Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Thick and Hearty Spicy Lamb and Lentil Soup

Nothing beats a thick, hearty soup in the Winter. I like any kind of bean soup as long as it's spicy, and can be made in a slow cooker. For this version of lentil and lamb soup, I wanted something that had complex flavors and would be spicy so I took  inspiration from my Jamaican-Lebanese cultural heritage. It does require some work to get the right balance of flavors but I found that adding some chicken bouillon cubes (1-2) towards the end, tasting as I did so, resulted in what I wanted to achieve. The flavors are a mix of Jamaican and Lebanese spices and include, black pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, and cloves, all of which are contained in the prepared spice mixes that I used.. The Habanero pepper is ubiquitous in Jamaican cooking as we put that in almost every dish that we make! You will need a large (7-8 quart) slow cooker for this unless you plan to make it in a stockpot on the stove. The length of time for which the soup is cooked is not so much for the lentils but more to ensure that the lamb is cooked to the point where the meat falls off the bones. Lamb is a very fatty meat so if you prefer something less so, I guess beef or chicken could be substituted.
1 1/2 lbs Lamb neck bones
4oz spicy Andouille Cajun Sausage, sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow, sweet, white, it does not matter)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 lb very ripe tomatoes, pureed
1 lb lentils, washed and picked over
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 8 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
1-2 tablespoons Jamaican Meat seasoning
1/2 rounded tablespoon Lebanese 7 spice mix
8-10 whole Allspice berries
5-6 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons Maggi Spicy Masala sauce (if you cannot get this, use 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce)
1 Habanero chili pepper, whole
10 oz butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks
8-10 cups chicken broth (depending on capacity of slow cooker or stockpot)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cups Swiss Chard or Kale leaves, washed and cut into thick strips

Have the butcher cut the lamb neck bones into small chunks (see photo)

 Season the lab with the meat seasoning and 7 spice mix. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Brown the lamb chunks in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit(see photo)

 Sauté the chopped onions, sliced Andouille sausage, garlic, thyme, and allspice berries in the oliveoil until the onion becomes translucent. Add the pureed tomatoes and the whole habanero pepper to the mix and sauté 2-3 minutes longer.
Put the lentils, barley, sautéed mixture of onions etc, drained mushroom pieces, Maggi sauce, oven browned lamb chunks (I discarded the small amount of drippings), and butternut squash in a 7 quart slow cooker. Add 8 cups of broth and cook on high for 6 hours (you may need to top up with broth as the liquid is absorbed during the cooking process. If you need to do this, boil the broth before adding to the slow cooker to prevent a drop in cooking temperature). Taste at the end of the cooking period and season to taste using 1-2 chicken bouillon cubes (I like the Wylers brand). Add the Kale or Swiss Chard leaves 5-10 minutes before serving

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