Even though spring is nearing and the weather is starting to warm up a bit, there are still some very cold days that pop up once in a while, and that’s when I want a simple and warming dinner that doesn’t require buying or preparing a lot of ingredients. This easy lentil dish is perfect, and can be altered to your specific dietary requirements (substitute gluten-free pasta, use vegetable broth instead of chicken, and so on). Admittedly, the end product may not look like much, but it tastes fantastic!
Traditionally, rushtayeh is made with homemade noodles. Since that can be quite time-consuming, I substitute regular packaged pasta and it works excellently. However, I’m including the recipe for the noodles at the bottom of the post, in case you’d prefer to make them yourself :) And again, most of the quantities here are approximations; I always eyeball all the ingredients when I make it.
Rushtayeh (serves 2)
2 handfuls of brown lentils, washed and picked over
1 medium onion, thinly sliced in half-circles
1 chicken or beef bouillon cube or stock base
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp each of allspice, black pepper, cumin powder
3-4 tbsp of sumac (substitutes: pomegranate molasses or tamarind)
2 handfuls of wide egg noodles
salt to taste
Put the lentils in a pot and add water to cover them by about three inches. Let the water come to a boil, turn the heat down and cover the pot, and cook till the lentils become tender.
As the lentils are cooking, fry the onions till they start to get golden and crispy, then add them along with all of their oil to the pot of lentils.
To the pot, add half the chopped garlic, the bouillon cube, the cumin powder, allspice, and black pepper, then check the salt. Finally, add the sumac; you can increase this to your desired sourness.
Once the lentils are cooked, put in a couple handfuls of noodles. I use these wide egg noodles, called erişte in Turkish (coincidence? I think not!).
Add some water to the pot if needed so it’s not too thick. Let the noodles cook, stirring frequently so they don’t stick to the bottom. Once cooked, the texture of the dish should resemble a thick, soupy porridge. You can keep it thick, or thin it out with water if you prefer.
Finish it all off with the typical ‘ad7ah: fry the remaining garlic in some oil until it starts to turn golden, then pour it with all the oil into the pot of lentils and give it a stir. Garnish with fried onions and chopped cilantro or parsley. I like to serve this dish with a simple salad and fresh yogurt.
To make the noodles yourself: measure out two cups of flour, and mix in a teaspoon of salt. Gently add in water and mix until the dough comes together and can be rolled out. Roll it out as thinly as possible, then cut lengthwise into four or five sections, each about three inches wide. Sprinkle with flour, then stack the sections on top of each other, and slice across the width so you have a lot of shorter noodles :) Add them in according to the recipe above.
Oh, and the lovely salad bowl in the photo is handcrafted by my cousin-in-law Humna Mustafa, Creative Director at Diya Studio. Check out her website and Etsy page to see and purchase her beautiful pieces!
My family in Jordan eats a lot of lentil soup in the winter. They say that lentils are one of those foods that heat up the whole body, and give you a huge boost of energy. Most of the time, we make Palestinian fattit 3adas, but once in a while, my Taita will make Egyptian lentil soup for a change. It’s a bit lighter than the Palestinian version, and also differs in that it has vegetables and noodles in it. You can really cater this recipe to your tastes, and it only takes about half an hour to make. It’s an excellent soup for those cold winter evenings, and is healthy too!
2 tbsp of vegetable oil, olive oil, or butter
2 cups of yellow lentils/split peas, washed and drained
4 cups of water OR any kind of stock
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1 carrot, shredded or finely chopped
2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1 tsp each of chili powder and paprika (optional)
1 tsp of hot pepper flakes (optional)
3/4 cup of vermicelli noodles (optional)
salt&pepper to taste
In a pot, heat your oil or butter, then add the split peas or lentils.
Sautee them gently for a couple of minutes, then add the water or stock. Let the liquid reach a boil, then add the onion, garlic, tomato, and carrot. Cover, and let simmer on low heat until the lentils are tender. This usually only takes about 15 minutes.
Once the lentils are fully cooked and very tender, let the contents of the pot cool for a bit, then puree them in a food processor, blender, or using a hand blender. Return the pureed mixture to the cooking pot.
Add all of the spices, and salt&pepper to taste. Stir the soup, then cover and let simmer for a few more minutes, so that the flavors from the spices really infuse the soup.
If you feel like the soup is too thick, add some more stock or water to get your desired consistency.
Optional: If using vermicelli noodles, heat some more oil or butter in a small pot or frying pan, then add the vermicelli. Brown the vermicelli in the hot fat, being careful not to burn them. Once browned, add the vermicelli to the pot of lentil soup and stir.
Traditionally, this soup is served with tiny Egyptian onions on the side, or fresh green onions, as well as arugula and sliced radishes. The spiciness of the onions, radishes, and arugula contrast nicely with the full-bodied flavor of the lentils. To make this meal extra hearty and filling, we often tear up a loaf of pita bread into our bowls. You can even toast the pita bread in the oven first, then break it up into pieces like croutons!
For a non-traditional twist, add a dollop of sour cream, or drizzle some olive oil into your bowl before dipping in.
I have been away for the past ten days, traveling across the West Bank. I didn’t have any internet access, so updating this blog was impossible. But I’m back, and excited to start updating again inshallah :)
My aunts really like one particular Syrian dish that has a very peculiar name. In Arabic, it’s called “7orra2 Usba3oh” – I think. Which sounds something like “his finger is burning,” or perhaps “his finger is spicy.” Every time I ask my aunts to clarify the name and its origin, they end up telling me “who knows about those Syrians.” So I’m still pretty confused. But what I do know for sure is that the dish is REALLY good. It’s a bit strange, because of the combination of macaroni and dill/cilantro, but it’s a nice, light, cool lunch for a hot day. The closest thing I can compare it to in American cuisine would be a cold casserole. My aunts say this dish is a “women’s dish;” something quick and light that women enjoy making and eating, but definitely not satisfying enough for a hungry man, apparently. I’ll let you be the judge!
250 grams of brown lentils
250 grams of macaroni, cooked al dente, any shape (shells, bows, elbows)
3-4 tbsp of flour
3-4 tbsp of tamarind paste, soaked in hot water for a couple hours
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 large onion, peeled and finely sliced
2 bunches of cilantro and dill, finely chopped
half a loaf of pita bread, torn into little pieces
Boil the lentils in a pot of salted water, then cover and let simmer until half-cooked. Do not drain! Add the macaroni to the pot of lentils.
Rub the soaked, softened tamarind paste between your fingers over a strainer, letting the juice fall through into a bowl. Extract as much juice as possible out of the paste. Add the juice to the pot of lentils and macaroni.
Dissolve 3-4 tbsp of flour in a bit of cold water, stirring till smooth. Add this to the pot of lentils and macaroni, and stir immediately. The contents of the pot will thicken. You want the consistency to be pretty thick. Add more flour-dissolved-in-water if necessary.
Add half of the crushed garlic, half of the chopped cilantro and dill to the pot, and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Add salt if needed. Set the pot aside.
In a frying pan, heat some olive oil, and fry the sliced onions till crispy and golden. Take the onions out and let them drain on a paper towel.
Pour the olive oil left over from your frying pan into the pot of lentils and macaroni. Give it a good stir.
Sautee the rest of the crushed garlic and chopped cilantro and dill in another couple tbsp of olive oil. Stir while sauteeing, until the greens wilt a bit. Set aside.
Fry the torn pieces of pita bread until golden and crispy. Note: In the original dish, they do not use pita bread. The women traditionally prepare a special dough, and roll it out very thinly. They then cut the dough into little pieces and fry it. Pita bread is a much easier and equally tasty substitute.
Now, to assemble: In a baking/casserole dish, pour the lentils+macaroni mixture. Spread it out evenly. Sprinkle the crispy pita bread chips all over the top. Sprinkle the fried onions on top of that. Finally, scoop little spoonfuls of the sauteed garlic+cilantro+dill over everything decoratively.
Chill. Eat with a spoon! The tamarind juice gives the dish a bit of sourness, and the garlic with the greens is a powerful burst of flavor. I know, it looks kind of strange but I think it’s really tasty, and I am glad they introduced me to it!