Tunisian Chorba with Crushed Wheat, Lamb “Confit, ” and Cilantro

Here’s a Tunisian variation on the classic meat and grain soup, chorba, served throughout North Africa. Kadide, the preserved lamb traditionally added to the dish is similar to jerky, except that after drying it’s often stored in olive oil, thus my reference to confit. Very little is used, but it provides a lot of flavor and so is best thought of as a condiment or seasoning. This type of preserved meat can also be used to add depth and complexity to scrambled eggs and to lamb couscous dishes.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried mini fava beans, rinsed, soaked in plenty of cold water overnight, and drained (see Note)
  • Kadide or imitation Kadide
  • 1 cup crushed spelt, farro, or cracked wheat (not bulgur)
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preferred Clay Pot

A 4-quart glazed earthenware casserole

If using an electric or ceramic stovetop, be sure to use a heat diffuser with the clay pot.

Method

  1. Place the soaked fava beans in a large conventional saucepan and add enough fresh water to cover them by 3 inches; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until tender, about 1½ hours. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the crock of preserved meat, the kadide, from the refrigerator. Remove 10 pieces of preserved lamb. Scrape off the fat and reserve separately. Cut the meat into small pieces and set aside.
  3. Place 2 tablespoons of the lamb confit fat in the earthenware casserole. Add 2 quarts water and slowly bring to a boil. Rinse the grain in a sieve under cool running water. Add the grain, paprika, and cayenne to the casserole and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour.
  4. In a food processor, grind the cilantro leaves and the reserved cut-up preserved lamb to a paste. Stir the mixture into the soup, add the drained favas along with enough of the reserved bean cooking liquid to cover, and continue to cook until the soup is thick, adding more liquid if needed. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.