Is it an Indian summer now? It’s certainly sunnier and warmer than I would have expected it to be, seeing how cold and wet September entered. But thanks to the cold at night and a general unwillingness to turn on the central heating any more than we already are (we’re in a bit of denial that summer’s over), I’ve been making a lot of soup. I mean, look, second soup recipe in a row!

This Turkish red lentil soup, mercimek çorbasi, is currently one of our favourites, it being super easy to put together in very little time. While it’s simmering away (and an extra 10-15 minutes doesn’t hurt), you can go off and do something else. And the flavour! By itself the soup is fine but it’s when you add the lemon and mint that things pick up. And the chilli butter! If you’re looking to keep preparation all down to only one pot, dusting the top of the soup with a little Turkish dried chilli flakes (pul biber) is delicious too.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup
serves 2 as a light meal or 4 as a starter.

1 tbsp olive oil
1 small or 1/2 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cup of split red lentils, washed
5 cups of water/vegetable stock
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tbsp butter
dried Turkish chilli pepper flakes
fresh mint, chiffonade
lemon wedges

Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and onion. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the carrot and stir for another minute. Add the lentils, water/stock, tomato paste and cumin and stir through. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the lentils and carrots are soft – this is usually 20-30 minutes. Blend the soup (I use a handheld blender) until smooth. Salt to taste and dilute too if it’s looking too thick. Keep hot.

In a small pan, melt the butter and add about a tsp of dried chilli flakes. Keep over a low-medium heat until the butter turns a beautiful reddish colour.

Serve the soup in bowls, drizzled with a little of the chilli butter and topped with fresh mint and serve with lemon wedges.

It was back to Dalston a couple weekends ago to try more Turkish food in that hood. It was snowing that day and we hustled our way up Kingsland High Street and I eventually pulled Blai into Şömine. I’d been wanting to try some of their homestyle food for a while though the waiter who greeted us first warned that we couldn’t get kebabs there! They must get that request a lot.

While still choosing between the five or six dishes on the steam table by the window, my attention was drawn to the back of the restaurant where I noticed two women folding pasta. Turkish manti! It was decided – an order of manti had to be part of our lunch as well as a dish from the steam table that came highly recommended by our waiter.

Making Manti

A huge basket of bread and a generously filled pickle plate came immediately to our table which I nibbled on while I watched the women make manti. Roll out the dough, slice it up into little squares, a dab of seasoned lamb mince on each and then press press press to form the unique little star shaped dumplings.

Pickle Plate

Their homemade manti came slathered with garlic yoghurt and chili butter and was fantastic. The bread came in very handy to mop up the butter and yoghurt and the pickles gave a welcome refreshing acidity to counter the rich yoghurt.


From the steam tray came the highly recommended vegetarian dolma. Peppers and courgettes had been stuffed full of seasoned rice – delicious but a little bit of minced lamb wouldn’t have gone amiss. Perhaps we’ll try one of their lamb dishes next time.

Vegetarian Dolma

Our bill for this fine lunch came to £13. I hear that this can be brought even lower if we had stuck to their soups (I saw a man at the next table slurp up a delicious looking lentil soup) which still come with all the bread and pickles. And if you’re lucky enough to live nearby, they’re open 24 hours!

Şömine Restaurant
131 Kingsland High Street
London E8 2PB

Somine on Urbanspoon

Hooray! The Richmond-Stratford overground line is running on Sundays again! We celebrated this last Sunday by hopping a train to Dalston; we were in search of Turkish food for brunch. I already had a place in mind – Evin Cafe, where fresh gözleme could be found, a Turkish filled flatbread I’d been wanting to try. It’s difficult to miss on Kingsland High Street – we found this sight in their window.

Making Gözleme

We entered the restaurant and were surpised to find quite a large space with lots of seating. After making ourselves comfortable at a table at the back, we ordered a range of the Turkish dishes that were listed on the breakfast menu and all turned out to be winners in my book! As you can imagine, a gözleme was part of the order.

First up was a sucuklu menemen (£5.75), a mixture of green pepper, onion, tomato, special garlic sausage (the sucuk) all bound together with scrambled egg. It may not look like much but it was fresh and delicious all scooped up with the basket of sesame-studded Turkish bread that came with our food. The sucuk tasted quite like a Spanish chorizo.

Sucuklu Menemen

Turkish Bread Olives

The günün çorbasi (soup of the day – £3.50) was lentil that Sunday and I had to have it, having heard great things about Turkish lentil soups. A big bowl was set in front of me and I dipped my spoon in: it was quite homogenous in colour save for the occasional speckle of green and red. It was thinner than I expected but this in no way was a bad thing. In fact, this was the loveliest, full of flavour red lentil soup we’d had in a while and I cannot wait to try to recreate it at home.

Lentil Soup

Last to arrive from the front of the restaurant was our cheese and spinach gözleme (£2.50); it was bigger than we both expected with its ends falling off the plate. This was just gorgeous – a soft, freshly made flatbread sandwiching crumbled mild feta cheese and lightly cooked fresh spinach.

Cheese and Spinach Gözleme

Look at the fresh spinach in there!

Inside the Gözleme

I can’t wait to try one with potato – the last filling that’s offered (Josh of Cooking the Books says it’s a spicy and minty potato mix).

With a freshly squeezed orange juice and a can of Coke, our bill came to £15. You lucky, lucky people of Dalston; I wish I had a local place like this (but really, now I can get here in half an hour!). Service was good and you’re never put under pressure to vacate your table – I saw a couple people set up their laptops. It’s definitely worth a trip out here – we spent the afternoon exploring the local shops too and went home with quite a lovely box of baklava (including a fabulous chocolate and pistachio one).

Evin Cafe
115 Kingsland High St
London E8 2PB

Evin Cafe on Urbanspoon

When I first read of the combination of yogurt and poached eggs, I was quite sceptical. Really? I just couldn’t get my head around the liquid yolk paired with the tangy yogurt. But then more recently, this photo on Flickr had me wondering again. The answer is a resounding yes as I decided to make it at home topped with a chili spiced melted butter for a light supper one evening. The original dish is called Çılbır and comes from Turkey though I’m not sure what time of the day it’s normally eaten over there; I imagine it’s excellent for brunch. Garlicky thick yogurt, poached eggs with centres of liquid gold, and chili infused butter, all mopped up with accompanying slabs of Turkish bread; proper Turkish Aleppo pepper was not used but it was still good.

Turkish Eggs with Yogurt

In London, a version is available at the Providores and Tapa Room where whipped yogurt is use (I’ve not tried it). I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s also offered up in the many Turkish cafes in Dalston.

And this is what I put together at home; what follows is not so much a recipe as just general guidelines. If I remember correctly, we had a salad of chopped cucumber and tomato on the side to cut the richness.

Turkish Eggs with Yogurt

Allow at least two eggs per person. Poach them. Crush a small clove of garlic into a generous amount of plain Greek yogurt. Divide the yogurt between your serving dishes. In a small pan/pot, heat approximately 1-2 tablespoons of butter per person. When the butter has melted, add some hot paprika, allowing it to be cooked into the butter, colouring it a deep orange-red. Top the yogurt with the poached eggs and drizzle over with the melted butter.

I didn’t have anything green to sprinkle on top but I reckon chopped fresh mint or flat leaf parsley would be lovely. Serve immediately, while the contrast between the hot eggs and the cold yogurt still exists, with some Turkish bread or pita on the side to mop up the yogurt and yolk.

I’ve been eating at many of my local restaurants recently. One Thursday night not long ago, Blai and I headed to Kalinka, a Turkish grill restaurant in Acton. I’m glad to have a nice Turkish place nearby, especially after reading about all the great places in the east.

I wanted to share this mixed grill we split between us.

Mixed Grill with Rice

Scattered around that mound of garlicky rice were lamb ribs, lamb chops, a quail, chicken kebab, lamb kebab, minced lamb kebab, and chicken wings, and all those meats were charcoal grilled – mmm! And that big green chili was also grilled and provided a lovely heat. Boy did we gnaw away at all those chargrilled meats…the marinade on the chicken especially was gorgeous!

This mixed grill also came with a mixed salad plate and garlic and chili sauces. The bread that comes to your table is homemade and grilled and buttered and with the bill are a couple of pieces of Turkish Delight. It’s awful nice having a friendly local serving tasty food.

Kalinka Restaurant
136-138 Churchfield Road
Acton, London
W3 6BS


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