My favourite tomato soup is Turkish, contains both minced meat and home made pasta, and is an absolute delight when it comes to flavour. It’s not the famous of Turkish dishes – even in Turkey – but it should be!
On occasion, my partner will send me text messages containing nothing but a simple link. No context, just the link.
This time, it was more than enough.
The title – tekke çorbası – rang no bells. Except to give away that this was some sort of recipe for a soup, çorba being the Turkish word for soup.
But a quick look at the recipe was more than enough to make time to try it as soon as the next day.
What is tekke çorbası and where does it come from?
Tekke çorbası is a Turkish tomato soup with minced meat and fresh pasta. This may sound like a “bolognese style” soup. but the flavourings make it anything but.
Key here are chili flakes and dried mint, a classic combination in Turkish soups.
I know dried mint sounds weird in a tomato based soup, but I urge you to try it. It’s truly an excellent way to add an interesting as well as delicious layer of flavour.
As far as I can gather, tekke çorbası is little known elsewhere. It’s not mentioned in any of my Turkish cookery books.
Perhaps the name can give us further clues of its origin?
Tekke is a word of religious connotations. It’s used for buildings used for spiritual retreats for followers of Sufism.
Perhaps one such tekke in the Kütahya region served this soup as their speciality? I can only speculate-
How to make this soup
The brilliant thing about this soup is its depth of flavour, while being so easy to make. It really tastes as if it’s been pottering away on the stove all day.
Yet, it’s quite quick and easy to make. And with ingredients you probably already have in your cupboards!
You start off by frying the meat and onion. Once cooked, add garlic, tomato paste and red pepper paste.
Red pepper paste is commonly used to flavour Turkish dishes, and I recommend getting it if you can. If you can’t find it, you can always substitute more tomato paste.
Finally, add fresh tomatoes, spices and water. Simmer for a bit, add the pasta, et voila! Your soup is done as soon as the pasta is done.
The only element here that may require a little extra from you is the pasta. It’s supposed to be home made!
Since this is a soup, the pasta used is rather rustic and quick to put together. Certainly achievable.
Of course, if you prefer, you may skip this entirely and use dried pasta. It’ll work well too. But I recommend trying the fresh pasta for a more delightful texture. It really makes a difference.
Pasta in Turkish cuisine
Well, pasta has always been a key part of Turkish cuisine.
Mantı, often described as “Turkish ravioli”, is one of Turkish cuisine’s most beloved dishes. They’re basically tiny dumplings, made in a variety of shapes. Most commonly, it’s served with a yoghurt sauce and chili butter.
The dish is not, however, something the Turks learned from Italians. Instead, it can be traced back to Mongols.
Erişte, a rustic, hand cut pasta usually taking the shape of matchsticks, is commonly available at markets. It’s a popular everyday dish, and, if Wikipedia is to be believed (I’ve not done any independent research on this particular matter), can be traced back to Northern China.
As such, there are a number of traditional Turkish dishes we now can classify as “pasta”.
How to serve this Turkish tomato soup with meat and pasta
This soup is a rustic and hearty dish that stands well on its own two feet as dinner in its own right. If serving as dinner, I’d suggest a fresh salad to go alongside.
If you don’t mind soup with soup, a liquidy cacık (Turkish “tzatziki soup”) is a great match.
Personally, I like making it one half of the dinner. It works a treat alongside börek.
Serves 3-4 as a main course, more as a starter or side dish.
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 150 g (5 ¼ oz) minced meat
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 40 g (3 Tbsp) tomato paste
- 20 g (1 ½ Tbsp) sweet red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası) (or more tomato paste)
- 400 g (14 oz) tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp pul biber (Aleppo pepper)
- ½ tsp dried mint
- 1 ltr (4 cups) boiling water
- 160 g fresh pasta (see below) or 100 g dried pasta
- salt and pepper
- 100 g white flour (pasta flour, if you like)
- 1 egg
- 1-2 Tbsp water
- a pinch of salt
- Start by making the pasta dough. Mix the flour with a pinch of salt. Crack in the egg. Mix well, adding water by the tablespoon until you have a firm dough. Knead the dough until fairly smooth, 3-5 minutes. I usually do this by hand, but you can also use a mixer. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap (or equivalent) and leave in the fridge for half an hour.
- Meanwhile, heat a thick bottomed pot over medium heat. Fry the meat and onion in butter and olive oil until the onion is translucent and soft, but not coloured, 8-10 minutes. Stir regularly to avoid burning.
- Add the garlic, tomato paste and sweet red pepper paste. Fry for another couple of minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the tomatoes, pul biber and dried mint. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the water, mix well and leave to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- While the soup is cooking, roll the pasta as thin as you prefer. I like this one roughly the thickness of lasagna sheets. You can do this manually with a rolling pin, or with the help of a pasta machine. If using a pasta machine, run it through at setting zero 8-10 times, folding it in half between each turn, then up the setting by one each time until you're happy. I usually stop at 4 or 5. Whichever your method, make sure to use plenty of flour to avoid the pasta dough sticking to your surfaces.
- Cut the pasta into 1-2 cm (½-¾ in) squares. They don't need to be completely uniform or even very pretty.
- Add the pasta to the soup while stirring the soup well. Leave to simmer until the pasta is cooked and floats to the surface, 2-3 minutes. If using dried pasta, add another 100 ml (⅖ cup) of liquid and check the packet instructions for cooking times. If you like, you can also add already cooked pasta, in which case you just need to heat it through. When the pasta looks cooked, take off the heat and leave for a few minutes.
- Scoop the soup into bowls and scatter a little freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley before serving. Make sure to have a few wedges of lemon nearby for squeezing into the soup for those who so desire.