Soup may be the ultimate comfort food. In the cold winter, nothing warms and satisfies the belly like a steaming, fragrant bowl of hearty soup.
Israelis are getting into soup season with gusto now that the temperatures are dipping. It’s prime time for restaurateurs who specialize in soups, such as Noam Frankfort, Nurah Husaisi, Nir Elkayam and Ofer Elmaliach.
Hamarakia (The Soupery), a certified Vegan Friendly eatery at 4 Koresh Street near the hub of downtown Jerusalem, rotates more than 70 tried-and-true soups on its menu, accompanied by homey Israeli staples such as hummus and shakshuka.
Co-owner Noam Frankforter, who bought the eatery from its founders with a friend 14 years ago, says each evening there are seven “warm and cozy” soups on offer.
“In summer we add cold soups using yogurt or fresh tomatoes,” Frankforter tells ISRAEL21c.
The biggest sellers at Hamarakia in winter are soups with lentils, beans or sweet potatoes.
Coconut-orange lentil soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium potato, diced
Half a bunch fresh coriander, chopped
2 cups coconut milk
1½ cups orange lentils, soaked 20 minutes
1 tablespoon curry powder
Flaked cilantro, salt, pepper to taste
About 2 cups water or vegetable stock
In a soup pot, fry the chopped onion in the olive oil. When the onions turn golden, add the diced carrots and potatoes and stir. Add curry, cilantro, salt and pepper to taste. Continue stirring.
Add the soaked lentils and coconut milk. Add half the chopped coriander plus enough water or vegetable stock to cover. Cook for half an hour. Puree half the soup with an immersion blender and add back into pot. Garnish with the rest of the chopped coriander.
Mitbach Shel Nurah (Nora’s Kitchen), a kosher Druze eatery in Daliat el-Carmel about an hour north of Tel Aviv, is a good place to sample traditional northern Syrian Druze dishes such as Barbajeena soup.
Chef Nurah Husaisi tells ISRAEL21c that this first course is popular in the winter because of its warming ingredients including cardamom.
Husaisi cooked up a huge pot of barbajeena for A-sham, the Arab Food Festival in Haifa earlier this month.
2 cups dry chickpeas (4 cups canned)
1 cup of brown or green lentils
1 cup bulgur
1 red bell pepper
½ cup of olive oil
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
Salt and pepper to taste
If using dry chickpeas, soak them overnight, drain the soaking water and place the chickpeas in a pot and cover with tap water; cook until tender on high heat. When the chickpeas are soft add the lentils and the bulgur, plus water if needed, and bring to boil.
Place the onion, bell pepper, olive oil and spices in a food processor and process them finely (careful not to over process). Add the mix to the soup and keep cooking for about an hour until the soup thickens and the lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally.
Café Sofia in Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel has kicked off its annual soup festival through April 7, offering five different soups each day on an all-you-can-eat basis. Chef Nir Elkayam uses family recipes to make his minestrone, pea, cream of corn, eggplant, and cream of Jerusalem artichoke and leek (below). Hours: Sunday through Thursday noon to 10pm; Friday 11-3.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
1 liter vegetable stock
2 leeks coarsely chopped
800 grams peeled potatoes cut into cubes
500 grams Jerusalem artichoke, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
150 ml. cream or nondairy substitute
Olive oil and thyme, optional garnish
Boil the stock and add the potato cubes, Jerusalem artichoke, garlic and leek. Cook until all are soft.
Blend the ingredients, bring to a boil again and add the cream. Season to taste and garnish with olive oil and thyme leaves.
Zuppa (Italian for “soup”), owned for the past 10 years by Ofer Elmaliach and Koby Bendelac, has two Tel Aviv locations: Ibn Gabirol 138 and Ahad Ha’am 19.
“Our idea was to take high-quality ingredients and use basic professional cooking methods to turn them into simple, healthy, inexpensive soups, salads and sandwiches,” Elmaliach tells ISRAEL21c. “Every day we have five or six different homemade soups, all natural, with no powdered bullion or MSG.”
A typical daily menu at Zuppa lists varieties such as goulash, Jerusalem artichoke, minted pea, vichyssoise, black bean with rosemary, chicken-noodle and mushroom-zucchini. Sign up online for Zuppa’s soup club; enter your three favorite soups and you’ll get a text when the eatery plans to serve one of them.
“Soup is very comforting and brings up home and childhood,” says Elmaliach. “There’s something about it that makes you feel better, especially chicken-noodle or vegetable soup.”