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5 Hearty Soup Recipes to Help with the Egyptian Indoor Chill

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5 Hearty Soup Recipes to Help with the Egyptian Indoor Chill

Photo credit: Petrina Tinslay

Egyptians like to say that the cold in Egypt “goes all the way into your bones,” — a phrase that may seem laughable to anyone from a country that is actually cold. But, while the statement is not remotely scientific, there is a reason why Egyptians feel this way about their winters.

Being a country that is hotter in the summer than it is cold in the winter, most homes in Egypt are structurally far more equipped to stay cool in the summer than they are to be warm in the winter. Few, if any, are fitted with radiators, while space heaters and the warming function on air conditioners aren’t present in every household, and are also likely to weigh heavily on the electrical bill.

As a result, the indoors are often even colder than the outdoors in the Egyptian winter, giving people little opportunity to catch a break from the chill.

Yet, getting warm this winter is not a lost cause. Kitchens are generally the warmest room in any house, especially when they are busy, and nothing is more warming than a good bowl of soup.

Egyptian Streets created a list of recipes for simple, nutritious, and delicious soups containing ingredients that are easy to find in supermarkets and at fruit and vegetable stands in the Egyptian winter — so get ready to chop, stir, blend, and ladle your way to warmth.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

This internationally loved classic is as simple as it is delicious. And one of the best-kept kitchen secrets is that you can take the exact same recipe and replicate it with a number of other vegetables, most notably zucchini and carrot, both of which are usually available throughout the year in Egypt.

You’ll need:
5 medium tomatoes (or 3 medium tomatoes and 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes)
1 whole bulb of garlic
1 large white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
4-6 leaves of fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried if fresh unavailable)
500ml water or stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Cream (optional)

Instructions:
1. Start off by preheating your oven to 180C.
2. Cut your tomatoes into quarters and if you are using cherry tomatoes, leave them whole.
3. Carefully chop the top off the bulb of garlic, but do not peel or separate the cloves.
4. Peel the onion and chop it roughly into large chunks.
5. Place all these ingredients into a baking tray, distributing the onions among the tomatoes as evenly as possible and placing the garlic bulb cut side up.
6. Salt generously (salting tomatoes really brings out their flavour), add pepper, and drizzle with olive oil.
7. Place the baking tray into the oven for 25 minutes or until the vegetables have softened and some caramelization can be seen at the bottom of the tray.
8. Remove the unpeeled bulb of garlic from the tray and squeeze out the now softened cloves through the top of the bulb and into a blender, discarding the peel. Add the remaining vegetables to the blender along with the basil leaves.
9. Pour some of your hot water or stock into the baking tray to release the caramelization from the bottom, allowing it to dissolve into the liquid. This process is called deglazing and adds dramatically to the flavour of the soup.
9. Add the deglazing liquid and the rest of the water or broth to the blender and blend until smooth. If you have a hand blender and prefer to use it, you can replicate this process either in the baking tray itself or in a pot.
10. Serve with a dash of cream, a drizzle of olive oil, and a fresh leaf of basil as a garnish.

Chickpea and Sweet Potato Soup

Photo credit: Lauren Friedman on Flickr.

Protein-packed, spicy, and delicious, this soup is nutritious enough to be a meal on its own.

You’ll need:
1 can of chickpeas
2 medium sweet potatoes
2 medium tomatoes
1 medium onion
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp chili powder
1 tsp curry powder
Salt and pepper to taste
500ml of water or stock
Fresh parsley (optional)
Coconut milk (optional)

Instructions:
1. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, peel the sweet potato and cut it into 2cm chunks, chop the tomatoes to a similar size, and roughly chop the onion.
2. In a large pot, coat the bottom of the pan lightly with sunflower oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and saute them until they become translucent.
3. Transfer the tomatoes into the pot and add salt. Let the tomatoes cook until soft.
4. Add the sweet potato chunks and cover the mixture with water or broth. Make sure to scrape any caramelization off the bottom of the pot using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to deglaze.
5. Stir in the pepper, cinnamon, cumin, paprika, chili powder, and curry powder and let it come to a boil. Then drop the heat to medium-low and leave to simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.
6. Add the chickpeas and let simmer for another five minutes.
7. Blend until smooth either with a hand blender or by transferring it into a blender in batches.
8. Serve with a dash of coconut milk, a sprinkle of paprika, and fresh parsley as a garnish.

Mushroom Soup

Photo credit: Billy Parisi.

Forget the kind you get out of a bag or can. This soup is delicious and can be made at home easily. And the smell of mushrooms, onions, and thyme together is irresistible.

You’ll need:
400g fresh white or chestnut button mushrooms
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-6 sprigs fresh thyme (or 2 tsp dried if fresh unavailable)
500ml water or stock
100 ml cup of cream or milk

Instructions:
1. Clean your mushrooms with a damp paper towel and slice thinly. Cut the onion in half and slice each half into thin semi-circles. Finely mince your garlic.
2. In a pan, melt the butter, adding a small amount of olive oil to avoid the butter browning or burning too quickly.
3. Once the butter is bubbling, add the mushrooms. Once those take a slightly golden colour, add the onions. Once those become translucent, add the garlic and a hefty pinch of salt.
4. As the mixture cooks together in the moisture it releases with the help of the salt, add the leaves from about four thyme sprigs and leave the mixture to cook for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Combine about three quarters of the mixture with your water or stock and blend until smooth.
6. Add the remainder of your mushrooms and onions to the soup leaving them unblended. Stir them into the soup and add your milk or cream to the mixture.
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with an extra dash of cream and a few fresh thyme leaves as a garnish.

Lentil Soup

© Petrina Tinslay

Lentil soup is a national staple that Egyptian Streets has already dedicated an entire article to. The hearty, warming soup has as many recipes as people who have made it, but here is Egyptian Streets’ version.

You’ll need:
150g red or yellow lentils
1 large tomato
1 large onion
1 large carrot
1 medium sweet potato
500ml water or stock
1 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
1. Cut the sweet potato, tomato, carrot, and onion into rough chunks.
2. Place all the vegetables along with the lentils into a large pot and cover with your water or stock.
3. Add the cumin, salt, and pepper, stir, and let the mixture simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots and sweet potatoes are fork tender.
4. Blend the mixture until smooth either using a hand blender or by transferring it into a blender in batches.
5. Simmer the blended soup for another 5 minutes.
6. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and toasted pieces of baladi bread.

Honourable Mention: Qolqas

Photo credit: Dyna’s Egyptian Cooking.

This dish is without doubt a controversial one and has seen many an argument break out on the internet over whether or not it is actually good. But what is undebatable is that it is a local dish close to the hearts of many Egyptians, closely associated with family dinners in the winter.

You’ll need:
2 bunches of salq greens
2 bunches of fresh coriander
1 large taro root (qolqas)
1L good quality chicken, beef, or duck broth
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp of dried coriander
1 tbsp ghee

Instructions
1. Peel the taro root and cut into 2 centimeter cubes. Clean it by wiping it with a slightly damp paper towel. Make sure not to get the taro root too wet as it will release a large amount of starch and be difficult to use.
2. Bring the broth to a boil. Once you have, add the cubed taro to it and reduce the flame to medium-low. Let it simmer covered until the taro is fork tender.
3. While the taro is simmering, remove the stems from the salq greens and wash them and the fresh coriander thoroughly. Place the two in a blender or food processor with a small amount of water to help with the blending, and process them to a fibrous pulp consistency.
4. Pour the contents of the blender or food processor through a fine mesh sieve and reserve both the green liquid and the fibers.
5. Finely mince your garlic.
6. In a pan, heat a small amount of ghee. Once it is bubbling, add the garlic and the fibers of the greens. Then add the dried coriander. Fold the ingredients together and cook until browned and crisp.
7. Add the green liquid and the fibers of the greens to the broth and taro, allowing them to come to a quick boil together. Make sure to do this uncovered.
8. Serve with a squeeze of lemon and a side of rice.

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Senior Editor at Egyptian Streets and Adjunct Professor at the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo. Holds a master's degree in Global Journalism from the University of Sheffield, where she wrote a dissertation about the effect of disinformation on the profession of journalism. Passionate about music, story-telling, baking, social justice, and taking care of her plants. "If you smell something, say something." -Jon Stewart, 2015

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