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Family in a Bowl

Passport & Plate - Shorbat Adas

United Arab Emirates | Friday, 14 March 2014 | 3 photos

A homey and simple Middle Eastern classic – shortbat adas (lentil soup) is the ultimate comfort food. But, because I am a fervent foodie, my version comes with a twist. It’s shorbat adas, 2.0!


• 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium brown onion, chopped
• ½ leek, thoroughly washed and sliced – white part only
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 1 ¾ Cups split red lentils, thoroughly rinsed and picked over
• 8 Cups chicken or vegetable stock
• 1 Tbsp. ground coriander
• 1 Tbsp. ground cumin (or more if you prefer a stronger flavor)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Juice of 1 fresh lemon
• ¼ Cup finely chopped fresh parsley
• Fresh lemon wedges or slices for garnish

Tahina Drizzle
• ¼ C tahina (sesame seed paste)
• Juice of 1 fresh lemon
• 2 Tbsp. water
• Salt and pepper to taste

Cauliflower Crumb
• ½ head fresh cauliflower
• ¼ Cup extra virgin olive oil
• 1 small clove of garlic, minced
• Zest of ½ lemon
• Salt and pepper to taste


How to prepare this recipe
Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onions and leeks, stirring until slightly softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add carrots, and continue cooking until onions are translucent, about 5-7 more minutes. Add spices, and stir to coat vegetables. Add lentils and stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until lentils have begun to disintegrate, about 30 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, prepare the garnishes:

Mix the tahina with the lemon juice and stir. The tahina will seize up at first, but slowly add water and stir until a loose, smooth paste forms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Using a box grater, shred cauliflower into a bowl, until it resembles grains of rice. To avoid grating fingers, use the half head of cauliflower, rather than breaking into florets. Set aside. Heat oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Do not brown. Add cauliflower and lemon zest, and stir through. Cook over medium heat until golden brown and crispy, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Remove soup from heat, test for seasoning, and add lemon juice. Cool slightly, and puree until very smooth, using a hand blender, blender or food processor.

To assemble, ladle into bowls and drizzle with a spoonful of tahina mixture. Add 1 heaping Tbsp of cauliflower crumble to centre of bowl, and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with lemon wedges, or a slice of oven-dried lemon* for a pretty addition.

Serve to six very lucky loved ones.

*To make oven-dried lemons, preheat oven to 200°F. Slice lemons very thinly, ensuring they are all a similar thickness. Place on parchment paper and cook until dry and brittle, about 2 hours, turning halfway.


The story behind this recipe
As a Canadian expat living in Dubai for the past seven years, it seems only fitting that I would share a recipe that reflects the charm of my home away from home. With this in mind, I am offering my version of a dish that is a staple of nearly every home in the region; shorbat adas. Prepared in kitchens across the Middle East for hundreds of years, shorbat adas is a traditional lentil soup that combines some of the most humble ingredients – lentils, onions, stock and spices – and transforms them not only into something memorable, but truly magical. I call this dish ‘Family in a Bowl’, because this is the dish that inevitably makes an appearance at all of my expat dinner parties and unites everyone together, regardless of who they are or where they are from.

I first ate shorbat adas a few weeks after I moved to Abu Dhabi in 2007, and it was love at first bite. I have to admit, the complex flavours left me thinking it would be impossibly difficult to make for myself, and I decided it was best left to the experts. I satisfied my cravings by negotiating invites to as many Abu Dhabi family dinners as I could arrange, where shorbat adas was sure to be served.

Fast forward one year to Petra, to a tiny cooking school built into the side of a mountain on a cold November evening; this was the first time I cooked shorbat adas. In a cozy little room full of fruits, veggies, and a lot of delicious Jordanian wine, a crew of strangers had come together to do one of the most comforting human activities – cook dinner.

Although we cooked lots of delicious treats that evening, the one that always stands out is the shorbat addas. A steaming pot of bright yellow soup is how 12 strangers began their meal. Ladled into bowls and passed down the table, the shorbat adas brought us together as a family that evening in Petra. It was comfort food at its best, and an experience I remember fondly whenever I eat this dish.

Family in a bowl.

As they say in Arabic: sahtein!

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