Soupe d’agneau aux herbes

Lamb soup with fresh herbs

This delicately spiced soup of lamb, barley and fresh herbs is hearty enough to make a one-dish meal. Add some crusty bread, a bottle of wine and perhaps some fruit, and lunch is ready. Or serve the soup at suppertime, followed by a salad, cheese and fruit or dessert.

For best results, use shoulder or leg of lamb, which will yield a fine, fat-free broth. The barley is cooked separately from the broth and added at the end. Initial preparation is quick, and total cooking time is an hour and a half. The quantities below will serve two.

For the broth
1/2 pound (250 g) lean lamb
2 quarts (liters) water
1 onion
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. sea salt or table salt
1 bay leaf
10 black peppercorns
10 coriander seeds
1 whole dried cayenne pepper
several sprigs fresh parsley and cilantro

Cooking the barley
1/4 cup (50 g) barley (orge)
1 quart (liter) water
1/2 tsp. sea salt or table salt

Finishing the soup
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 tbsp. snipped fresh dill and cilantro

Slice the lamb into longish strips about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Remove any fat.

Place 2 quarts (liters) of cold water in a soup pot. Add the lamb.

Peel the onion, keeping it whole, and slice a cross into the top of it. Add to the pot. Peel the carrots, chop off the tops and bottoms, and add. Peel and halve the garlic, and add.

Bring the pot to a boil. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Turn down the heat to medium low.

Add the salt, bay leaf, peppercorns, coriander seeds and cayenne pepper. Add the sprigs of parsley and cilantro. Simmer for 90 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, cook the barley. Bring 1 quart (liter) water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the salt. Rinse the barley through a sieve and add. Turn down the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the barley is tender. Drain through a sieve.

When the broth is ready, pour it through a colander into a clean pot. Set aside.

Remove the strips of lamb and the carrots from the colander and rinse briefly under cold water. Slice the lamb crosswise and add to the broth. Slice the carrots into thin rounds and add. Now add the barley.

Stir in the lemon juice and cinnamon. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Reheat gently. Serve in individual bowls, topped with the snipped fresh cilantro and dill. Serves 2.

Variations: For a still more exotic flavor, add a pinch of saffron to the simmering soup. Or for a sharper taste, top the soup with chopped green onions as well as the fresh herbs.

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