Wedding soup, or 'düğün çorbası' (doo-OON' chor-BAH'-suh), is a traditional Turkish soup served throughout Anatolia at weddings and other special occasions. Recipes for this rich soup date back to Ottoman times.
Before during and after a wedding, it's customary for host families to prepare large pots of wedding soup over an open fire that's ladled out to hundreds of family members and guests.
The main ingredient in wedding soup is mutton or lamb and its flavorful stock that's obtained after hours of slow cooking. Once the meat is falling apart inside a rich broth, the bones are discarded and the soup is seasoned with lemon juice and thickened with flour and egg yolks. The result is a creamy, satisfying soup with a pronounced lamb flavor countered by the slightest tang of lemon.
Wedding soup can be time-consuming to prepare, especially when it's made in large quantities. Traditional Turkish weddings last for several days, especially in Turkey's rural provinces. Families and often entire villages get together for the event. Preparations, including those for the soup, begin days before.
Cooking the meat and broth take the most time. Once you have rich lamb stock and tender meat, the going gets easier.
The hot stock is then thickened with flour and seasoned with lemon juice. Finally, a drizzle of melted butter mixed with common Turkish spices is spooned over each serving. What you get is a surprisingly flavorful soup that looks just as wonderful as it tastes.
As it's often said in Turkey, the effort of preparing and eating wedding soup is worth it, and everyone should try it at least once in a lifetime. Just like marriage!
Here is a recipe for Turkish wedding soup you can make at home for a large family get-together.
- 2.5 pounds/1 kilogram coarse chunks of lamb or mutton on the bone
- 10 cups water
- 2 large onions
- 3 heaping tbsp. flour
- 3 eggs
- juice of 2 lemons
- 3 tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. hot red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- Peel the onions and put them whole into a large, covered pot. Add the lamb chunks along with the bones and 10 cups of water to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and cover the pan leaving the lid cracked. Allow the meat to boil for 10 to 15 minutes.
- While the mixture is boiling, use a long-handled wire strainer or spoon to remove the foam and cooked blood that floats to the top. Once the foam is removed, reduce the heat, cover and let the meat simmer gently for about 1.5 hours.
- When the meat is falling off the bones, remove the pot from the heat. Remove the meat and bones from the broth and set them aside. Let them cool down until the meat is cool enough to handle. Discard the onions.
- Wearing rubber gloves, remove all the meat from the bones and discard them. Separate the meat into bite-sized pieces with your fingers, removing any grizzle, bone fragments and large pieces of fat.
- Next, use a fine wire strainer to strain the broth to remove any unwanted debris. You should have about six cups of broth to work with. If you don't have enough, add extra beef or lamb broth to make six cups. Put the broth in a clean pot and bring it to a boil.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour with a few spoons of water to make a thin paste with no lumps. Stir in a ladle or two of the broth. Add the salt, then slowly drizzle the mixture into the boiling broth while stirring constantly.
- Add the meat pieces to the broth and continue to simmer gently for about 20 minutes more.
- In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the lemon juice. Whisk in a ladle of the hot broth, then a second one. Drizzle the mixture slowly into the soup while stirring constantly. Bring the soup to a gentle boil once again for about one minute, then remove it from the heat.
- Melt the butter in a small pan and stir in the tomato paste, red pepper, and basil. Drizzle a spoonful of the butter mixture over the top of each bowl of soup just before serving.