Silky Chickpea & Lamb Soup


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Jewelled Kitchen

The Jewelled Kitchen

By Bethany Kehdy

Published 2013

  • About

During the holy month of Ramadan in North Africa, this silky textured soup is the first dish with which the fast is broken. It goes well with Pan-Fried Squares.


  • 2 tbsp rye flour (optional)
  • 2 tbsp strong bread flour (optional)
  • 350 g/12 oz lamb shank
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamom
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 700 g/1 lb 9 oz tomatoes
  • 20 g/¾ oz/4 tsp salted butter or smen
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5 cm/2 in piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 l/70 fl oz/ cups Vegetable Stock
  • a pinch of ground saffron (optional)
  • 125 g/ oz/½ cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked, or 250 g/9 oz/ cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 250 g/9 oz/1⅓ cups brown lentils, rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 wedge of Preserved Lemon, rind rinsed and finely chopped, or zest of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander/cilantro leaves, plus extra for sprinkling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a few pitted dates, to serve
  • 1 lemon, quartered, to squeeze
  • warm Arabic Bread (optional), to serve


  1. If you are using the starter, which will give a thicker, smoother soup, early in the morning of the first day, put 2 teaspoons each of the rye and bread flour in a mixing bowl and mix together. Pour over a tablespoon lukewarm water and mix well. Cover the starter with paper towels and set aside in a warm place (22–25°C/72–77°F).
  2. During the morning of the following day, “feed” the starter with the remaining flours and about 2 teaspoons lukewarm water, stirring very well to combine. Set aside, covered as above, for a further 8 hours.
  3. Rub the lamb shank with the cardamom, cumin, smoked paprika, ground coriander and cinnamon and season with some salt. Set aside.
  4. With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the skin of each tomato, then put them in a heatproof bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to stand for 2–3 minutes or until the skins have split, then drain. Plunge into cold water to stop them cooking, then peel off the skins and discard. Slice in half and scoop out the seeds, then finely chop the flesh.
  5. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, cover the pan and reduce the heat to low, then leave to sweat, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until softened.
  6. Increase the heat to medium, add the lamb and any loose spices and sear for 3 minutes on each side. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a further minute until aromatic, then add the tomatoes, stock, saffron, if using, chickpeas, lentils and bay leaf.
  7. Cover the pan, increase the heat to high and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour or until the lentils are soft and the meat is tender. Discard the bay leaf.
  8. Remove the lamb from the pan and cut away the meat into small bite-sized pieces, then return the meat to the pan with the bone. You can extract the marrow with a narrow spoon or skewer, if you like.
  9. Dilute the starter, if using, with 100 ml/ fl oz/scant ½ cup water, stir well, then slowly pour it into the pan, stirring for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Stir in the preserved lemon and coriander/cilantro and season with pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with coriander/cilantro and serve with dates, lemon quarters and warm Arabic Bread, if you like.