Kesmek means “to cut” in Turkish – a reference to the noodles in this soup, which are cut by hand. This hearty dish is perfect for the region’s harsh winters. It’s flavoured with reyhan, an anise-y variety of Turkish basil, but Thai basil makes a good substitute.






Skill level

Average: 2.6 (47 votes)


  • 375 g (2½ cups) plain flour, plus extra, to dust
  • 1 egg
  • 200 g (1 cup) dried green lentils, soaked overnight
  • 50 g butter, plus 25 g extra, to serve
  • 1¼ tbsp grapeseed oil or olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup Thai basil, finely chopped, plus extra, to serve
  • 1 tsp Turkish red pepper flakes (pul biber) (see Note) or crushed dried chilli flakes, plus extra, to serve
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste, dissolved in 60 ml water
  • 1 small potato, finely chopped

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


The soup can be made ahead; in fact the flavour improves with time, but only add the noodles and croutons when ready to serve. You will need to soak the lentils overnight.

Chilling time 1 hour

Standing time 1 hour

Sift flour into a large bowl, add ½ tsp salt and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the egg. Using your fingers, break egg yolk and combine with egg white, then mix into flour. Add water, 1 tbsp at a time, working mixture with your hands until dough is soft but not sticky; you will need up to 125 ml water. Knead dough for 5 minutes or until smooth, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, drain lentils, place in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Cook for 1 minute, remove from heat and set aside, covered, for 1 hour to soften.

Melt butter with 1 tsp grapeseed oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and ½ tsp salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and cook for 8 minutes or until almost softened to a paste. Add basil and red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste mixture, then add potato.

Drain lentils and add to stockpot with 1.75 litres water. Bring soup to the boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until lentils are soft, and set aside until needed. If making soup ahead of time, it can be refrigerated at this point.

To make croutons, take one-quarter of dough, covering remaining dough, and roll on a floured work surface to a 60 cm-long log. Press to flatten as much as possible, then cut into 1 cm lengths. Dust with flour and set aside.

Halve remaining dough and roll each piece out on a lightly floured work surface to a 2.5 mm-thick rectangle. Cut dough into 1 cm-wide noodles.

Bring soup to the boil and gradually drop in noodles. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, gently stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes or until noodles are al dente.

Meanwhile, melt extra 25 g butter with the remaining 1 tbsp oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add crouton pieces and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towel.

To serve, divide soup among bowls and scatter over extra basil, extra red pepper flakes and the croutons.


• Available from selected Middle Eastern food shops and specialty spice shops.


Photography by Chris Chen.