Libyan Lamb Soup

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.

Pearl barley
Pearl barley

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.

Serves four.

Libyan Lamb Soup
Libyan Lamb Soup

What’s for…..breakfast?

What to have for breakfast? The first decision of the day, unless you are grappling with more existential problems, then it is why am I here and what is the point of getting up? Assuming that is not the case, then, what to have for breakfast? Breakfast is not really a meal most of us spend much time on. It tends to be as assemblage. See what is lurking in the fridge and check the cupboard. You don’t look at a recipe book for breakfast and most people just have three or four favourite meals that they endlessly recycle.

This morning I cooked breakfast. Oat hotcakes and ate them with fresh fruit and yoghurt. There is a wee bit o’ Scots in me so I was looking for a way to eat oats outside of porridge in winter. Here is the recipe.

3/4 cup of milk

3/4 cup of rolled oats

2 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium egg, lightly beaten

1/2 cup of buckwheat flour (or plain flour if you don’t have/like buckwheat)

2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

pinch of salt

To make the batter, first soak the oats in the milk for 10 minutes. Then add the sugar, olive oil and egg and mix together. Sift in the dry ingredients and combine. Heat a non-stick pan over a medium heat, add some olive oil and put in a couple of ladlefuls of the batter. Cook each hotcake for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. The mixture should make about 8.

Drizzle with honey and serve with berries, banana or other fresh fruit and yoghurt.

Oat hotcakes
Oat hotcakes