidic like apple cider vinegar, fresh lemon/lime juice, or liquid whey. Soaking legumes overnight before cooking helps neutralize some of the phytic acid and other anti-nutrients that otherwise get in the way of nutrient absorption and digestion.
(2) Dice and saute onions and garlic: Dice a medium yellow onion, and mince 3-4 cloves of garlic. Then, add a tablespoon and half of coconut oil, grass-fed ghee OR olive oil to a stainless steel pot, and saute the onions lightly until they’re fragrant and have turned into a golden translucent color. Then, add the garlic and stir for a couple of minutes.
(3) Add lentils and water/broth: Discard soaking water from lentils and rinse a few times. Add lentils to the pot, followed by three and half cups of filtered water or broth. Bring to a boil and lower to medium heat.
(4) Add potatoes and carrots: Wash and dice two potatoes and a cup of baby carrots. Add them to the pot and stir well. Add the whole bay leaves and leave to cook, covered and on medium heat, for about an hour.
(5) Add the spices: When the carrots and potatoes have cooked, turn off the heat. Add 1-2 tablespoons of ground cumin, salt and pepper (to taste) and if you wish to make it spicy, add a few (5-10) particles of crushed red chili peppers (be aware that even a few extra pieces can make it unbearably spicy). Stir well and taste-test to see if the spices need to be adjusted.
(6) Blend: Remove whole bay leaves and discard. Blend other other ingredients to a liquid soup using an immersion blender (better than transferring to another blender, but that certainly works if you don’t have a hand-held blender).
(7) Serve: Serve soup warm. Add freshly squeezed lime/lemon juice and olive oil to season soup in individual plates. The soup can be served plain, with sprouted or sourdough bread, or with brown rice.