I traveled along the Nile to research the peasant food and to interview chefs in tourist hotels before a seminar I was giving for the Egyptian Chefs Association. In a little village, seeing me walk past her house, a woman invited me in and offered me lentil soup. It was the type of spicy, creamy comfort food that I love. Later, at the seminar in the ballroom of the Marriott Hotel (a former palace in the Zamalek district of Cairo, where I used to live), I told the chefs to put lentil soup on their menus.
- Soften the onion, carrot, and garlic in the olive oil in a large pan over low heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add the lentils and stock to the pan, bring to a boil, and then skim off the foam that forms at the top. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until the lentils have disintegrated.
- Stir in the cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper (if using), and lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes more. If the soup needs thinning – it should not be too thick – add a little water and bring to a boil again. Serve hot.
- In a large skillet, fry two or three large sliced onions in 3 to 4 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil, covered, over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring often, until they are very soft. Remove the lid, turn the heat to medium, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes, until the onions are really dark brown and caramelized. Add a good 1 tbsp to each serving of soup.