Kirk’s Egyptian Lentil Soup – Shoubra Ads

I can’t remember the circumstances surrounding the first time Kirk made me his lentil soup.  (Was I sick? Was it a weekday? A special occasion? A first course? An entrée?) What I can remember is sitting at the dining table in his old apartment, absolutely floored by the realization something as simple as lentil soup could be so incredibly delicious.  This lentil soup is creamy, but has no dairy.  It’s flavor is complicated, but it’s a simple combination of lentils, onion and stock.

As I savored each spoonful, I realized this is the “red stuff” for which Esau gave up his birthright to Jacob.  So, maybe Esau was famished from his hunt, but only a bowl this amazing could redefine the future of Israel.


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Lentils are one of the oldest known foods.    The earliest archeological dating hails from 13,000 to 9,500 years ago in Greece.  Even Aristophanies mentions lentil soup, referring to it as  the “sweetest of delicacies.”  But, as I’m sure you can imagine, it also has a reputation as a poor man’s food.  A substitute for meat during lent (for those who couldn’t afford fish) and a fundamental of Indian Hindu cuisine (dahl), it seems the lentil is often overlooked.  Odd considering it’s a nutritional powerhouse.

Health magazine has declared lentils one of the world’s healthiest foods.  It’s no wonder why.  These little legumes pack nearly a third more protein that beef and are filling.  (Green have more fiber than red, but they aren’t lacking either.)  You may know that medical studies have linked an increase in dietary fiber intake to a decrease in coronary heart disease.  No surprise to me; I heart this lentil soup.

Most lentil soups I’ve had, or found recipes for, leave the lentils whole and include carrots, celery, etc. with onion in the mix.  These soups are often lovely, but Kirk’s soup is, in my opinion, even better.  The simple fusion of red lentils, yellow onion and no-chicken stock becomes an elevated amalgamation when pureed.  The smooth consistency really brings out the velvety texture of the red lentil.  It’s the comfort food I crave on a cold, rainy day (like this one), when I’m sick, when I’m really hungry or, sometimes, even in the middle of the summer heat.  It’s simply that good.

Kirk’s Egyptian Lentil Soup – Shoubra Ads

Kirk’s lentil soup recipe is adapted from an Egyptian one published in The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos.  This tome is divided by country and includes several variations of lentil soup.  However, it is this simple version, made with red lentils, that Kirk thought the best and I now adore.  It’s unique not only in it’s creamy texture, but in that it requires no stirring while the lentils cook.  They should remain undisturbed and, at a low simmer, will not burn but will, for all intensive purposes, dissolve.

The name listed in the Mallos’ cookbook is Shoubra Ads.  While I am not entirely sure, I believe this name refers to Shubra, a small, heavily populated, district of Cairo.  Ads means lentils.  (If you know about the origin of this name, please post a comment below.  I’d really like to find out.)


  • 1 1/2 cups ads asfar (red lentils)
  • 6 cups no-chicken stock (or water), divided
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. Add 4 cups of stock to a large saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. While waiting for stock to boil, roughly chop one medium-sized yellow onion.  Add the onion and remaining 2 cups of stock to a blender and puree until onion is incorporated into stock.  Add onion/stock mixture to stock in saucepan.
  3. Place lentils into a sieve and wash under running water.  Pick through while washing and discard any discolored legumes.
  4. When stock begins boiling, add lentils to saucepan.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for approximately 30 minutes until lentils are tender and have fallen apart.  (When you open the lid, you should see red liquid with very few individual lentils.)  Do not stir during cooking.
  5. Puree soup with a hand mixer or, in batches, in a blender.
  6. Return soup to heat and add cumin, salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.  The consistency should be thick, but if a slightly thinner soup is desired, thin with additional stock or water.
  7. Serve with crusty bread or oyster crackers and, if desired, sliced lemon and olive oil.


Serves 6

Cooking time: 45 – 60 minutes

Adapted from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos.

7 comments on “Kirk’s Egyptian Lentil Soup – Shoubra Ads

  1. Lorien
    March 9, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    I love lentils in all forms and colors. I can’t wait to try this soup. Seriously. I’m drooling on the keyboard.

    As for their nutritional value, the little lentil is a “powerhouse” as you put it. Serving this soup with multi-grain bread makes this meal a complete protein. Low in fat, high in fiber. Add a salad of spinach or kale, and you could literally live off of this meal.

    • jennifervickers
      March 10, 2010 at 10:42 pm #

      You’re absolutely right Lorien! The lentil is such a great starting point for a healthy vegetarian or vegan meal. Just yesterday I noticed that Pat Greer’s garden burgers are chock full of them. (Haven’t had those? They are one of the few vegetarian options available through My Fit Foods; just be sure to call ahead. They rarely have them in stock!)

  2. Ramona
    May 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Dennis made this soup the other day. I went to the farmer’s market today and they have red lentils. I got 1 pound for $3.50 or so. I’m seriously considering trying to make t again tonight. Sophie gives it 2 thumps up!

    • jennifervickers
      May 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm #

      Lentils at the farmer’s market! I had no idea!

      We make it in double batches and freeze it in containers that hold two servings. It’s nice to pull it out for a quick dinner.

  3. Kevin V
    August 29, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    Going to try to make this tonight…I’ll report back…

    • Kevin V
      August 30, 2010 at 7:26 pm #

      This was easy and good. I also had positive feedback from friends. Definitely a good thing to make and save for my work lunches. Great with some french bread.

      Thanks Jennifer.

      • jennifervickers
        August 30, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

        You are more than welcome Kevin. Kirk pointed out that, for the meat eaters, this soup is excellent with a little Italian or duck sausage. (For the vegetarians, it’s also good with a little veggie Italian sausage substitute.) Just pan fry the sausage, cut into slices and slip into a bowl of soup. Yum.

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