The first time I had this soup was in Cappadocia, in central Turkey. Cappadocia is an intriguing area made out of soft volcanic tuff that over millions of years been shaped into a fantastic lunar-like landscape. You can spend days cycling, walking, climbing and exploring this area. We had been out the whole day, got ourselves lost, been rained on (a rarity in the area), got stuck in a cave and came back to town sweaty, dirty and hungry. This small place on the square had just opened for the evening and was serving generous bowls of hot, delicious lentil soup. With large chunks of bread on the side.
The feeling of eating something so wonderful and nutritious after a day of activities has really stuck with me and we often enjoy this soup here at home after a long walk or bicycle ride.

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tbsp tomato puree
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
500 g red lentils
1500 ml vegetable stock
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp paprika powder
1-2 tsp cayenne powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
salt and pepper

1 tsp dried mint leaves
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Turkish bread

Place the red lentils in a colander and rinse. In the olive oil, fry the onions and garlic a couple of minutes, until the onions are soft but not yet brown. Add the tomato puree, blend well and let it fry for another couple of minutes.
Add the lentils, stock and spices (except the mint). Bring the pot to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40-45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Decorate with the mint and serve with lemon wedges and bread.