Poor Man’s Lentil

April 09th, 2006  | Category: Beans and Legumes, Memoir/Meme/Misc., Turkish Cuisine, Vegetarian

Poor Man's Lentil

Back in the spring of ’99, after endless days of house hunting, Özlem and I managed to find a 3 bedroom flat in the foggiest and most depressing district of San Francisco – Richmond district, 22nd and Balboa to be specific – just a day prior to getting kicked out by our landlord, who looked like the Chinese twin of Joan Collins. Sick and tired of getting rejected because of our nonexistent credit history, we really did not mind that the house looked exactly like the ones we have looked at over the past 15 exhausting days.

Everyday was a deja vous. Same carpet, same layout, same kitchen cabinets, same tasteless linoleum flooring, etc. Up to this very day, we still suspect that every apartment owner starting from Masonic all the way to Ocean Beach hired the same grotty contractor, who decided to redo all these houses exactly the same way just so he can get an extra discount for his bulk orders.

Anyways, we simply didn’t care. It was still a 15 minute bus ride to our school. We were students on a budget, so we mostly cooked at home. Since Özlem is a vegetarian and I can very well live without meat, we usually settled on mixed salads and pasta. It wasn’t long before we got tired of munching on raw vegetables and exhausted all the possible combinations of salad and pasta…. and I decided to give mom a call. She reminded me the lentil dish she used to cook for me and we decided to give it a shot. After that, lentils it was… 10 days in a row. We couldn’t have enough of it. Özlem named it “Poor Man’s Lentil” because back then it helped us save money and even though the ingredients are very cheap, this meal is very tasty, hearty, filling and nutritious. So here you go:

Poor Man’s Lentil


  • 1+1/2 cups green lentil (pre-soaked volume)
  • 2 medium sized onion
  • 1/4 cup organic tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (to serve – per bowl)
  • 1 tablespoon of crumbled feta cheese (to serve – per bowl)
  • salt and black pepper


  1. Soak the lentils overnight in warm water. Wash them under cold water, drain and set aside.
  2. In a large pot (preferably a Dutch oven) heat olive oil over medium heat. Chop two medium sized onions, add to the pot and cook until they are translucent. Add the drained lentils, tomato puree, salt and pepper and continue cooking for 5 more minutes.
  3. Add water (it should cover an inch above the lentils) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered, until lentils are tender, about 1-1.5 hours.
  4. Ladle into your serving cup, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar (per bowl) and mix. Scatter crumbled cheese on top and serve.
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  1. 1 - Ozlem on April 9th, 2006

    hahhahaha:) I miss that dumpster. The funny thing is, now that we are soooo rich, I still make your lentils, not as tasty though:( mucuk!!!!

  2. 2 - Nevzat on April 12th, 2006

    I do not know about the lentils but I object to the statement telling you were living in the foggiest part of San Francisco. In my flat when windows open, I remember fog entering from one window and leaving from the other.

  3. 3 - bakingfairy on April 15th, 2006

    excuse me, what flat? you had a room darling and no windows:P

  4. 4 - Shima in L.A. on October 19th, 2006

    I usually put baby carrots in mine. My grandmother used to add some homemade pasta “ev makarnasi” in hers I’m told by my mother. I also put some organic garlic powder and dried mint and a dash of cumin,(all from Whole Foods Market) I bet you are going to love it. Let me know. As a matter of fact I have just made some today, funny coincidence.

  5. 5 - daniesza on January 9th, 2008

    Reading your comments I can see that you guys are a lovely bunch of friends! Like a savory pot of lentils in fact 🙂

  6. 6 - Kalli on January 29th, 2009

    You made me realize that I haven’t made lentil soup in ages. I follow my grandmother’s recipe too, but I have expanded somewhat with the ingredients. I also add carrots as well as celery (the thin soft stalks with lots of leaves), lots of fresh garlic, some green peppers, and oregano. I usually accompany the soup with olives and sardines on the side, sometimes tursu.

  7. 7 - Tugba on February 26th, 2013

    Being a lentil dish fan like you, I strongly recommend you to add some sour pomegranate sauce while it is cooked and in your plate. Just make sure that it is not supermarket- bought-jam-like sweet sauce, but the original sour sauce which you mention here; http://cafefernando.com/turkce/firinda-nar-eksisi/#more-749

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