Apart from maybe a can of shop-bought lamb soup I don’t think I’ve ever had it otherwise. Which surprises me, as it’s not only a popular meat in the UK there were hundreds of lambs bred on the farm every Spring. Mustn’t have been a favourite meat of either of the Patriarchs. And I have to admit that red meat isn’t my thing. As I far prefer vegetarian, poultry, game, fish and seafood. Besides, goat, lamb and mutton always taste fatty to me. Not so with this particular soup, I’m thrilled to say. And I’m almost surprised at the wealth of flavours going on with each and every spoonful. Anyway, with the early spring-like weather we’re having this really sorted me out with not only legumes but lots of veg as well. This was supposed to be last weekends feast, slow roasted in the oven and served with rhubarb compote and some sort of gratin. As that weekend was farcical that, along with other stuff, didn’t happen. So, soup instead. Not realising that this was going to take up to three hours to make. Don’t let that put you off as it’s incredibly easy. No faffing around here, except for picking the meat off the bone. No roux, no blending nor rubbing anything through a fine wire metal sieve. So simple to cook compared to several of my other soups, with hardly any time spent in the kitchen. And believe me, every spoonful tastes superb – even the carrots!
Lamb Soup, with cannellini beans and root vegetables
FOR THE STOCK:
- oil, of choice
- 400g (14.11 oz) x neck of lamb (bone-in lamb neck), rinsed and browned for up to 20 – 30 minutes before the other stock ingredients are added
- 300g (10.58 oz) x onions, halved, peeled and chopped (these need to be browned or cooked down after the meat has browned before adding other ingredients) OR the same of leeks (I very seldom buy leeks out of season as their quality diminishes throughout summer)
- 300g (10.58 oz) x carrots, peeled, trimmed and roughly chopped
- 4 x celery stalks/ribs, washed, trimmed and cut in half crossways
- 4 x garlic cloves, root end cut off and discarded, peeled and kept whole
- 3 x sprigs fresh thyme, rinsed
- 1 x large sprig fresh flat leaf parsley, rinsed
- 2 x small green finger chillies (Scoville rating: 50,000), washed and kept whole
- 10 x whole black peppercorns
- 3 x dried bay leaves, split
- 500ml (1.05 US pt lqd) x cold water
- 1/2 – 1 x organic vegetable stock cube (I cooked the stock without adding additional stock, and as it needed quite a bit of salt I added half a veg stock cube instead, preferring to use freshly ground sea salt when served. Taste after adding half – allow enough time for the cube to dissolve completely – and add more salt if necessary)
FOR THE SOUP:
- 100g (3.52 oz) x dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and then well rinsed
- 2 x dried bay leaves
- 1/4 – 1/2 x level teaspoon dried sage, start off with less, allow to infuse and only add more after tasting and to personal taste
- 200g (7.05 oz) x or about half a small swede (rutabaga or yellow turnip), peeled and cut into cubes
- keep 1 of the green finger chillies from the stock
- garlic cloves and carrots kept from the stock
- lamb meat, when removed from the bone
- butter and oil, to reheat the lamb meat
- fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped, to serve
- both freshly ground sea salt and black pepper, to serve
Measurements within brackets above are approximate only.
- There are two things to do before the actual stock, and that is to brown the meat and cook down the onions. As for the meat, that took almost 30 minutes on my electric hob/stove top as I never use above moderate heat unless it’s necessary.
- Put a large heavy-based saucepan on electric heat No 3 (out of 6) and when pan is hot add a little oil. Carefully place in the meat and allow to settle. Keep turning the meat over every 10 minutes or so to ensure they’re evenly browned. The meat will curl in places so lift those and prop against the pan if necessary. When nicely browned lift them out of the pan and set aside.
- Add a glug more oil if necessary and add the onions. Stir these often to get them as evenly pale golden as possible. It’s not necessary to caramelise the onions but it’s more important to get them pale golden in colour to impart their sweet flavour.
- When the onions are cooked down and softening add the meat and the rest of the stock ingredients. Up the heat to No 4 and place a lid on top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to No 2 and simmer for about an hour. Take off heat, remove the chillies and set one of those aside. I make the stock the previous night as all I have to do is let it cool before storing it in the fridge.
- Rinse the overnight soaked cannellini beans well before adding to a saucepan with enough cold water to cover, without any salt. Bring to a boil, with a lid on top, on heat No 4. When beginning to boil strain the beans through a metal colander in the sink. Again, repeat this process. Third time add the bay leaves and sage and put them on heat No 4, like before, and this time reduce the heat to No 2 when beginning to boil, then simmer until cooked. Drain, keeping some of the cooking liquor to be able to add that to the soup.
- Next day the stock is put on heat again, just on No 3 to heat it through. Then, the carrots, garlic cloves and bay leaves are removed and set aside. The celery, herbs and all black peppercorns (fish those out with a fork) are added to a metal colander over the saucepan, and with the back of a large metal serving spoon those are squished to extract as much of their juice, flavour and nutrients as possible. The pulp left is discarded. Return the garlic, a couple of the bay leaf pieces and only 1 of the chillies, the latter kept whole otherwise the heat is too intense. Put the stock back on heat No 3 and when hot enough taste the soup for any needed stock. I added half a vegetable stock cube at this stage, and stirred occasionally to make sure the stock dissolved completely before tasting again. The half stock cube was enough for mine without adding any unnecessary salt.
- Prepare the swede/rutabaga and add to the stock.
- After about 10 minutes add the cooked cannellini beans as well.
- In the meantime, remove the meat from the bones, discarding the latter. Put a small pan/skillet on heat No 2 with a drizzle of oil and a small knob of butter. Add the meat and allow to settle, stirring occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking to the base of pan.
- When the beans and swede are nicely cooked and/or heated through serve with the meat (hot) and lots of freshly snipped or finely chopped flat leaf parsley. Season with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to personal taste.
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