Ten and a half years we've lived in Turkey - and last week was the first time we tasted what is perhaps Turkey's most well known soup; Tarhana Çorbası. I put this on my Facebook profile and on Twitter. "Noooo waaay," was one reply. People couldn't believe we'd never tried it before. We couldn't believe we'd never tried it before. Here we are; two enthusiasts about all that is Turkish food - and we'd never slurped tarhana soup.
So we thought about some of the possible reasons. Way back in 2010, we did a list of 6 Turkish soups you're likely to find in the lokantas around Fethiye. Tarhana çorbası doesn't make that list because you don't find it in lokantas. That's one reason...
A Turkish Recipe For Tarhana Çorbası
And perhaps another reason is this is a soup that's made and eaten at home. It's a comforting, winter family staple. It's what parents make and send to their kids who are away at uni or working away from home just so they can be sure their offspring are at least eating one sensible meal occasionally. Because tarhana soup starts off looking like this:
It's a dried food; a process that takes days, and most Turkish households will have tarhana tucked away somewhere that's been made by a mum, auntie or grandma before being divided up to be shared amongst family and neighbours.
So how did this tarhana come into our possession? It was a lovely gift, that's how! A friend of ours from Istanbul has recently returned to Fethiye. She's come with mum's tarhana in her luggage and, when we went to see her, she produced a bag for us. "My mum said give this to Barry and Julia. She's really sorry there's not more." A gift with an apology? Noooo, big thank yous from us. Because you can buy tarhana in packet form in the supermarkets, these days, but that's just not the same, is it? The tarhana in our photo above has been made by the hands of our friend's mum - and she's thought to send some for us all the way from Istanbul. Lovely!
Stock and rehydrating tarhana
So, because of that, we wanted to make sure we made a proper chicken stock to give our tarhana gift the respect it deserves.
- Put two generous tablespoonfuls of tarhana into a coffee mug and fill with tepid water. Leave this for a couple of hours or so until the tarhana has rehydrated and become a thick liquid.
- Now you need around 3 coffee mugfuls of chicken stock. Use a stock cube if you like, but we make our own from the carcass of our kömürde piliç. Throw it in a pan, fill with water, onion chunks, herbs and stems from vegetables and bring to a rolling boil for 15 minutes or so. Simple.
- In a large pan, melt a knob of butter on a low heat, add your tarhana and 2 dessertspoonfuls of salça (tomato paste) and salt and pepper. We added some chilli flakes, too.
- Now ladle in your chicken stock and keep stirring every so often so the tarhana doesn't settle and stick to the bottom of the pan.
- The soup will thicken as it heats. It's usually served thick, so add more water if you want a thinner soup. We ended up using all of our stock and the soup was still thick.
Tarhana Çorbası - More Information
To serve, we sprinkled with chilli flakes and a drizzle of chilli-infused olive oil. And the verdict? Barry tucked in before me (you can see him dipping bread in the background) and said, "Awww, lovely. Reminds of something we used to eat as kids all the time and I can't put my finger on it."
I delved in... "Heinz oxtail soup," I said.
"Yeah, that's it."
Most people of our age in Wigan have been brought up as kids on Heinz staff sales - cupboards filled with tins without labels. Oxtail soup always seemed to feature more than the others. So a staple Turkish comfort food also took us back to our own childhood comfort foods. We like tarhana soup!
Tarhana Çorbası - More Information
- Our recipe made four servings.
- Tarhana soup is traditionally served with beyaz peynir (white cheese) crumbled over the top.
- Some people also add minced beef - we've got some tarhana left over and will try this next time.
- If you'd like to try tarhana soup and are like us and have a bit of an aversion to packet soups, you can buy tarhana from the market. Just look for the stalls selling dried beans and rice etc. There's usually a big sack of tarhana in the mix somewhere.
- We haven't told you the ingredients of tarhana or why it takes so long to make. That's because it's also explained so vividly in this great blog post by Olga at Delicious Istanbul.
- Tarhana soup is usually eaten as a warming winter soup. We're Barry and Julia. We had ours on a sunny day at the beginning of summer. That's life...