Saturday, 27 April 2013

Middle Eastern Lamb and Bean Soup

I hesitated for a long time over the title of this post. I was unsure whether to describe the dish I am going to write about as a Casserole, a Stew or a Soup. In the end I decided on "Soup", but this dish is a soup of the type generally described as "hearty".

The dish is another one inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. It is vaguely based on a recipe in his book "Jerusalem", but I have adapted it very heavily. The key ingredients are lamb, beans, potatoes and spices. Lots of sweet, fragrant spices. The end result is very Middle Eastern, very un-British.

Here you see some of the raw ingredients: diced Lamb fillet, onions, garlic and spices:

The spices I used were (clockwise from 12-o-clock) Black Pepper, Cardamom, Cumin, Cinnamon, Allspice and Turmeric.

Perhaps the key ingredient was the Cardamom. The photo below shows what Cardamom pods look like. If you use them like this you either have to fish them out of your finished dish or else put up with the tough stringy husks.

So I removed the seeds and discarded the husks. Despite bearing more than a passing resemblance to mouse droppings, the Cardamom seeds are actually very nice and add a delightfully warm fragrance to a dish.

This is my recipe:-

Middle Eastern Lamb Soup with Cannellini Beans (serves 2)

350g Lamb fillet, trimmed and diced into small cubes
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
200g cooked Cannellini beans (or similar. Many other types of bean would be fine.)
200g small waxy new potatoes (e.g. "Charlotte")
300g Celeriac, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 litre stock
1 large squeeze of tomato puree
Half teaspoon each of powdered Cumin, Allspice, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Black Pepper
Seeds of 6 Cardamom pods
2 Tbsps vegetable oil, for frying
1 Tbsp plain flour

Cook the onions in half of the oil, until soft, using a large casserole-dish (one which is OK to use on top of the stove)
Add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes
Remove onions and garlic from the pan and reserve
Use the flour to dust the meat
Brown the meat in the remaining oil
Return onions and garlic to the pan
Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring contantly to prevent burning
Add the stock and the tomato puree
Add the Celeriac
Bring the pan to the boil and simmer gently for about two hours, until the meat is very tender

About 1 hour before you plan to eat....
Add the halved potatoes and the Cannellini beans
Check seasoning and add salt if desired
Keep the pan simmering until you are ready to serve
Add more water or stock if you want to reduce the thickness of the soup

When the potatoes are fully cooked, the dish is ready to serve. The tomato puree will ensure that the potatoes will not fall (disintegrate), so this dish is hard to over-cook!

Serve in large bowls, garnished with chopped Parsley and accompanied by a green vegetable such as Broccoli:

The flavour of this dish was sublime! The Celeriac gave it a very savoury taste, balanced by the sweetness of the Allspice and Cardamom. The Cumin and Turmeric also gave it a hint of a curry. Add that to the comforting bulk of beans and potato and meltingly tender lamb and you have a dish that is up there with the best "soups" I have ever eaten.


  1. Mmmmmmmm. Sounds just the ticket for a cold April day :)

  2. It might be un-British but it still looks so delicious

  3. If I sent you my address, would you post me some in a parcel? (Only a larger portion than in the picture.)

  4. Sounds great but I'm not sure about calling it a soup - I can see you dilemma though as it's not a stwe or a casserole either. Maybe just spicy lamb and beans.

  5. I reckon it is a soup just not a particularly wet one. Sounds great...well if I ignore the lamb bit it does, I struggle with lamb - too meaty for my palate... the broccoli looks superb though.

  6. It looks good Mark, I like the tip if taking the seeds out of the husk!


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