Bulgur-Lentil Soup With Minted Olive Oil Butter 6.000

Domenica Marchetti

Family Dish Sep 19, 2011

This fragrant soup has just enough heft to satisfy on a cool September evening. Serve it as a main course with a tomato and cucumber salad and maybe a wedge of good sheep's-milk cheese on the side. Or for those who don’t consider soup a main dish, serve it as a first course followed by grilled sausages and a side salad.

Cookbook author Maria Speck describes Aleppo pepper as an intensely fruity and smoky dried chili pepper, named for a city in Syria. In the Washington area, it is available at Middle Eastern markets, such as the Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria.

To drink: a slightly tannic red, such as Spanish tempranillo.

Servings: 6
  • For the soup
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice (a generous 1 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika, or 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (see headnote)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or diced, canned tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted (one 14-ounce can)
  • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur
  • 1/2 cup split red lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • For the minted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons dried spearmint
  • Pinch cayenne pepper or 1/8 teaspoon Aleppo pepper


For the soup: Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, just until the oil shimmers. Add the butter and wait until its foam almost subsides, then add the onion and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens and turns light golden. Add the garlic, paprika or Aleppo pepper and the cayenne pepper, if desired; cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes; adjust the heat as needed to maintain steady bubbles at the edges. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes, stirring once or twice and scraping the bottom to release any browned bits, until the mixture thickens slightly.

Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir in the bulgur, lentils, broth, water and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low to maintain gentle bubbling. Cover and cook for 25 to 40 minutes, until the soup thickens, with the bulgur retaining a slight bite. Season with 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the black pepper. Taste and add lemon juice (up to 1 more tablespoon) or adjust the seasoning as needed. Cover and let sit for a few minutes.

While the soup rests, make the minted butter: Heat the oil and butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the mint and cayenne or Aleppo pepper (which will sizzle) and stir for about 15 seconds until fragrant. Immediately remove from the heat; pour the minted olive oil butter into a small serving bowl.

Divide the soup among individual bowls. Drizzle a little of the minted butter on top of each portion. Serve right away.

Rate it

Recipe Source

Adapted from Speck's "Ancient Grains for Modern Meals" (Ten Speed Press, 2011).

Tested by Domenica Marchetti.

Email questions to the Food Section.

Email questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.