There's nothing like a houseguest who descends upon your home, cooler in tow, and announces she is going to make soup for you because she has to make soup. No nevermind to your carefully planned menu. No accounting for taste. Just one quick phone call: "Do you like lamb?" And she's off and running.
Thanks, Jac and Mike, for graciously putting up with my culinary experimentation at your house!
This minestrone-type soup starts with a homemade lamb broth and just builds up from there. The combination of tender, robustly-flavored meat with barely-sweet chickpeas and a rainbow of shimmering spices makes for a lovely, as well as delicious dish. The recipe comes, once again, from James Peterson's Splendid Soups: Recipes and Master Techniques for Making the World's Best Soups (in which I've yet to find a less than delightful recipe).
Moroccan Lamb and Vegetable Soup
1 cup dried chickpeas
3 pounds lamb shanks (or 2 pounds lamb stew meat, cut in 1" chunks... but the shanks are way more fun)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, cut in chunks
1 medium carrot, cut in chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 small-to-medium carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
5 or 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 medium waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
About 1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
One pinch saffron stems
Salt and pepper to taste
On the morning of the day you make soup: Place chickpeas in a medium bowl. Add water to cover. Soak for about three hours, adding more water if necessary.
To make the lamb broth: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a heavy, deep pot over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook until deeply browned on all sides, turning as needed.
Remove lamb from pot. Pour off burned fat. Return lamb to pot, along with onion, carrot and about 1 quart water. Bring just to a boil; cover and simmer over very low heat until meat is completely cooked through and tender, about 3 hours. Strain broth and set aside; set lamb aside to cool; discard vegetables. When lamb is cool, shred meat off the bones with your fingers and reserve.
About two hours after starting the broth, cook the chickpeas. Discard soaking water, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in soup pot over medium heat. Add onions; cook, stirring frequently, until wilted and very tender, just beginning to brown around edges; this should take about 10 minutes. Add reserved broth, remaining vegetables, salt and lamb. Bring to a simmer; cover and cook about 20 minutes, or until potatoes and carrots are sufficiently tender.
Add chickpeas with some of their cooking water, cilantro and spices; cook, stirring regularly, about 5 minutes or until properly heated through. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed (it might need a little more salt, since the broth is unseasoned). Serve forth with steamed couscous or rice pilaf as an accompaniment.