Tonight's aromatic and hearty soup is the perfect meal for a raw, wintry evening. Rich with root vegetables and lamb broth, I started it last night and refrigerated it overnight so I could easily skim excess fat off the top before adding the vegetables. And, like many soups, this one is delicious hot from the pot, but even better the next day after all the flavors have had a chance to meld. A simple, honest soup, infused with cumin, coriander and just the right amount of heat from red pepper flakes, this meal is sure to warm your belly and your soul.
|Map Courtesy of Lonely Planet|
Cuisine in Turkmenistan has many similarities to Central Asian cooking as well as nomadic traditions, but differs in it's frequent use of fish, owing to it's proximity to the Caspian Sea. Overall, food is quite simple, using a variety of vegetables, radishes, tomatoes, onions, red and black pepper, mint, parsley, safron and garlic. Lamb, or mutton is the most common source of protein. Pilav, a lamb, carrot, rice and onion dish is among the most common. And, Shurpa (tonight's dish) is a regularly enjoyed soup made of lamb broth, potatoes (or root vegetables) and tomatoes. Bread is also a staple food, and cooked in clay ovens in nearly every home. Fruits and vegetables are grown in great variety, with melons being one of the sweetest, best crops the country offers.
Cube lamb and brown in oil in large dutch oven
Turnips, zucchini, carrots, green peppers and cilantro are added after meat is tender
Dice up vegetables and toss into the pot
Shurpa - Hearty Spiced Lamb Soup (Recipe courtesy of soupsong)
1/4 cup olive oil
1½ pounds stewing lamb, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup onions, chopped
10 cups beef stock
1 large turnip, peeled and cut into a ½-inch dice
1 large zucchini, cut into a ½-inch dice
2 carrots, cut into a ½-inch dice
2 big green bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into strips
1½ pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
salt to taste
3 Tablespoons white vinegar
Garnish: 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a large Dutch oven, brown the meat in the hot oil over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the onions and cook 5 or so more minutes, until the onions are softened and have taken on color. Spoon off all the fat that you can, pour in the stock, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 1½ hours. Refrigerate the soup, preferably overnight, so you can easily remove the fat.
About an hour before serving, start chopping the vegetables. Bring the skimmed soup to a boil over medium heat, then add the turnip, zucchini, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, cumin, hot pepper flakes, coriander, and chickpeas. Cook, covered, for 30 minutes. Salt to taste, then stir in the vinegar. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lots of finely minced cilantro.
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