Thursday, August 12, 2010

Middle Eastern Inspired Red Lentil and Rice Soup

Given that we are in the beginning of Ramadan I wanted to make something Middle Eastern inspired in solidarity for my Muslim friend Walid who will be fasting this month while the sun is up. Of course I am not following a recipe but instead I am combining flavors from other dishes that I love. Here is what I made:

Middle Eastern Inspired Red Lentil and Rice Soup
Serves 8


1 red onion, finely diced (allow to stand 10 minutes before cooking)
1 cup of water to sauté the onion
2 cups red lentils
1 cup short grain brown rice
14 cups water
4 teaspoons coriander seed, ground
2 teaspoons cumin, ground
6 whole (12 ½’s) sun dried tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground sour grapes (pictured below)
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast (to add umami that would have come from the traditional chicken stock)
approximately 1 teaspoon mastic grains (pictured below)
2 pinches saffron threads
½ teaspoon garlic powder
black pepper, to taste

Garnish ingredients:

lemon wedges
dehydrated leeks (which I used in place of crispy fried onions which is traditional)


Water saute the onion until just soft, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and cook until the lentils and rice fall apart. If you like you can puree the soup to make it completely smooth. Taste for seasonings and adjust to your palate. This soup with be better tomorrow if you can wait that long to eat it, we never can. ;-)

To serve top with dehydrated leeks and pass lemon wedges to be squeezed over the soup.

Nutritional Information (doesn’t include lemon and dehydrated leeks):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 305.07
Calories From Fat (7%) - 22.47

Total Fat - 2.54g
Saturated Fat - 0.25g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 56.56mg
Potassium - 607.17mg
Total Carbohydrates - 55.93g
Fiber - 8.88g
Sugar - 3.53g
Protein - 15.12g


While this isn’t a traditional recipe we like it. We both think the lemon juice and leeks are required. But if you don’t have the leeks at least add the lemon juice. The lemon goes a long way to enhance the flavor of the stew.

Unusual ingredients in the soup recipe:

I used two ingredients in the soup last night that aren’t common in most kitchens so I wanted to share what I know about them.

The first item is mastic grains, also known as mistica. This is common in middle eastern cooking but isn’t commonly found in the US. I buy mine at The Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria, Virginia but I imagine most Middle Eastern Grocery stores carry it. The only cookbook I own that mentions it is Modern Egyptian Cooking, which my friend Walid brought home from Cairo. The book describes mastic grains as “pale yellow, translucent grains obtained from the resin of the mastic tree. They add a pleasant smell…and are basic of broth and soup.” From my experience they do add a very distinctive aroma but it isn’t overpowering. I find the aroma to be very pleasant so I add it to most of my Middle Eastern inspired long cooked dishes.

The other item I used was ground sour grapes. This is something that picked up with no idea what to do with it though the back of the packages said it was used in Middle Eastern stews. When I pick up things like this I also open the package and taste the item. That gives me a good idea of how to use it. I think this would also be good sprinkled on a fresh fruit or salad. I enjoy the sour quality it added to the soup.

Other things I ate since the last post:

After the big salad for lunch it took me quite a while to get hungry. In fact it was about 6 hours between lunch and my snack that was one big salad. However I did need a snack at about 6:45pm since Dan wasn’t home from work. I had a bowl of frozen grapes. I need to make sure grapes are on my grocery list since I am running low. If you haven’t tried frozen grapes you should. Grapes are so good frozen.

For dinner we had a bowl of the soup, because we couldn’t wait. Well it is probably more accurate to say I couldn’t wait. Dan eats whatever I give him. To go with the soup we had a big salad of romaine, tomato, cucumber, lemon juice and sumac. This is my version of fattoush, no bread. It was definitely a Middle Eastern sort of day.

After we finished eating Dan was certain that taking out the trash earned him strawberry and banana soft serve (no oats). Can you tell how much he likes dessert? ;-) I expected he would ask for this and intentionally gave him a no fat added dinner so there was room in the fat budget. Little did Dan know he would have gotten soft serve whether he asked for it or not. Apparently we have been married so long we are reading each other’s mind now.

No breakfast this morning for me. The soup, salad and soft serve stayed with me much longer than you would have expected. Between not sleeping well and not being hungry I skipped breakfast except for a small glass of fresh vegetable and fruit juice and an iced green tea with ascorbate C to enhance the absorption of the EGCG.

Other news:

Walid’s mom Nadia is here from Egypt for a couple of months. I cannot wait to see her! She is such a kind and lovely lady. I am going to see how she feels up to teaching me a little Egyptian cooking while she is here. Wish me luck. She doesn’t speak fluent English and I speak no Arabic so this could be a big task. I am hoping since we both speak food it will all work out. Otherwise we may need to get together when Walid is home so he can translate. I just adore Walid’s mom and can’t wait to see her again. If you are reading this, hi mom glad you are going to be here for a while. ;-)

I didn't sleep well again last night and my mood is really no better. Apparently this may be the early symptoms of menopause. Oh joy!  Now I know why women consider HRT. I am not really thinking of going there but I can see why others would do it. *rolls eyes*  You gotta love this growing older thing, NOT! ;-)

On that note I need to go and get myself some lunch. I am finally starting to get hungry. Talk to you all later.


  1. I love red lentils. This looks amazing!

  2. I get a sort of depressive cabin fever in hot weather (which in my part of the world has been unusually long this year, since early May). I attribute it sustained discomfort of being too warm along with being cooped up in the a/c and actually spending less time outside than in colder weather.

    The chief symptom of menopause is that everybody attributes anything bothering you to menopause.

  3. JL,

    Thanks! :-) I was really happy with this and Dan (who loves red lentils too) really enjoyed it.


  4. Elisabeth,

    LOL, thank you so much. I got a huge laugh out of your menopause comment. :-)

    Sorry to hear you aren't feeling great either. I hear you on the being cooped up inside. I try to go out early in the morning to avoid the heat myself.

    All of this is very new for me. I normally sleep like a rock and can be upbeat no matter what. I hope you are right and it isn't menopause starting to cause problems.

    thanks again for the laugh, I really needed that,

  5. Soup sounds fantastic. Interesting info on the ingredients - 2 I've never heard of.

  6. Heather,

    Thanks so much! I am happy to hear I could share some new info with you.


  7. That soup sounds really good. I haven't tired any kind of Lentil soup yet. I will soon though. Frozen grapes, I havne't tried those either. I have grapes at home, so I think I will go home and put them in the freezer! :o)
    That is way cool that you have a chance to learn about some Egyptian fun!

  8. Michelle,

    Dan loves red lentil soup, it is his favorite. The lemon really makes this soup. I hope you make some lentil soup so you can see how hearty and satisfying it is.

    I almost never eat grapes that aren't frozen anymore. That is a trick I picked up many years ago (more than 20) and have been hooked ever since. I hope you like them as much as I do. :-)

    I am looking forward to spending some time with Walid's mom. She is such a sweetie. It always helps to learn from someone that is an expert. ;-)


  9. thank you for doing that little bit on the new seasoning/flavors. those look fun. always learning something over here!

  10. Michelle,

    I knew you would like the new seasonings. You are always learning! ;-)

    I hope all is well with you, hugs,

  11. So funny that Dan eats whatever you give him. I have a similar situation here. Sometimes it's fun, sometimes it's a tad irritating when it seems like he can't be left on his own ;)

    I will have to try your lentil soup. I have a trip planned to an international grocery and will see whether I can find your ingredients - I love learning about new foods! I think you're right, though, you and Nadia may be able to communicate over food.

  12. Jenny,

    The amazing thing is that Dan was a decent cook when we first met. However he seems to have forgotten how to do anything in the kitchen now. *shakes head* I don't ever leave him alone without food he can reheat or just toss on a plate. Men!

    Have fun shopping at the international market. I love those places. I will keep you posted on the Egyptian cooking. ;-)

    Happy Friday!

  13. I just read your other news, I would suggest black cohosh and dong quai, or better yet, do a search on the net for herbs for menopause. There are more options than HRT!!! Better yet, consult a natauropathic doctor.

    As far as your recipe, I like it, but am going to do something a little different from your recipe. I want to add celery and carrots and use curry powder and cumin for seasonings. If it works, I'll post on my blog,


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