Tarhana is a traditional, spicy Turkish soup common throughout Anatolia. It is also the name for the dry pulse made from a fermented mixture of plain yogurt, flour, and vegetables that are used as a base for the soup.
Tarhana is a staple in many parts of Turkey. Tarhana soup is prepared by mixing the desired amount of crumbled tarhana with boiling water, milk, butter and spices and cooking it over a low flame.
Tarhana powder is prepared by mixing plain yogurt, flour and grated vegetables like red pepper, tomato, and onion into a thick paste that is left to ferment for several days. The paste is then divided up, dried and crumbled to make tarhana powder.
You can purchase tarhana powder in most Turkish groceries and Middle Eastern markets. Many cooks, especially those in rural areas, prefer to make their own tarhana. This is usually done once a year during the summer when drying the pulse is easy.
If you want to make and store your own dry tarhana, follow this simple recipe I use at home. It makes a lot of pulses, so have several large glass storage jars on hand, or make smaller jars to give as gifts.
- 1 pound red peppers (sweet)
- 1 pound onions
- 1 pound tomatoes
- 4 cups water
- 16 ounces chickpeas (cooked or canned, drained)
- 16 ounces yogurt (plain)
- 2 pounds flour
- 1 packet yeast (active, dry)
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon hot red pepper (flakes)
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Clean the vegetables and put them into a large saucepan with the water. Boil them gently until very soft. Drain them, then add the cooked chickpeas and puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. If the mixture seems too watery, let it sit in a very fine wire strainer for a few minutes to let excess water drip away.
- Put the warm vegetable puree into a large mixing bowl. Add the yogurt and mix thoroughly. Mix in the active dry yeast and spices.
- Now begin adding flour very slowly and working it completely into the mixture with your hands. Continue this process until all the flour in mixed in evenly and you have a smooth batter.
- Cover the top of the bowl with some cling wrap and a towel and set it in a warm place for 5 days. Check the batter every day and stir it to keep the fermentation even.
- On the 5th day, remove the towel and cling wrap and stir the mixture well. It should have a sour aroma and be bright orange in color.
- Divide the batter up by placing large spoonfuls on baking sheets covered with non-stick baking parchment. Leave the sheets in a dry place until one side of the patties is completely dry. Flip them over and allow the other sides to dry.
- After the patties look dry, you can begin to break them apart with your fingers. The centers will still be moist, so allow more time for the coarsely crumbled tarhana to dry further.
- Repeat the crumbling and drying process several times until the pieces are small enough to put through a food processor or fine sieve.
- Once you have a lot of fine powder, spread it out on the trays and continue to dry it, shifting the powder with your hands occasionally.
- At the end, you should have a fine pulse that is completely dry. As long as you’re sure it’s dried thoroughly, you can store the pulse in glass containers for more than 1 year with no refrigeration needed.
- To make tarhana soup, simply cook a few tablespoons of the pulse in hot milk or water until it thickens, and add butter, salt, and spices to taste.