Libyan Soup with Couscous
This recipe first appeared in The Food Aid Cookery Book, published in 1986, and was contributed by Mary El-Rayes. It's a truly wonderful soup, meaty with lots of fragrant flavour, and perfect for serving on a really cold day with pitta bread warm from the oven.
This recipe is taken from The Delia Collection: Soup.
| 6 oz (175 g) finely chopped raw lamb, leg steak or similar|
| 2 oz (50 g) couscous|
| 1 heaped teaspoon coriander seeds|
| 1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds|
| 2 tablespoons groundnut or other flavourless oil|
| 1 large onion, chopped|
| 2 cloves garlic, crushed with 1 teaspoon sea salt in a pestle and mortar|
| 1 heaped teaspoon ground allspice|
| 2 heaped teaspoons mild chilli powder|
| 5 oz (150 g) tomato puree|
| 1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped|
| 2 teaspoons caster sugar|
| 1 pint (570 ml) good lamb stock|
| 4 oz (110 g) dried chickpeas (soaked overnight in twice their volume of cold water)|
| 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley|
| 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint|
| salt, to taste|
|To serve: |
| lemon wedges|
| pitta bread|
Begin by pre-heating a small frying pan over a medium heat, then add the coriander and cumin seeds and dry-roast them for about 2-3 minutes, moving them around the pan until they change colour and begin to dance.
This will draw out their full spicy flavour.
Now crush them quite finely with a pestle and mortar.
Next, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large (6 pint/3.5 litre) saucepan and gently cook the onion until soft and lightly browned, for about 5 or 6 minutes, then add the crushed garlic and sea salt and let that cook for another 2 minutes.
After that, add the crushed seeds, the allspice and chilli powder and stir them into the juices in the pan.
Now transfer all of this to a plate and keep it aside while you heat the other tablespoon of oil in the same pan until it's very hot. Then add the pieces of lamb and brown them, quickly turning them over and keeping them on the move.
Turn the heat down and now return the onion and spice mixture to the pan to join the meat, adding the tomato purée, chopped chilli and caster sugar.
Stir everything together, then add the stock and 1½ pints (850 ml) water. Give it all another good stir then drain the soaked chickpeas, discarding their soaking liquid, and add these to the pan.
Give a final stir, then put a lid on and simmer as gently as possible for 1 hour or until the chickpeas are tender.
When you're ready to serve the soup, taste it, add some salt, then add the couscous, parsley and mint and take the pan off the heat.
Put the lid back on and let it stand for 3 minutes before serving in hot soup bowls.
Serve with lemon wedges to squeeze into the soup and some warm pitta bread.