Ex-girlfriend recipes #1: Merjumet Chorba

JUNE 3 03 – I got a few good recipes off Emily. She was just over half my age and married to a Turkish grocer and bookie. Ironically we met each other when we were both Samaritans, I say ironically because the general idea was to give solace and help to people in despair, not to cause a whole lot more. I don't think I'll do the adultery thing again, not knowingly anyway, it can be very karmic. That's another story. Her husband's mother gave her some authentic Turkish recipes, which I still make today.

This one's called 'Merjumet Chorba', a rice and lentil soup with lemon. You won't find this in any books.

Rinse 1 cup red lentils and ½ cup American quick-cook long-grain rice (ordinary long grain is white, 'quick-cook' is yellowy, don't use ordinary long grain rice, it won't go sloppy enough). Boil & simmer, skimming off the scum. Meanwhile, crumble 1½ vegetable stock cubes (I use 'Kallo Organic') into about a quarter inch of heated olive oil in the bottom of a medium-sized saucepan, followed by a finely chopped large onion. It's important not to skimp on the oil, otherwise you risk burning the onions.

Now the trick here is to keep it on a low heat and fry for a longish time until the onions are really brown, but never burnt. Empty the pan into the lentil and rice simmering away. Simmer for 40 min, adding water as needed, keeping it a loose consistency. Have the lid on the pan with a gap. (I use a large Le Creuset enamelled cast-iron pot, I never use anything else for cooking than Le Creuset.)

At the end add: 2 good pinches of salt, couple of twists of freshly ground pepper, and the juice of 1½ lemons. Serve with extra lemon slices and fresh sesame bread.

Now this is a really great recipe. Simple, and the final result surpassing all expectations.

Use real lemons! My mate Nick, a barrister and onetime KAOS lawyer, once shamefacedly admitted keeping lemon pips in the kitchen so that when he made his excellent lemon sorbet he could stick in a few old pips so no-one would suspect he'd used bottled lemon juice.


[UPDATE: I am told by a Turkish friend that the correct spelling is 'Mercimek Corbasi']


Related: I've just added a new story to the 'Other' section, it's about splitting up with Emily and karma. I wrote an introduction for it, leading to the story itself. One of my Pure Land Buddhist writings.

There are Buddhas all over my house, living happily with woman-headed hawks, dragons, and tortoise-deities. I only become aware of them when I invite someone new in, and I find myself thinking: 'I hope they don't think I'm religious.'