Libyan Soup with Lamb and Mint (Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية)

 

As its name suggests Libyan Soup is our national dish, equally popular in all regions and summing up in a spoonful the flavors that dominate Libyan cuisine.  There is definitely something addictive about this aromatic soup, it’s made almost every day during the fasting month of Ramadan and the only complaints are when another soup is made for variation. There are versions with chicken and fish, but this is the recipe for the classic Sharba Libya with lamb and dried mint. You can omit the whole spices and still produce a delicious soup, but this is a recipe where more truly is more.

 

Libyan Soup with Lamb and Mint: Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية

Serves 4-6

 

Ingredients:

  • 200g lamb meat, chopped into small cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 finely chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 4  tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup lisan asfour (orzo or other soup pasta)
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked or use canned (optional)
  • about 11/2 litres boiling water
  • 1 heaped teaspoon each of: turmeric, black pepper, red paprika, mixed spice
  • 1 level tablespoon salt
  • Whole Spices (optional)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cardamom pods, crushed
  • A few shaiba leaves (known as dagad phool in Indian cuisine)
  • 3 bay leaves

 

Directions:

Pour the oil in a pot, add the chopped lamb and chopped onion, drop in any whole spices you are using, stir on medium heat for a few minutes until the oil is infused.

Add the ground spices, chickpeas, chopped tomato,  tomato paste and cook for few minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Add 1/2 a liter of water and 2 tablespoons of parsley, then cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. Once the lamb is cooked, remove the whole spices. Add a liter of boiling water, then add the parsley, and lisan asfour (orzo) cooking for further 15 minutes.

After turning off the heat rub a handful of dried mint between the palms of your hands straight into the pot, then give the soup a final stir.

Serve the soup with lemon wedges, tanoor bread, and mbattan.

 

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