During Ramadan in an Algerian household, shourba(soup) just like khobz eddar(homemade bread), is an integral part of iftar. And just like khobz eddar(s), Algerian shourbas do not go by any specific names.... hence the long title of this blog post. I really wasn't sure what to call this soup. It has chicken in it, but not enough for it to be called chicken soup. And it's not really lentil soup either. I thought perhaps vegetable soup would be a suitable name, but the vegetables in the soup are blended in, so you can't really see them, and that isn't usually the case with a typical vegetable soup.
After an hour of pondering and finally going with the longest soup name ever, I realized that it doesn't really matter what to call this soup because this soup is too savory and delicious for words. It is my ultimate favorite soup. And I'm not just saying that. Also, not to sound totally cliche or anything, but I actually was not a fan of soup at all until I had a sip of this one. Seriously.
You will want seconds, possibly even thirds. Don't say I didn't warn you.
1/8 pound of chicken breast, cubed
1/4 of a carrot, peeled and chopped
1/2 of a small potato, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a zucchini squash, chopped
2 small onions, peeled and chopped
1/2 of an Italian green pepper (chop 1/2 of it very finely and leave the other half as a whole)
One small celery branch (from the inside of the celery)
One small bunch of cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
about 1/4 teaspoon of ground red pepper
1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt
One 6oz. can of tomato paste
1/2 cup of orange lentils
1/4 cup of tomato sauce
a sprig of mint
1/4 cup of thin vermicelli
Wash the chicken and add it to the pot. Add the carrot, squash, potato, onions, pepper, and celery. Add 1/2 of the bunch of cilantro, the other half will be added later. Add spices, salt, oil, and saute everything together on low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, add the tomato paste and cover everything with water (The water level should be up to at least half of the saucepan). Turn the stove up to medium/high heat and let the soup come to a boil. When it boils, add the lentils. Stir everything around and then cover the pot and let it cook on low heat.
You have to constantly stir the soup, like about every 10 minutes or so, so that the vegetables and lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pot. After 20 minutes, add 1 cup of water. Lentils absorb a lot of water so you have to keep adding water. After another 30 minutes, add the tomato sauce, throw in the other half of the green pepper, add the rest of the chopped cilantro, and chop in the sprig of mint (leaves only). Add 2 and 1/2 cups of water and turn the heat up high so the soup can come to a boil. Once it boils, cover the pot and turn down the heat again.
After 20 minutes, add another 2 and 1/2 cups of water and turn up the heat so the soup can come to a boil again. When the soup boils, add the vermicelli. Don't cover the pot when you throw in the vermicelli because it will stick to the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally for about 5 more minutes and then you are done!