Two birthdays were celebrated at my mum’s. Two very happy nieces.
As per our tradition, whoever is having a birthday gets to 1. Select the lunch menu, and 2. Select their birthday cake.
My Saturday night was spent baking and decorating two very different cakes.I had a ball.
For lunch, one niece chose barbecued chicken skewers and lamb chops while the other chose salmon sushi. (How’s that for variety?)
We had perfect cool but sunny weather, and very full bellies. However, there is always room for cake. Let me tell you now, my family is absolutely insane and we have the time of our lives when we get together.
So….after all that meat and rice and cake and sugar and coffee and conversation and laughter…it’s time for lentils and soup…
This one is traditionally eaten by Lebanese Christians during lent. It contains no meat or dairy. Our family eats it on the first day of lent while others will have it on Good Friday. I remember being in the kitchen helping my mum by stirring the big pot of soup while she put the little dumplings in.
As usual I’ve got to say, this recipe is very easy and delicious.
Make the dumplings by soaking 1/2 cup fine burghul (that’s been rinsed) in 3/4 cup cold water for about 30 minutes. The burghul will soak up all the water.
Grate 1/2 a large onion (you’ll need the other half for the soup) and add it to the burghul with 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp ground pepper and 3/4 cup plain wholemeal flour. You can also add a little finely chopped mint leaves to the mix (I actually remembered the mint too late! Oh well, for this particular batch I’ll be adding it to the soup at the end. It’s all good.) Mix it all very well with your hands until you get a dough-like consistency. Keeping hands slightly wet, roll teaspoons of mix into little dumplings. Set aside while you start preparing the soup.
Rinse 1/2 cup brown lentils and put them in a large saucepan.Pour in 5 cups of cold water, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils are almost tender. In the meantime, dice the other half of your onion and cook in 2 tbs olive oil until starting to brown on the edges.
Once lentils are almost ready, pour in the cooked onion along with the oil. Now, gently lower the dumplings into the soup. Carefully stir them around, cover the pot and allow to very gently simmer for about 10 minutes while you crush 3-4 cloves garlic in a mortar and pestle with 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 tsp dried mint leaves (this is extra mint, not the lot I forgot to add to the dumplings….).
After the 10 minutes, add the garlic and mint mix to the soup, stir, cover and leave to simmer for another 15 minutes.
We serve this with lots of toasted Lebanese Bread.