Eat your greens, yes ma’am.
Lebanese style lentil spinach vermicelli soup.
Brighter days with bitterly cold winds mean only one thing, spring is
here near and it’s still more than OK to eat soup, yipeee!
In this months MENA cooking club host Sara gave us 3 dishes from Lebanon to choose from.
I chose Rishta soup:
- I love soup
- I like to vary what I cook (last month for MENA I made this cake)
- It’s a vegetarian soup, I’m always trying to challenge myself to eat less meat. Lebanese cuisine is ideal for this as it has a wide variety of veg, seafood and poultry dishes.
Rishta are handmade noodles, the thickness of tagliatelle but made from yeasted bread dough such as pita. My husband isn’t much of a fan of thick pasta or any bread in soup so I opted to add 1 nest of shop-bought vermicelli instead.
I adapted the first recipe that google churned up, pretty nerve-racking considering there wasn’t even a photo of the soup but I carried on nonetheless because it was no.1 on the search engine which = good enough for me.
The traditional spices/herbs in the soup are basil and coriander but I’d forgotten, recently my son Z had poured the pot of dried basil out on to the kitchen floor when I was making pasta sauce and which I failed to replace. To make this soup true to the cuisine of Lebanon as it was now looking more like an Italian dish (still does), I used a teaspoon of Lebanese style spice blend that I ground in a pestle and mortar before adding to the pot. It has spices such as sumac and lemon oil which brighten the earthy flavour of lentils and irony spinach.
The lovely thing about this soup is the lentils don’t need soaking beforehand, just a quick rinse and pick through and then into the pot with a bay leaf and water to cook for 35-45 minutes while you prepare the caramelized onion base.
Once the lentils and onion base have finished cooking it’s simply a matter of adding base to stock, next in vermicelli – as you’re adding it crush the nest between your hands to break up the strands. Now quickly in with the chopped spinach, off with the heat and leave it for 5-10 minute before serving with a squeeze of lemon and some homemade Lebanese flat bread. (apparently it’s ok to eat soup with bread just not bread in soup, capisce?)
I made sure to chop the spinach very finely using a food processor, this way it cooks in no time and gives the soup extra body.
Over the past weekend I also made the 2nd savoury option Shish Taouk. It was sooo good and an absolute keeper. I adapted this recipe (I made only the chicken skewers).
A sea of green packed with iron goodness, it’s certainly going on my list of soups to make again this Ramadan in shaa Allah.
A sea of green packed with iron goodness.
- 1/2 cup green lentils, picked over and washed
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 1/2 litre water
- 1 vegetable stock cube (i used knorr)
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil or lebanese style spice blend, ground
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 garlic cloves, crushed
- 200 grams baby spinach, washed and finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 nest vermicelli
- Pick over and wash the lentils. Place in a soup pot with the bay leaf and water, and simmer until the lentils are tender – about 35-45 minutes, towards the end add the stock cube.
- While the lentils are simmering, prepare the onions.Heat the oil in a large frying pan and saute the onion till beginning to carmelize. Add Lebanese spice blend, coriander, garlic to the onions. Season with salt and pepper and continue to saute until the edges of the onion are carmelized and the spices are very fragrant. Add the sauteed onions to the pot and bring back to a simmer.
- Add in the vermicelli by crushing it between your hands over the pot, add the finely chopped spinach and taste for salt and pepper. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to stand 5-10 minutes. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice in each individual bowl.