Libyan Soup with Lamb and Mint: Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية

As its name suggests Libyan Soup is our national dish, equally popular in all regions and summing up in a spoonful the flavours that dominate Libyan cuisine.  There is definately something addictive about this aromatic soup, it’s made almost everyday during the fasting month of Ramadan and the only complaints are when another soup is made for variation. There are versions with chicken and fish, but this is the recipe for the classic Sharba Libiya with lamb and dried mint. You can omit the whole spices and still produce a delicious soup, but this is a recipe where more truly is more.

Serves 4-6

200g lamb meat, chopped into small cubes

1 onion, chopped
1 finely chopped tomato 
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried mint
4  tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup lisan asfour (orzo or other soup pasta)
1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked or use canned (optional)

about 11/2 litres boiling water

1 heaped teaspoon each of: turmeric, black pepper, red paprika, mixed spice
1 level tablespoon salt

Whole Spices (optional)

1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, crushed
A few shaiba leaves (known as dagad phool in Indian cuisine)
3 bay leaves  

Pour the oil in a pot, add the chopped lamb and chopped onion, drop in any whole spices you are using, stir on medium heat for a few minutes until the oil is infused.

Add the ground spices, chickpeas,chopped tomato,  tomato paste and  cook for few minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionaly.

 Add 1/2 a litre of water and 2 tablespoons of parsley , then cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. Once the lamb is cooked, remove the whole spices. Add a litre of boiling water, then add the parsley, and lisan asfour (orzo) cooking for further 15 minutes.

After turning off the heat rub a handful of dried mint between the palms of your hands straight into the pot, then give the soup a final stir.

Serve the soup with lemon wedges, tanoor bread and mbattan.