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Red Lentil Soup with Pomegranates, Mint & Sumac

Updated: Apr 6, 2020

The lovely color of this soup, a shade of red-orange, is the perfect thing for an autumn night. The spearmint and the yogurt add freshness, and contrasting color!

I’ve adapted a recipe by Ana Sortun, the Boston area chef, by adding kabocha squash and tweaking a couple of other ingredients. I love kabocha squash for its sweetness and dense texture, and of course the color. Cut a large one in half, and bake the halves, cut side down in a glass dish with ¼ cup water in the bottom, at 375 d. for 30-40 minutes, until fork tender. Save the other half to make a mash for another meal.

This is a very fast recipe, can be made vegan (substitute olive oil for the ghee, use coconut yogurt), and Ana Sortun says it’s also great for breakfast! Sounds nourishing.

Ana Sortun has several middle eastern/fusion restaurants and a bakery in the Boston area, including Oleanna, and has written a couple of fascinating cookbooks, including Spice. Her use of spices elevates our cooking, that’s for sure.

Try to get a hold of the Aleppo pepper flakes, which have a full-flavored heat, but not too hot; and try to find the sumac, too. It’s also red, and tastes delightfully sour. If you can’t find it, squeeze a little lemon juice into the soup instead, to taste. Both Aleppo pepper and sumac are available at specialty or middle eastern markets, or online – worth seeking out.

Kabocha Squash (image via Specialty Produce)

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

6-8 servings

3 Tbs. butter or ghee

1 medium red onion, finely diced

1 red bell pepper, finely diced

2½ Tbs. tomato paste

1 Tbs. freshly ground cumin seeds

1 c. red lentils, rinsed and drained

8 c. water

2 Tbs. red quinoa

½ of a cooked kabocha squash, peeled and chopped (about 2 c.)

2 Tbs. minced fresh spearmint, plus more for garnish

1 tsp. Aleppo pepper flakes

2 tsp. ground sumac (optional)


¼ c. plain coconut yogurt, or sheep or goat’s milk yogurt

¼ c. fresh pomegranate seeds

In a 4 or 5 qt. saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cumin, and toast until aromatic, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in lentils and water, increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, season with salt, and simmer until lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes. Add quinoa and simmer until grains are tender (you’ll see the curly quinoa tales explode), about 10-15 more minutes. The soup will resemble porridge. Stir in the cooked kabocha squash, and the remaining butter, mint, red pepper flakes and sumac, if using. Season with salt, to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and top each serving with a dollop of yogurt, a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds, and chopped fresh mint.

Adapted from a recipe by Ana Sortun for Wall Street Journal, Dec. 13, 2013.

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