Thursday, January 24, 2008

Recipe: Red Lentil and Bulgur Soup with Mint and Lemon - Ezo Gelin Çorbasi (Σούπα της Νύφη Έζο)

Ezo, good natured and beautiful, married badly - twice. Her life was so tragic, it became a legend.

Ezo was born in 1909 in the village of Dokuzyol in southeastern Anatolia, now Turkey. The house where Ezo lived was on an ancient caravan route.

Ezo’s family stored their water in a large jug outside the front door. When dry and dusty travelers wanted a drink, Ezo graciously served them.

Tales of Ezo’s beauty spread along the caravan route. Soon, camel drivers were stopping by Ezo’s house to see her lovely face and spend time in her company. This happy time came to an end when she was 20. Her family arranged Ezo’s marriage to a man who was in love with someone else.

After the wedding, Ezo’s husband ignored her and left her alone while he trailed after the woman he truly loved. For Ezo, who was used to being cherished, this was intolerable. After a year, she returned to her family and divorced her husband.

Ezo remained single for six years, at which time her family arranged a second marriage to a cousin who lived across the border in Syria. Though Ezo had six daughters in Syria, she remained homesick for her family and village. Adding to Ezo’s misery was a mother-in-law who couldn’t be pleased.

Ezo died at 46. She was buried, at her request, on a hill looking north to the Turkish village she missed so badly. After a bureaucratic battle between Turkey and Syria,Ezo's remains were removed from her Syrian grave in 1999, and she was reburied in her home village of Dokuzyol.

Ezo’s tragic life has been popularized in Turkey through song, film, and television. Though her life was spent in hardship, Ezo became the emblem of traditional values: love, honor, pride, beauty, longing for homeland, and patience.

Cementing Ezo’s role in Turkish culture is a soup named for her: Ezo Gelin Çorbasi (The Bride Ezo’s Soup). Some say Ezo created the soup to placate her miserable mother-in-law, successfully or unsuccessfully, depending on who’s telling the story.

Others say the soup is named for Ezo because, like the soup, her example strengthens women for the many challenges of married life. In Turkey, women eat Ezo Gelin Soup right before their wedding.

Ezo Gelin's SoupRed Lentil and Bulgur Soup with Mint and Lemon - Ezo Gelin Çorbasi (Σούπα της Νύφη Έζο)
Serves 4 - 6

This mildly spicy soup is quick and easy, yet packed with flavor and very filling. Savory pepper and mint oil is drizzled over the soup just before serving, and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a refreshing tang. In Turkey, Ezo Gelin Soup is sold in most kebab houses, eaten for breakfast, and used to cure hangovers. It is low in fat, full of legumes and grains, and very heart-healthy. Aside from all that, it tastes delicious. I served this with Algerian Flatbread.

1 cup red lentils
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups diced onion, 1/8” dice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1 Tbsp. hot paprika
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup bulgur
6 – 8 cups beef or vegetable stock

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. dried mint
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper (optional)
Lemon wedges

Make the soup: Spread out the lentils on a tray and pick through them to remove any little stones, clumps of dirt, and chaff. Rinse and drain the lentils.

Sauté the onion, lightly seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, until it softens and starts to turn golden. Add the garlic, Aleppo pepper, and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the lentils, bulgur, and 6 cups of stock, bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils and bulgur are tender and the soup has a creamy consistency.

If you prefer your soup smooth, puree it with a stick blender. If the soup is too thick, add all or some of the remaining stock. Taste and add salt or freshly ground black pepper, as needed.
Make the topping: Warm the olive oil in a small pan; don’t get it too hot or it will burn the mint. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the mint and Aleppo pepper.

Serve the soup with the topping drizzled over it and lemon wedges on the side.

The is my entry for Heart of the Matter: Soup hosted by Joanna's Food.


Peter M said...

Thanks for sharing a touching story and the soup's colour is saffron-like.

Cures a hangover eh? Dare you make a "Patsa"?

Joanna said...

That is a lovely story - and a beautiful soup

Thanks for sharing

Riana Lagarde said...

such a marvelous story! i feel like i was there. and what a hearty, flavorful soup!

Núria said...

Lovely story and beautiful picture; I like its composition and colours! The soup does look tasty and comforting!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

What a great story - I am really enjoying these posts, Laurie. I am so mad, I cannot find red lentils at the store in Florida! Just the brown ones...ugh!

Ivy said...

Nice touching story. I have never tried red lentils before, do you know if we have them in Greece?

Suganya said...

If only they had consulted Ezo before arranging her marriage. The story is sad, but the soup is hearty, village-like. I like the way you have topped olive oil + dried mint. Is this a traditional Mediterranean topping?

Laurie Constantino said...

Hi Peter, the color comes from the red lentils and tomato paste; I was so happy with how it turned out. I've actually made Patsa, and it was delicious, but I don't think I could get it down if I were hungover, despite reports that it is a good cure!

Thank you Joanna!

Riana, the best thing about it is how easy it is to make.

Nuria, you are so kind, thank you!

Jenn, you could always order them online! I'm surprised they don't have them at natural/health food stores in the bulk section.

Thanks, Ivy. I've seen them in Greece at stores with βιολογικών προϊόντων.

Suganya, exactly! The first marriage was done using an "exchange" procedure where Ezo's brother married her new husband's sister - a double wedding of siblings. But when Ezo divorced her husband, her brother had to do the same thing. For me, I'm happy I got to pick my own spouse. As for the topping, I've never seen it except in this recipe, although I am not an expert in Turkish food, which this is. But now that I've tried it, I know I'll use it again in other things because it was really tasty.

chemcookit said...

Such a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing it. And the soup is gorgeous. I really want to try it with that topping :)

Cakelaw said...

What a beautiful but sad story! A lovely soup named after someone who sounded like a lovely lady.

Mike of Mike's Table said...

Sounds like a delicious soup and interesting history behind it. Looks wonderful

Jack said...

What an interesting and sad tale. It makes it seem highly inappropriate for me to do what I came here to do so sorry about that... I'm just trying to be good and follow my instructions!

I "inherited" a tag from Ann a couple of weeks ago (she's done it before, recently) and because I find your blog so fascinating with all it's Greek references and background I immediately thought I'd like to make you one of the people I tag - because I'd love to know five odd things about you! So... here's where I tagged you

...and here are the rules:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules on your blog.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they are tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

(I know this meme has been around for a while so if you've done it before, my apologies. You could always just link to the previous occasion...)

Maryann said...

"Others say the soup is named for Ezo because, like the soup, her example strengthens women for the many challenges of married life."

If only a bowl of soup could strengthen us for married life :)

Laurie Constantino said...

Chemcookit, the soup is great without the topping, but the topping really makes it special.

Cakelaw, I really loved the story; I understand why Ezo is a legend.

Thank you Mike! I always like recipes better when I know a little of the history.

Jack, a tag, hmmm, thanks. I'll have to think if there's anything interesting I could say about myself!

Ain't it the truth, Maryann!

Kevin said...

I like the pattern on the soup. The soup sounds both healthy and tasty. Nice story.

LisaRene said...

The bulgur is a very interesting and unexpected ingredient. The combination of mint and the pepper is intriguing!

Laurie Constantino said...

Thanks Kevin - you nailed it exactly, health and tasty.

LisaRene, the bulgur adds great texture to the soup, and I like the mint and pepper oil because you can sort of dose it out with your sppon.

Ann said...

Wonderful story and absolutely beautiful soup.

Mediterranean Turkish Cook said...

Hi Laurie,

I had to check out your lentil soup. Thanks for posting it. There are a few different lentil soups in Turkey. This one is a different one than what I've posted. In the past, I used to be confused about the difference between Ezo Gelin Soup and the Red Lentil Soup and I find the biggest difference is that, Ezo Gelin soup has mint and bulgur (sometimes rice too) in it while the regular lentil soup doesn't. In fact, in some parts of Turkey, they add carrots and potatoes to the regular red lentil soup. Ezo Gelin Soup is also delicious and looks great. I haven't gotten around to post Ezo Gelin Soup. The story of it is so sad and touching. Thanks for sharing.