Shahrouk Sisters’ Lebanese Red Lentils Soup
After a date or two and a few sips of water, lentil soup is a popular choice to break your Ramadan fast. There of course different recipes but ours is part of our family’s DNA and we serve it not just during Ramadan but throughout the colder days and nights in the year. In summer, in our families, it is replaced with a cucumber and minted garlic dish.
This red lentil soup has been in our family for as long as we can remember and is a great representation of our childhood and upbringing. So many memories and moments were made over this soup.
It reminds us of our mandatory weekly family get-togethers every single Saturday. We would look forward to this day all week. Getting together with all our aunts and uncles and cousins. You would have needed a very good and valid excuse not to attend a Saturday family night – and we still do.
Our Saturday family nights have been a weekly family event since our grandparents on our father’s side came out here from war-torn Lebanon in the late 1960s and they still hold great significance for us all as a regular time to connect and catch up, to celebrate together and also sadly sometimes to grieve together.
Our family comes from a village called Bakhoun in the mountains near Tripoli in the north of Lebanon. It’s a beautiful spot and there are lots of big villas and holiday homes that people leave the cities for to escape the summer heat, and in the winter they come for the snow. Bakhoun has a very strong sense of community and identity and our grandparents maintained this when they moved to Sydney. Both our parents came from Bakhoun and Houda’s husband comes from Bakhoun too. His mother still lives there so Houda has visited six or so times since she got married.
Our grandfather’s name was Judu Ali and our father’s mother, our grandmother, was known to us as Tayta Aisha. The recipe for this soup was hers and she was the one who always served it. Tayta owned the ladle! We can all still picture the repetitive motion, serving bowl after bowl after bowl.
When we think of our grandparents we think of this soup. And when we think of this soup, we think of our grandparents. It is a real connection to family past and present. When we were growing up, we felt it was the ultimate comfort food, warm and hearty. Now that we have families of our own, this soup makes a regular appearance in our own households as a wholesome hearty meal served with freshly oven-baked crusty bread and a squeeze of lemon which according to our late grandparents will ward off the cold and flu.
We don’t ever remember our parents and grandparents tasting their food whilst cooking. They would use their senses. We never learnt measurements growing up either. Although we have tweaked the recipe a little by blitzing the soup smooth with our stick blenders when traditionally it was served rustic and coarse. Just a little twist on an old family favourite! Our own families have come to prefer the smoother and creamier texture – but we suggest you try both and let your family decide.
Share this story
In a pot add lentils, rice, stock cubes and water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.
Whilst soup is simmering, add butter to a pan and heat. Add onions and cook till golden brown colour. Once brown, add garlic and stir for a further minute. Add tomato paste, red pepper paste and coriander to pan and cook off for further 2 minutes.
Option 1 – for a creamy textured soup, puree soup with a stick blender, then add the onion mixture.
Option 2 – for a coarser textured soup, add onion mixture to lentils and rice when they are soft and cooked through.