My friend H has this way of making friends feel like family, and that’s never more clear than at Ramadan. Her Instagram posts of friends joining her for a late dinner (sunset isn’t till 8:30-ish here) and the amazing food she serves are inspiring. One such pic, of a soup, had me completely obsessed and I had to ask for the recipe.
She sent me this link to a You Tube video, and from there I was able to get a name for the soup, Sharba Libiya, and some basic ingredients. I watched the video several times, but honestly, I’m one of those people who has to have something written down. So, armed with a name, I searched for Sharba Libiya on…yep, Pinterest and came up with two promising options. (Trust me, there were a lot more…I had to narrow them down).
So Sharba Libiya is a traditional soup but like many, many, many recipes, there are arguments as to where it originated and what it should contain. Here’s a great discussion of the topic! The general ingredients are about the same: tomatoes, meat (lamb or chicken), spices (turmeric, paprika, mint), parsley and orzo pasta. From there the variations are myriad. Like jambalaya everyone thinks theirs is the best and like jambalaya, everyone is probably correct in their assertion.
I decided to go with the lamb and mint version, but if you want something a bit lighter, there’s a chicken and thyme version as well (given my love of thyme you can bet I’ll be giving that one a try as well.) This is a great restorative soup – beans and meat for protein, spices for the digestive system – basically the perfect meal after fasting for the day. (A note to my Catholic friends: because this has chickpeas in it you could omit the meat and, boom!, you have the perfect meatless meal for Lent).
Try not to die from the shock, but I mostly followed the recipe. Unfortunately I could not find dried mint. I actually stood on the aisle and called friend H and asked her if I could use peppermint (which was all I could find) and she gave me an emphatic NO. She told me to just use fresh but only use a tiny amount, and then gave me a tip on a middle eastern market in a neighboring city where I could find it. Also, the ingredient list mentioned “mixed spice” and I had no idea what that was. Yes, I’d seen cayenne listed in other recipes and I could have just used that but…I’d been looking for an excuse to buy and use harissa, so I got a tube of that instead and used about 1 teaspoon.
Can I tell you how amazing my house smelled, even when the recipe was just starting out?
Lamb, onion, bay leaves and cardamom. And it just got better from there. I picked up son j from school and when he walked into the house he mentioned how good it smelled. That, folks, is a mom win right there. I used lamb chops, cut the meat off into cubes, and then put the bones with their remaining meat on them into the pot. When the meat was falling off of the bone I added it back to the pot. I really think adding the bones added to the resulting flavor.
And how did it taste? Well, let me put it this way….I actually stepped away from eating to tell you how amazing it is. Yes, I wolfed half a bowl down first, but still. The lamb practically melted, it was spicy but not too hot (the perfect amount of harissa), and I’m already imaging cold, rainy fall days with this on the stove.