Lamb Soup, with cannellini beans and root vegetables

Lamb Soup

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

  • Servings: 2 - 3 or 4 as a starter
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INGREDIENTS:

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.

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • 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.

.

Lamb Soup

Browning what I wouldn’t call the prettiest looking cut of meat I’ve ever seen. Yet, lots of flavour for the price.

Lamb Soup

After removing the meat the onions are then added to the same saucepan to be cooked down for 20 minutes or so.

Lamb Soup

One of my favourite things to do is to prepare and add all of the stock ingredients.

Lamb Soup

After the stock is cooked the carrots, bay leaves and garlic are removed and set aside. The celery, black peppercorns and herbs are removed and added to a metal colander, then mashed with the back of a large metal serving spoon to extract most of their juice, flavour and nutrients which is added to the stock.

Lamb Soup

After picking the meat off the bone the latter are discarded and the meat is reheated in a drizzle of oil and a knob of butter before adding to the soup before serving.

All photographs within (Todas las fotografías dentro de) Feed the Piglet:
All rights reserved (© Todos los derechos reservados) – Copyright © Johnny H Hepburn


30 comments

  1. I made a very similar soup the other day!! (with some chorizo ofcourse). However, due to the fact that the last times I made it, even after more than a day of bean soaking, (same as you mention) it still took hours to cook… and we ended up eating it the next day instead. This time I cheated and used the beans from a jar.

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  2. Lamb neck, wow, have never seen lamb neck here but maybe i don’t get around much, Your soup looks DELICIOUS, love lamb, beans and everything in this soup. I am also intrigued, you cooked the meat, took it off the bone and then did another quick cook in oil and butter, I think that sounds great brings a whole new depth of flavor and crisps it nicely. Brilliant!

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    • What I had ran out of was lemon! I’ve been going through bags of them since I was ill. The reason to mention that is, I’d hoped to squeeze over fresh lemon juice to caramelise the meat a little during the end of reheating. Might try that tomorrow with leftovers. However, the soup tastes so good with lots of flat leaf parsley I’m not even sure if it needs the lemon 🙂

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  3. I’ve never thought of making soup with lamb. You’re right, it’s strange that it’s not more commonly used! There’s lots of canned soup with beef here in Australia but I can’t remember seeing any lamb versions. Will take a good look next time I’m at the supermarket!
    That said, your soup looks delicious. Like Suzanne, I also love the idea of the crispy lamb atop the beautifully softened root vegetables. Yum!

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    • Isn’t that odd. There are differing European lamb soups, including Welsh and Icelandic, the latter include oats – wouldn’t they go soggy?? I just decided to go with herbs and stuff I had to hand. And, to a certain extent, less is more. Yes, the reheated meat does add to this. And I’m glad I’d ran out of lemons, something unheard off for me! As I don’t think this soup needs messing around with. The heat of the finger chillies was just fab! For me no other spices were needed. What really brought all of the flavours together was the flat leaf parsley – so glad I can buy the stuff instead of attacking my huge curly leaf parsley plant 🙂

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      • Haha, yes soggy oat and lamb soup sounds rather… strange! I guess the oats might make the soup base naturally creamy. It would probably taste like a nourishing, stodgy bowl of lamb porridge 🙂 I think you handled the spice and herb component beautifully. From both reading and imagining the flavour I’d tentatively say that you balanced things perfectly! Can’t wait to try it. And yes, I flat-leap parsley is so versatile (bonus points for not stripping your plant!)

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        • – I’ve just potted on my precious parsley plant recently so there’s no chance of nipping at it – yet!
          – Yes, lots of differing flavours going on. Particularly pleased with the flavour of this cut which is quite cheap for lamb. And it didn’t turn out fatty. Even more thrilled with that 🙂

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          • Haha. Definitely need to give the wee parsley plant some time to establish itself before stealing its leaves!! I’m going to buy some new herbs this weekend also. It’s a Monday bank holiday here in Perth (for Foundation Day) so I’ve decided to clear out some of the sacrificial lambs of Summer and replace them with fresh basil, thyme, rosemary, sage and flat-leaf parsley 🙂 Maybe some coriander too.
            I definitely know what you mean about ‘fatty’ lamb. I once sat down to a lamb roast, got interrupted half-way through and came back to my plate. In ten minutes my almost-cold lamb ended up with a layer of congealed fat all over it. Yuck. Glad your soup escaped!

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            • I’m really surprised my soup escaped to that extent. Honestly, didn’t notice any fatty taste. And I didn’t even bother to scrape off any congealed fat like I would with chicken broth.
              – Anyway, I’ve got to buy in more herbs if I can find them. Would love to have sage, especially pineapple. Great in plain green salads. When I was out shopping earlier I noticed a huge hedge of bay leaves! Just as well it wasn’t after dark as I would’ve whacked off a large branch as fresh bay leaves are just amazing in custards and tomato sauces 🙂 Yes, I’m a bit of a foamer when it comes to fresh herbs!
              – Have a great Bank Holiday!

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  4. Neck of lamb is a great cut for soup, especially tasty with the beans. I agree about sheep – it can taste fatty, and I don’t eat it much for that reason, but now I remember what fine flavour neck can lend to a dish, may use it again soon. And you really are the master of a fine stock!

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  5. I’m not a fan of lamb (with the exception of mutton curry), so I’m not sure if I’ll make the soup one day. But you made the soup looked really delicious with all those photos, I wish I can have a bowl to try it out!

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    • Like you I’m not a big fan of lamb either, which helps to explain why there are only three lamb recipes on here. However, I’ve always loved mutton in what we would’ve called Scotch broth. And this soup is no exception. I’m thrilled with this cut! And will definitely make this soup again. Whereas I wouldn’t care for lamb chops or cuts of that nature. Even when I roasted a rack of lamb I was fiddling with removing all of the fat!

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  6. Well I’m not a fan of all the work but I’d LOVE to eat that soup. I think this is a proper chef’s soup. And of course – you’re a proper chef. And it shows. I guess you don’t eat cheese on toast for dinner like I had tonight 😉

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    • And guess what I had to go with the soup?! Yes, Scottish Cheddar melted on shop-bought ciabatta. Actually, the cheese I bought on special and glad to say it’s so good by itself. Almost too good to melt. More of the same for lunch 🙂
      – Can’t stress enough that there’s very little work involved here. I was online most of the time the stock, then soup, was cooking. The longest spent in the kitchen, by far, was taking the meat off the bone. Can’t urge, nor encourage you more to try this, especially if you like lamb. Fae’s Father is probably right, ‘the most delicious meat is the neck’. Never realised that. This meat, regardless of how little there is, could or should leave you thinking that intensive culinary expertise was involved throughout. Hehe, I do like to fake it! And lap up all the credit.

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  7. My father use to say, the most delicious meat is the neck. How you cook is truly a chefs quality. The detail to bring the fused flavor is incredible. I can have a whole pot of your lamb soup right now. 😛

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    • I’d hazard a guess and say that your Father was probably right! Can’t quite believe how good this soup was. And how easy to make. Will definitely be on the lookout for further cuts to use throughout summer. As Anne has suggested both pork neck and beef knuckles are good to use. Don’t remember ever having a beef soup before. If it’s going to be anywhere near as good as this one I can’t wait!
      – And I would so love you and your company to sup and chat and laugh our way through the entire pot!

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  8. I really love making soup out of any kind of bones. i have never tried it with lamb although I’m dying to try. Usually I make it with oxtail, chicken, pork neck bones, beef knuckles, etc. Bones make the best soup and yours sounds fabulous! Great post Johnny!

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    • Thanks for those suggestions! Have never seen either for sale here, as in pork and beef. Will definitely keep an eye out for both. Yes, the Matriarch always used neck in broth. As kids we weren’t expected to eat that as well. In Romania, almost five years ago, I ordered soup in a café in the middle of the country. They happen to like their offal over there. And the chicken soup was no exception – neck, gizzards and all! Well, that’s how the French used to cook theirs. Good enough for them…Although, could you strain that please?? Sometimes I’d rather not know what I’m eating 🙂

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      • Neck and gizzard are used here mostly for gravy. But I throw it in when I’m making soup, if I have it. But yes, you definitely gotta drain! If you parboil first then the broth is a bit more clear (for pork and beef). Now you got me thinking of bone soup –yum!

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        • Yes, I do have vague memories of making minestrone from scratch whilst going through catering college, which included oxtail, a brown roux and lots of skimming off scum of the top of stock. Oddly I’m not keen on the flavour of oxtail. Yet I love game.
          – Did go to the superstore yesterday after all. Rather disappointing. Did manage to find organic spelt flour which I’m pleased with. Anyway, they sell Spam with ‘real bacon’. It’s not just bacon. And they didn’t have the product I used to buy. Decided not to try the Spam as I’ve just wolfed my way through a pack of Bavarian smoked ham. Will keep looking as there’s a differing superstore across the road from it. The search continues…

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    • This was gorgeous! Such a good adjective to use. And by far one of the best meat soups I’ve ever cooked. As for the meat, this may be a cheap cut that doesn’t look very attractive but the flavour of the meat was superb! Will be making this again. And, come Autumn, will start to sub leeks instead of onions.

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  9. Johnny – This is a fabulous recipe. I love lamb in ANYTHING. It is a wonder that you don’t see this more in soup as it add soooo much flavor. You have a great combination here – and relatively easy to make. As soon as we get a cool day, I’m making this one 🙂

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    • Thank you for that. I’m so glad you think this recipe is relatively easy 🙂 For me this is so much easier than several soups that I posted recently. And worth any effort that goes into it. It’s definitely one of my best meat-based soups, even though there aren’t that many in my recipe list. Will have to try and change that! Hope it turns out okay for you 🙂

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