Written by William Dobson
This wonderful lentil soup – perfect for warming you up on a cold winter’s day – comes courtesy of Sarah Al-Hamad‘s aunt Hessa! As she states in her fantastic cookbook, Cardamom and Lime: Recipes from the Arabian Gulf, ‘shorbat ‘adas or shorbat al-dal, as it is also known, is the quintessential Middle Eastern soup. My aunt is famous for it, particularly during Ramadan, when she ladles it out to scores of relatives and fast-breakers. The tradition is to start with a date (to regulate blood sugar levels after the long, daily fast) and follow with a restorative bowl of dal. This recipe is nutritious and satisfying. The cooked limes, or lumi, are the secret ingredient; squeeze one against the side of your serving bowl to let the tart juice out…I can’t imagine a Ramadhan without this soup. ’
While variations of this soup exist across the region and throughout the Indian subcontinent, we’re yet to find one as delicious as this one!
- 250g red lentils
- 4 medium tomatoes, skinned
- 3 dried limes (lumi)
- 4 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 medium onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp garlic puree
- 1/2 tsp ginger puree
- 1/2 tsp Madras curry powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 2 vermicelli nests or 50g shredded vermicelli
- salt to taste
Rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Put them in a large pan and add 1 litre of boiling water. Bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for about five minutes.
Blend the mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. Set aside.
Pierce each dried lime a few times with a knife. Heat the oil in another deep pan and fry the onion and the dried limes together until the onion is golden brown. Stir in the garlic and ginger purees and the spices.
Combine the lentil mixture with the onion mixture, stir well and season with salt to taste. Add the tomato puree. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble.
Lastly, add the vermicelli, and when they are cooked - within 3 minutes - the soup is ready. Adjust the consistency by adding water, if necessary.
Pour into soup bowls, and don't forget the limes.