Enough of salad. With the hint of a light, cool breeze coming off the river at night, it is time to pull out the soup bowls. And to put in the bowl? At the moment, I can’t go past Libyan lamb soup.
There are many variations of this traditional Libyan soup and they all have that warming, unctuous quality of a great cooler weather dish. The soup has the spice palate of the Middle East with coriander, cumin and mint mixed with little nuggets of lamb. The majority of recipes add in chick peas, and though normally a fan, I prefer to use pearl barley in this recipe. It is one of those soups you can make your own. I also like to add in some vegetables such as pumpkin to make it a more balanced dinner. As well, you can experiment with the spices. I have included the basics below but sometimes add in ras el hanout, a small piece of cinnamon or crank up the chilli.
Libyan Lamb Soup
500 g lamb
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic
1 tspn ground coriander
1 tspn ground cumin
1 tspn ground allspice
1 tspn of chilli powder (or one fresh chilli)
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 tin of tomatoes
50g cous cous
Handful of chopped fresh mint and parsley
Lemon wedges to serve
First of all chop the lamb very finely, until it is the size of small pebbles, and put aside.
Heat the oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until slightly golden and soft. Add the chopped garlic and fry another couple of minutes. Then add in the coriander, cumin, allspice and chilli and stir for a couple of minutes. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and put aside. Add some more oil to the pan and increase the heat. Add the lamb to brown and keep it moving around the saucepan.
Turn down the heat and add back in the onion and spice mixture. Also add in the chopped, tinned tomatoes, the water and the stock. Give it a good mix and add the pearl barley (or chickpeas). Stir again, put the lid on and set it on a low simmer for an hour.
After an hour, add in the cous cous, parsley and mint and take the saucepan off the stove and let it stand for three minutes. Serve in big bowls, because you will want a lot, and serve with a quarter of lemon.