Thursday 23 November 2017

Soup for Syria for a quick recovery

Sometimes we are reminded of how much we take things for granted in our everyday lives. Simple things like having a bite on a crunchy sourdough toast with melting butter and cheese make my salivary glands open up wide, as I am recovering from a dental surgery. 

I thought I would be ready to chomp around again in less than three days after the op, but it took longer than I thought. So, my lovely husband and my ever so helpful sister cooked lovely soups to nourish me and make my recovery quicker.

Then, I was reminded again that we do take things for granted. Feeling sorry for myself, I looked for recipes to inspire my helpers and reached for the book “Soup for Syria”. It hit me then why that book was published (by Barbara Abdeni Massaad – Pavilion books) in the first place: the intention was to help raise money to alleviate the awful conditions in which the Syrian refugees were living. This was two years ago. Since then, things got even worse for the population in that region.

In “Soup for Syria”, you will find recipes from famous chefs and food writers from around the world - like Claudia Roden, Yotam Ottolenghi, Alice Waters, Greg Malouf etc - who joined force to “Celebrate Our Shared Humanity”, as it says in the subtitle.

I remembered that another charitable effort followed: “Cook for Syria” (published by Suitcase Magazine). This book was born after a group of friends decided to run Syrian cuisine supper clubs to help raise money for Unicef in aid of Syrian children. It became a global fundraising movement, curated by the Instagram influencer @Clerkenwellboy. These books are nice initiatives and yet there’s still so much that can and should be done to stop the suffering of Syrian children and civilians.

In a flash, it all made me think how lucky I am to be able to enjoy a warm bowl of soup every day. Here, I share a recipe from “Soup for Syria”, to celebrate our shared humanity.

The main ingredients.
Adding spices and verjuice...
...before finalizing with the light sauteed garlic.
My red lentil soup with verjuice and garlic.

Aleppo Red Lentil Soup with Verjuice

By Aziz Hallaj 
(Serves 4-6)

Very simple but full of flavours, and with anti-inflammatory properties from the spices, this soup is a great choice for when you are recovering from an illness or just want to have something nourishing during the cold season. Yoghurt makes a pleasant accompaniment too.


400g split red lentils

2 teaspoons Lebanese seven spice (or Baharat)

2 teaspoons ground cumin
 (I didn't use it)
Pinch of salt

*250ml verjuice (unripe grape juice; or substitute for lemon juice)

*250ml extra-virgin olive oil
10 small garlic cloves
Toasted croutons (optional)

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or paprika)

* It seems that there was a typo error in the publication as the amount of verjuice and olive oil is way too much. So, I used 25ml of verjuice and 25ml of olive oil instead.


Cover the lentils with 1.5l of water in a large pot and let it boil. Turn the heat down and let it simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are very tender, skimming off any foam and stirring to prevent burning. Add the spice mix, cumin, salt and verjuice, and cook for 10 minutes, until the lentils have broken down.
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the garlic until golden brown. Pour into the soup, mix well and cook for two minutes. Garnish with croutons, if using, and pepper.

A healthy note: Red lentils (Lens culinaris) contains protein, iron, magnesium, folate, and anti-oxidants. Lentils contains high levels of dietary fibre which promotes healthy bowel movements. Lentils are also a source of prebiotics that act like food for our existing gut bacteria. It also contains very important nutrients for the heart health protecting against heart disease by lowering high levels of homocysteine in the blood.

Garlic (Allium sativum) is one of nature’s first known medicines. It is also a good source of prebiotics. It helps to prevent the common cold due to its antiviral properties. It is packed with antioxidants and contains antibacterial properties.   

Till next week!

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