Chilled green lentil soup: refreshing, vegan and rich in iron

     

    Chilled green lentil soup

     

    Time:        prep. 15 mins
                      cook. 10/30 mins
                      cool. min 2 hrs
    Difficulty: very easy
    Yields:      2 portions
    Cost :        low

     

    I should have called it summer soup, instead of chilled green lentil soup; but that would have meant limiting it to the 3 summer months, betraying my love that disregards seasons.
    However, it is equally true that summer is undoubtedly its best season, given the possibility of using fresh tomatoes and herbs grown in the field under the scorching sun, at the peak of flavor and vitamins; yet, by making do with the reduced variety of winter herbs, and substituting fresh tomatoes with tomato puree, it is possible to enjoy it even in the colder months.

    As always, taste is never reason enough to make me talk about a certain food or recipe, and cold lentil soup is no exception: rich in protein (100 g of raw lentils contain about 23 g of protein), vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols, and lots of dietary fiber.

    Functional (for health) but light dishes should have a special place on the summer table, as the sweltering heat changes the rhythms of nutrition and metabolism, causing an increased introduction of calories, often without realizing it: you skip a meal because it is hot and you think you have earned the right to enjoy various snacks, iced drinks, ice creams and fruit salads (if not always, frequently industrially produced); and at the end of the day you find yourself with twice as many calories, and not even half the nutrients your body needs!

    Chilled green lentil soup is also a good ally for those who have little desire or time to devote to cooking. Lentils can be cooked in advance, even weeks before, and can be conserved in freezer or by canning them; of course you can also use directly the canned ones.
    If you use frozen lentils, just remember to take them out of the freezer the night before by thawing them in the fridge; then you will only have to prepare the other ingredients in no time.

    There is, however, another aspect to recommend lentils in summer menus: their rich iron content.

    In summer, we lose more iron through excessive sweating (about 22.5 micrograms of iron in 1 liter of sweat) [1, 2]. A fact that puts women of childbearing age at greater risk regardless of their diet (many omnivores also risk iron deficiency).

    So let’s see how this recipe for chilled green lentil soup comes to the aid of my companions: refreshing, satiating, abundant in iron (albeit non-heme). Since it is non-heme iron, taking in high amounts may not be enough; in order to absorb it effectively, some reinforcement is needed; in other words, two substances not surprisingly present copiously in the formulation of chilled green lentil soup: vitamin C and beta carotene.

    (Repetita juvant: as explained in this article, vitamin C and beta carotene have synergistic actions that improve the absorption of non-heme iron).

    Curiosity

    In Turkiye this dish is known as bat (please forget the imagine of the bats immediately) and, apart from lentils, calls only for finely ground bulgur; unfortunately, outside my homeland, the second ingredient is not easily found, so here is my reinterpretation with healthy and nutritious alternatives.
    The chilled green lentil soup originates from Tokat, which is world-renowned for the production of vine leaves (if you happen to get your hands on a packet of pickled or vacuum-packed Turkish vine leaves, check for the origin) and grape molasses. Traditionally, it was served with blanched or pickled vine leaves to allow the diner to make their own ‘sarma’ or ‘dolma’ (or call it ‘wrap’ if you like).
    You should also know that chilled green lentil soup, very sustainable and distinctly proletarian, with no ifs and buts, was my favorite dish when I was a kid (nothing has changed since then): you could already imagine what kind of adult I would become!

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    Ingredients for chilled green lentil soup

    600 g fleshy tomatoes to make tomato juice
    100 g dried lentils
    30 g fine-ground bulgur, or millet, or quinoa (or couscous)
    2-3 fresh spring onions
    1 ripe tomato cut into dices
    1 onion, finely chopped into dices
    4-5 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
    2-3 tablespoons finely chopped mint
    2-3 tablespoons finely chopped dill (optional, but if you can find it, it’s really good)
    1-2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar (optional, but divine)
    the juice of half a lemon
    salt, pepper to taste (ground red chili pepper if desired)

    Directions

    The preparation process is very easy, anyone can make chilled green lentil soup. We have 2 steps to follow: in the first we cook the lentils and bulgur; when everything is at room temperature (i.e. in the second step) we combine them with the other fresh ingredients and are ready to serve the soup immediately; or well chilled after a few hours in the fridge.
    Wash and soak the lentils and the chosen cereal separately: as already mentioned, the dish is definitely more traditional and tasty prepared with finely ground bulgur; however, there are several reasons for preferring millet, one is accessibility. Also quinoa is an excellent choice, for celiacs, or for those who want to introduce more protein into their meals.
    Lentils (as well as millet and quinoa) need to be soaked for at least 2 hours in order to reduce their phytate content (and saponins for millet and quinoa), although their concentration is lower than in other legumes.
    After soaking, drain and rinse them one last time before cooking (for the complete procedure of all the steps involved in cooking legumes you can read this guide).

    For the original recipe with finely ground bulgur (or couscous), first cook the lentils alone in approx 500 ml water, for 10 minutes after the whistle (Pressure cooker), or 25 minutes after boiling (in normal pot, you may have to add some more water for normal pot); then pour the bulgur or couscous over the cooked lentils, stir and turn off the heat and close the lid.
    The residual heat will be more than enough to cook this type of grains.

    In the case of millet or quinoa, cook them together with the lentils.
    With the pressure cooker, again in approx 500 ml of water.
    They will be cooked more or less in 10 minutes after the whistle blows (in the normal pot 25-30 minutes after boiling and you may have to add some more water for normal pot).
    If the lentils absorb all the water, add a little more; vice versa, remove the excess water depending on the desired consistency (always consider that the subsequent tomato juice will make the soup even more liquid). Now leave the mixture to cool.
    While you are waiting for the mixture to cool completely, wash the tomatoes, cut them into dices and blend them. I recommend not removing the seeds or skin so as not to reduce the amount of beta carotene mainly present in the scraps (for other nutritional mistakes normally made in the kitchen, see this guide).
    Next, wash and finely chop the herbs, spring onions and dice the onion and tomato; then add them to the tomato juice with the juice of half a lemon and balsamic vinegar, or pomegranate molasses.

    Finally, when the lentil and bulgur (or millet) mixture has cooled down, combine all the ingredients with the vegetables, season with salt and pepper to taste and serve the chilled green lentil soup.

    Smart combos

    As you may have noticed, this recipe contains no fat. Consequently, you can enrich the chilled green lentil soup with a handful of walnuts, or other dried fruit of your liking; or with a quarter of a diced avocado; or with a tablespoon of good extra virgin olive oil per serving not only for taste but also to improve the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants.
    To tell the truth I personally enjoy the company of a bruschetta garnished with 1 tablespoon of guacamole thanks to my stocks of local avocado in the freezer (for this easy and useful procedure read here), or with 1-2 tablespoons of Turkish style eggplants meze.

    Enjoy your soup and good revolution to all

     

    Bibliography
    1) Brune M, Magnusson B, Persson H, Hallberg L. Iron losses in sweat. Am J Clin Nutr. 1986;43(3):438-443. doi:10.1093/ajcn/43.3.438
    2) Waller MF, Haymes EM. The effects of heat and exercise on sweat iron loss. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1996;28(2):197-203. doi:10.1097/00005768-199602000-00007 

     

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