A soup with a story behind it. Or perhaps I should say several stories, as with all good folklore. One version is this: there was a beautiful young woman named Ezo, who lived in a village in Gaziantep near the Turkish-Syrian border. Ezo struggled greatly when it came to finding matrimonial bliss; her first marriage ended when her husband fell in love with another woman and her second marriage took her far from home, to Syria, where she became deeply homesick and struggled with her mother-in-law. It is said that Ezo created this soup to win her mother-in-law around to her favor. Today, it is fed to brides on their wedding day to sustain them for the uncertain future ahead, and it is also found in almost every kebapçı (kebab restaurant) in Turkey, where it is often eaten for breakfast. Don’t skip the lemon juice before serving, it really enlivens the dish.


  • 2 tablespoons salted butter

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

    Ripe figs book cover Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus Yasmin Khan
  • 1 celery stalk, very finely chopped

  • 1 medium carrot, very finely chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 cup/200g red lentils, rinsed

  • 1/3 cup/70g fine bulgur wheat, rinsed

  • 3 1/4 cup/750ml chicken or vegetable stock

  • 1 1/2 quarts/1.5 liters just-boiled water

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • ½ teaspoon pul biber (Aleppo pepper), or other mild chile flakes, plus more to serve

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1 tablespoon dried mint

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin

  • olive oil, plus more to serve

  • salt and black pepper


  • lemon wedges

  • Greek-style yogurt (optional)

  • serves 4


Melt the butter with the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over

low heat. Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes, then add the celery and carrot and cook for another 10 minutes with the lid on, adding the garlic for the last minute or so.

Tip in the lentils, bulgur wheat, stock, and hot water, then cover and cook for 15 minutes. Now add the paprika, tomato paste, pul biber, oregano, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt (depending how salty your stock is), and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Place the lid back on the pan and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often so the soup doesn’t catch, and adding 1 cup/240ml more water if it starts to get dry. 

Lastly, add the lemon juice, dried mint, and extra-virgin olive oil and cook for a final 5 minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning: lentils almost always need a good amount of salt to give them flavor, so don’t shy away from adding more.

Serve in warmed bowls with lemon wedges, a drizzle more olive oil, and a sprinkling of pul biber, adding a spoonful of yogurt if you wish.

Reprinted from Ripe Figs: Recipes and Stories from Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus.Copyright © 2021 by Yasmin Khan. Published by W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved.

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