Friday, February 8, 2013
TURKISH SOUP RECIPE: "Didem's Soup": Quick, Easy & Healthy!
I love to cook and I love to eat! I guess that's why I've always had a weight problem! At my heaviest (about 18 years ago), I was about 212 lbs. But, then after going through some major surgery in 2002 and with the removal of most of my small intestine, I pretty much had to learn how to eat again, which was a blessing in disguise! For example, I very very rarely eat fried food, butter, white bread, rice, etc. as besides not being healthy, I don't have a tolerance for it. However, I do succumb to butter and French baguette bread when I go to Paris because it is so incredibly good there! But unfortunately my tolerance for desserts has not waned and I love them all!
Now I'm at my all time low (between 128-130 lbs) after doing the Dukan Diet and losing 11 kg in about 1 1/2 months last year and I've maintained my weight so far!
Unfortunately cooking is not something I get a chance to do often for many reasons. First, my kitchen is a 2 by 4 and my counter space is even smaller! I'm single and it's usually not fun whipping up dishes for one person and I don't get a chance to entertain my friends with lavish meals - once again because my kitchen is so small!
However, I do make simple things that are suitable for one. I have been watching cooking shows on TV in NYC and in Turkey ever since I can remember and I have gotten very good tips from especially Jamie Olivier and Arda Türkmen (with a cooking show on CNN Turk in Turkey). I do have many cookbooks, but I'll be honest - I usually don't refer to them! However, I do have a wonderful neighbor - Didem who I have become close friends with in the last year although I've been living at the apartment building for 3 years now. She is an excellent cook and is not really hooked on "healthy" food like I am and prepares incredible regional dishes and soups. One day I hope to have her start a blog to share her recipes over the internet!
Because of Didem I have stopped using packaged soups! Truthfully, it was much easier emptying a package of soup mix to 1 liter of water than making from scratch! Alas, Didem reminded me and it is so true, these soup mixes contain a lot of different additives or else how could they have such a long shelf life! Also, from time to time I ordered soup from different restaurants, but usually they are prepared with butter, beef stock, etc. making them too heavy for my taste.
Didem has a wonderful habit of sharing the dishes she makes for her family with me from time to time and I'm incredibly spoiled! The soup recipe I will now share with you is one of my favorites and it is so quick and easy to make and it's healthy and light on the calories (although I have no idea what the calorie count is) too - even if you make her version instead of mine, which I tweaked a bit...
I got up to a very wet and cold day today in Istanbul and weather like this makes me want to make soup! So, after I had to make a quick run to the vet because Luka got sick (he's ok thank God but got me scared and needs 2 more days of treatment and has a build-up of water in his lungs due to the cold weather) I made my favorite soup - affectionately called "Didem's soup" because it's her own concoction and doesn't have a name.
When you look at the picture it "looks" like tomato soup, but it's not! In fact, almost all soups are basically the same with pretty much the same ingredients, but the "mix" of the ingredients make them different...
So, first before getting to how to make it... let me share the recipe.
Ingredients (serves 4):
5 cups (1 liter) water
200 g tomato puree
1 tablespoon red pepper paste
1 tablespoon white flour (I use whole wheat flour)
1 package condensed chicken broth or 1 large tablet chicken bouillon
1/3 cup vermicelli (can be less to taste)
1 chili pepper, sliced (optional)
125 g plain yogurt (I use fat-free yogurt) room temperature
1/2 lemon, juice of
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper flakes, to taste
Now, I will explain how to make it!
1) In a dry pot, place the flour (white or whole wheat) over medium-high heat and stir continuously for at least 3 minutes.
This step is very very important for two reasons: you don't want the smell of flour in your soup and if it is not properly stirred, the flour will clump up when the other ingredients are added spoiling your soup!
2) Reduce heat to medium and rigorously stir in the container of tomato puree and then add the red pepper paste as you continue to stir. Then add the chicken bouillon or condensed chicken broth and continue stirring. (Just a note on the red pepper paste. The brand you see in the picture is not the one I use, but I wanted to give you an idea of the what the packaging looks like and the name... called "biber salçası" in Turkish. I use a top quality paste that Didem gave me, so shop around for the best one and they are usually sold in a jar in the "gourmet" section of your supermarket)
3) Add 5 cups of water, sliced chili pepper and sea salt, freshly ground pepper and red pepper flakes (optional) and stir for about a minute. (A little note on the chili pepper - it will definitely add a nice "kick" to your soup if you like spicy food. Besides spicy food is known to speed up your metabolism and helps in burning fat quicker. However, it is optional if you don't prefer food that is too spicy because the paprika paste is also mildly spicy)
During this step you will know whether you stirred the flour properly because clumps of flour will not rise to the top in the mixture.
4) Add the vermicelli, stir well and reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, but make sure to check and stir once in a while so that the vermicelli doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot... I personally prefer lots of vermicelli, but you can put less but definitely not more than 1/3 cup because don't forget, vermicelli expands when cooked!
5) Squeeze half a lemon into the plain yogurt and mix well. Make sure your yogurt is at room temperature (remove from fridge one hour before using) and once again I use fat-free yogurt but you can use regular yogurt. Then slowly stir in the yogurt (for the purposes of the picture I couldn't stir in and take the picture at the same time, but make sure you stir in with a spoon and don't just pour in the mixture!)
6) Bring to a boil - uncovered - over low heat and then your soup is ready to serve!
I would like to thank my dear friend Didem for sharing her recipe with me. It was so good that I had two bowls before preparing this post!
I hope to from time to time share some of Didem's other Turkish recipes with you!
Bon apetit or as we say in Turkish... afiyet olsun!