Join The National and Table Tales on a culinary journey around the Middle East to savour the quintessential dishes that embody the spirit of Ramadan. From table staples to family favourites, this series of 30 recipes pays homage to the holy month and the home cook alike.
"Do you have a kinder, more adaptable friend in the food world than soup ... who is capable of doing honour to your richest table and impressing your most demanding guests," asked Miss Manners (American newspaper columnist Judith Martin).
Soup is nourishing and nutritious to the weary body and the weary soul. Because it’s hard to make one serving of fresh soup from scratch, it is communal by nature. And because it spills, is often served piping hot, and frequently requires two hands and a spoon, you’ve got to slow down to eat it.
Originating in the Middle East, lentils are believed to be the first legume ever cultivated and were perhaps the first convenience food. In Ramadan, it's common to break the fast with a bowl of soup, and lentil soup is a nutritious choice.
As well as being packed with vitamins and minerals and being high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre, lentils contain virtually no fat and are cholesterol free. Brown lentils are also versatile, inexpensive, easy to cook as they require no pre-soaking, and have a fantastic earthy flavour.
Table Tales founder Hanan Sayed Worrell, who presents the first recipe for this series, says: "This is a hearty Ramadan soup, nourishing and warm. It's simple, delicious and cooks in one pot. Red lentil soup is a classic for Ramadan iftars, and I like to make this one for variety."
That variety comes thanks to Worrell's use of brown lentils and addition of tangy Swiss chard, another nutritional powerhouse, which is loaded with vitamins A, C and K, plus antioxidants and dietary fibre.
Addas bil Hamudh (lentil soup with Swiss chard)
Serves 6 to 8
- 4 tbsp oil
- 250g (1 medium) onions, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 cubes vegetable broth (optional)
- 500g brown lentils
- 250g Swiss chard
- 300g (2 medium) potatoes, cubed small
- 2-3 lemons, juiced
- 2 tsp cumin
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- In a large casserole, heat the oil and saute the onions until translucent.
- Add the crushed garlic and vegetable cubes, and stir.
- Add the rinsed lentils and cover with 2.5 litres of hot water.
- Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. (Test the lentils by pressing between the fingers to see if they mash.)
- Meanwhile, remove the large stems from the Swiss chard and reserve for another use, then roughly chop the leaves.
- Add the potatoes to the lentils and top with more water if needed. The consistency of the soup should be thick.
- Simmer for another 15 minutes. Fold in the Swiss chard leaves and stir well. Swiss chard is delicate, so cook just until wilted, about five minutes.
- Pour in the lemon juice and season with cumin, salt and pepper to taste.
- Remove from the heat and serve immediately.
This dish has been brought to you by international recipe hunter Hanan Sayed Worrell, author of Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine of Abu Dhabi. The Table Tales concept celebrates the people and stories that give flavour to recipes of the Middle East.