Zöhre Bozgeyik, aka Ezo the Bride, was a real person who lived in a small village in the south eastern part of Turkey in the city of Gaziantep close to Syrian border in early 20th century. She was called Ezo the Bride because she was very beautiful and at the age of marriage. Although, there are many variations of Ezo the Bride legend/story mostly as a romance in popular folk culture, her story is one of suffering, patriarchal traditions, and homesickness. Ezo had two marriages both of which were berdel, i.e. bride swapping (a marriage arrangement between two or three families in which they swap daughters in order not to pay for the brides). By the time she made her second marriage to a cousin in Syria, the Turkish Republic was founded and had established borders between the two countries. She died young in Syria, homesick. As per her will she was buried in Syria on a hill overlooking Turkey. There are films based on her hard, unfortunate life, the most celebrated one being Ezo Gelin (Ezo the Bride) (1968), based on a story by well-known poet Behçet Kemal Çağlar and featuring one of the most famous and talented actors of the time Fatma Girik as Ezo, which won the the Second Best Film and the Best Actress awards at the Adana Golden Boll Film Festival in 1969.
As for the soup itself, rumor has it that during grim times of poverty Ezo created the soup by using whatever she had left in the house. However, the most important trivia about Ezo Gelin soup is not the bride, but that you cannot find a single Kebapçı (Kebab Restaurant) in Turkey that doesn’t serve this soup. Rumor also has it that if you cannot serve this soup you couldn’t get a license for a Kebapçı restaurant in Turkey—just saying! It’s the best starter before kebap-you have to have the soup, and whatever you do at home, including my recipe, Ezo Gelin soup is always better at a Kebapçı, even or especially at a sloppy one. Also, it’s considered to be a perfect hangover cure, after, of course, the Tripe Soup (İşkembe Çorbası).
1 cup red lentils
1/4 cup bulgur
1/4 cup rice
1 tbsp pepper paste (if not, substitute with tomato paste)
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 onion, very finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tbsp dry mint leaves
1 tsp oregano leaves
1/4 tsp black pepper
pepper flakes, as much as you want
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
5 cups chicken stock (or water)
(I sometimes hide from the kids grated carrots in the soup)
-Place bulgur and rice with 2 cups of water in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer once it starts boiling. Check now and then to make sure it doesn’t run out of water. Add hot water if necessary. Turn it of once bulgur and rice is cooked. Drain excessive water.
-Heat butter and olive oil in a pot and sauté onions and garlic until very soft, 8-10 minutes.
-Mix in tomato and pepper pastes and cook for 4-5 minutes.
-Add 5 cups of chicken stock or water, whichever you’re using. Bring to a boil.
-Add washed and rinsed red lentils, rice and bulgur. Simmer for 20 minutes stirring now and then.
-Add dried mint, oregano, and salt. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
-The trick is not to put Ezo the Bride soup in a blender. Once everything is cooked and soft, a whisk could work just fine. So after adding the legumes, whisk the soup for a couple of times until smoothened.
-Always serve Ezo the Bride with a slice of lemon. Splash of lemon juice will bring the best out of the soup.
Some people like to sizzle the mint with butter instead of adding the spices to the soup. For that, heat olive oil or butter (1 tbsp for 2-3 servings) in a small skillet. When oil starts sizzling (if you’re using butter, try not to burn it) add mint and oregano (and 1/2 tsp paprika if you wish) and after approximately 30 seconds remove from the heat. Pour over the soup.
Feeling lazy and own a pressure cooker?:
Put everything in the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes.