I spent the summer of 2007 doing study abroad in Cairo. A pescetarian at the time, with a tenuous grasp on spoken Arabic and complete & utter ignorance of written Arabic, my dining options were somewhat limited: my diet was heavy on kushari, fuul, falafel & endless honey-laden sweets. (Or french fries, ice cream & American chain restaurant food when I was feeling homesick.)
In the brutal summer heat, I often desired something a bit lighter, and on those occasions I opted for lentil soup. Upon returning home, it became a mainstay in my repertoire. The recipe below makes 4-6 servings.
Moroccan Lentil Soup
- 2-3 tbsp butter/olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp ras el hanout 
- 1/2 tbsp cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- ~1 c carrot, chopped
- 1 c red lentils
- 2 tbsp preserved lemon, both pulp & rind (optional) 
- 1 q vegetable broth 
- 2 c water
- Parsley or cilantro, to garnish
1. Put butter/olive oil in a pot over medium/low heat. Add onions, garlic & ginger, cooking until fragrant.
2. Add ras el hanout, cayenne, salt & black pepper. Cook ~1 minute.
3. Add carrot, lentils & preserved lemon. Cover with broth and water.
4. Simmer for ~45 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally, until lentils absorb liquid.
5. Puree 1/2 the soup; you still want it a little chunky. An immersion blender is very helpful here (as well as just generally when making soups).
6. Ladle into bowls and garnish. Serve with warm pita. Enjoy!
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Fn1: A Moroccan spice mixture containing cloves, cayenne, allspice, cumin, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander& nutmeg. Available in Philly from the Spice Terminal at Reading Terminal Market, if you would rather not make your own.
Fn2: Preserved lemon is relatively simple to make on your own; I used this recipe. Available in Philly from Green Aisle Grocery, possibly Bitar’s or other Middle Eastern shops as well. I should also note that this was my first experience cooking with preserved lemon, please let me know if you have any tips.
Fn3: Used the veggies/component spices from the ras el hanout, footnote 1 supra, plus parsley, bay leaf & a parmesean rind simmered for ~1 hr. Feel free to use store-bought broth if you want to shorten the cooking time.