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Shorba Libiya - Sephardic Libyan Soup

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 16 January 2017 at 09:20
I discovered this recipe in Brook's brilliant primer on Sephardic foodways:

http://foodsoftheworld.activeboards.net/a-thread-that-binds-intro-to-sephardic-food_topic4716.html

It was one of those dishes that caught me on the first reading, and I knew it would be a matter of time before I was able to give it a try.

Here is the recipe:

Shorba Libiya
Sephardic Libyan Soup

This is another of those amorphous soups, found in many incarnations throughout Libya. Originating with the Bedouins, it became a favorite of all classes of the Libyan population, including, of course, the Sephardim of that country.

3 tbls olive oil                                               
1 lg onion, chopped fine
1 lb lamb, chopped or in small dice
7 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2-3 tbls tomato puree                   
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp Turmeric                                                              
1/2 tsp chili powder                                                    
Salt to taste                     
4 cups water or stock (approx)
1 tbsp dried mint or parsley
Squeeze lemon juice (optional)

Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and fry onion for a few minutes, until soft. Add the lamb, chickpeas, tomato puree, spices and salt, and cook for a few minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Cover the mixture with water and simmer over medium heat, 30-45 minutes, or until lamb is cooked. Add extra water if required. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

When the dish is ready, stir in the dried mint (or sub parsley). Add a squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Adapted from “The North African Kitchen.”

Via private correcpondence, here are some cooking notes from Brook:

Originally posted by Brook Brook wrote:

This would work perfectly with venison. All the flavor profiles go together with it. Friend Wife thinks any meat would work, but I think beef is too heavy for it. Chicken would be a worthwhile alternative.

The original recipe specifies lamb chopped fine. I took the time to shave the lamb, same as I do for venison chili. But any method works, I reckon. Just keep it small. If you dice instead of grinding, for instance, make them no more than a quarter inch square for best results.

I have never before heard of, let alone seen, a 7 oz can of chickpeas. I used a half-pint of my own. Either use half a regular can, or start with dried, cook them normally, and add a cup of them to the soup.

The author makes a point of using dried mint for this application, because it’s more intense. I’ll go along with that. Adding the mint and lemon juice at the last minute is a good suggestion too, as it perks up the soup nicely.

Finally, we got five servings from the recipe. So, for your crowd, you might want to double it.

But do give it a try!


Since we have plenty of venison on hand, I did give this a shot, and am glad that I did so.

I followed Brook's notes above, except for one thing - I had intended to use coarsely-ground venison for this, but ended up grabbing cubes of "stew meat" instead; most of the cube s were about 3.4 of an inch square, with some being smaller or thinner. The cubes worked fine, but I agree with Brook that smaller cubes or shaved meat would really take this soup to the next level; the coarsely-ground venison would have been a good choice, as well.

Preparation was a snap - the aroma of onions cooking in hot fat will make any home a congenial one, whether it is a nomadic tent near an oasis or a modern, ranch-style house in suburban America. Adding the essence of searing meat to that particular party was a joy, full of promises of a good, nourishing, satisfying meal.

The soup itself was exceptional; the tomato and spices were perfect for each other, and the chickpeas provided little pockets of creamy consistency. The unique, double-pronged kick of lemon and mint provided an interesting and pleasant finish that was fresh, bright and unlike anything I've had in a savory dish before. This combination alone made it very much worth the small investment of time that was needed to make the soup.

Delicious and easy - it's a great combination! You owe it to yourselves to give it a try ~

Ron
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