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Soups, Stews & Tagines – Part 3


Lamb Tagine with Sticky Dates & Olives

A rich tagine made with tender lamb and sweet dates.

PREP : 20 minutes
MARINATE : 4 hours
COOK : 2½ hours

  • 4 pounds boned shoulder of lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1½-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 cups pitted dates
  • 2½ cups pitted black olives
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • ⅓ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Dry marinade
  • 2 large onions, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • Couscous
  • 4¼ cups couscous
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  1. Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a casserole dish, then stir in the lamb. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 4 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Remove the lamb from the refrigerator. Mix in the oil, dates, olives, wine, and garlic, then cover. Bake for 2½ hours, or until the lamb is meltingly tender, removing the lid for the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  3. Put the couscous into a shallow heatproof bowl, pour over just enough boiling water to cover, then let stand for 10 minutes. Mix in the lemon zest and thyme, and fluff up using a fork. Stir most of the cilantro into the tagine and serve, garnished with the remaining cilantro, with the couscous.


Spicy Chicken Soup with Mint & Couscous

The broth for this classic Middle Eastern soup is made with a whole chicken, which is then torn into strips before being added back to the soup.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK: 1¾ hours

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ⅔ cup couscous
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, to serve
  • Broth
  • 1 (about 3 pounds) ready-to-cook chicken
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 1 unwaxed lemon, quartered
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley, stems only
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  1. For the broth, put the chicken, onion, lemon, parsley stems, coriander seeds, and cinnamon stick in a deep saucepan and pour in just enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour, or until the chicken is almost falling off the bone. To check it is cooked, pierce the thickest part of the thigh with the tip of a sharp knife. Any juices should be piping hot and clear with no traces of red or pink.
  2. Transfer the chicken to a large plate and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, simmer the broth until it has reduced to about 5 cups. Season with the salt and pepper, then strain into a bowl. Remove the skin from the chicken and tear the flesh into strips.
  3. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and chile and sauté for 2–3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the cumin, paprika, sugar, mint, and tomato paste, then pour in the broth. Bring to a boil, then gradually stir in the couscous. Reduce the heat to medium–low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken strips and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Serve the soup in shallow bowls, garnished with the cilantro, with lemon wedges for squeezing over the top.


Lebanese Seven-Spice Beef Kofte Broth

Kofte, or meatballs cooked in broth, are popular throughout the Middle East. Turkey, Syria, and Iran all have variations on different types of meatballs served in a clear broth or soup with vegetables. Here, they gain extra depth of flavor from the syrupy pomegranate molasses.

PREP : 25 minutes
COOK : 20 minutes

  • 1 pound fresh ground beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, plus a pinch
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3⅓ cups hot chicken broth
  • ½ savoy cabbage, cored and thickly sliced or cut into triangles
  • pinch of pepper
  • Lebanese seven-spice mix
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. For the Lebanese seven-spice mix, put all the spices into a small bowl and mix together.
  2. Mix together the meat, garlic, cilantro, pomegranate molasses, honey, 3 tablespoons of seven-spice mix, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a large bowl (store any remaining seven-spice mix in a sealed container for up to one month). Use your hands to work the flavorings into the meat. Divide the mixture into walnut-size pieces and roll them into about 20 small kofte.
  3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium–high heat until hot. Working in two batches, cook the kofte for 4 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, turning halfway through, then transfer to a large, lidded casserole dish.
  4. Add the hot broth to the casserole dish and bring to a boil. Cover, then bake for 10 minutes. Stir in the cabbage and bake for an additional 5 minutes, or until the kofte are cooked.
  5. Taste the broth and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Serve the kofte and cabbage in deep bowls with the hot broth poured over the top.

Cook’s tip : For a more substantial dish, serve with some fluffy white rice.


Fava Bean & Mint Soup

Fava beans are popular in the Middle East, and in this fresh, summery soup the mint brings out all their flavor.

PREP : 20 minutes
COOK : 15 minutes

  • 2¼ pounds (about 2 cups) fava beans in their pods, shelled
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1¾ cups hot vegetable broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • grated zest and juice of ½ unwaxed lemon
  • ½ cup fresh mint leaves
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of pepper
  • ¼ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
  1. Put the beans in a heatproof bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover them. Drain them well and immediately plunge them into a bowl of cold water. Peel off and discard the outer skins and set the double-shelled beans aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook for 10 minutes, or until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the beans, reserving a small handful, stir briefly, then pour in 1¼ cups of the broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 minutes, or until the beans are tender.
  3. Stir in the garlic, lemon zest, and half the mint. Process in a food processor, or using a handheld blender, until smooth. Check the consistency and, if you prefer a thinner soup, mix in a little or all of the reserved broth. Stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  4. Pour the soup into four shallow bowls. Swirl a tablespoon of yogurt into each bowl and sprinkle with the reserved beans. Tear the remaining mint leaves and sprinkle over the top.

Cook’s tip : This soup is great served hot. However, it is equally good chilled as a refresher for a hot summer’s day. In step four, let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate.

Authentic dishes from the Middle East

Rukmini Lyer