My tastebuds have a penchant for demanding several things at once every once in a while, not caring whether whatever cravings they impose on me match eachother or not. This time, however, the “fresh and lively”, “lamb”, “very veggie” and “Spring appropriate” bones they tossed me, very conveniently lined up into a delicious soup perfectly fitting into this time of the year~!
While “lamb” and “lively” don’t seem to line up easily, there’s one combination I’ve learned to love over the years: lamb and mint. In our part of the world, that combo is still a bit of an underdog of all things lamb, although it’s definitely on the rise. You see, the culprit for the general reluctance to give this delicious combination a chance despite it’s strong presence in many culinary ballparks is the simple absence of it in “everyday” savory dishes in these parts – drinks, fruity things, chocolates, sure. Savories, on the other hand…? While I was growing up, the closest European neighbor known to use mint in a savory kind of way, was England, and let’s face it, just like our own traditional cuisine, British cuisine doesn’t have the most flattering label sticking to it. Like most food related clichés and labels, as ridiculous and far from the truth as they are most of the time, they do tend to ghost around in the back of one’s mind when scanning a menu or recipe book. I have to admit, I was stuck in the same mind-loop for most of my childhood – I simply couldn’t get rid of the rather vivid imagery the Adventures of Asterix comic books I read as a child, specifically the “Asterix in Britain” episode and the famous line “Boiled, with Mint Sauce, Asterix! The poor pig!” had planted into my head.
At least until I couldn’t help but notice the re-occuring meat & mint pattern in several North-African, Middle-Eastern, Asian, Carribean… you name it… cuisines any longer as a teen. Since I’ve always hated country-food-clichées with a raging passion, I decided to dive into the subject of savory meats with mint – and, a couple of years later, a night out at a Moroccan restaurant for a lamb tajine and a visit at our usual Irish Pub for a steaming pile of minted mashed peas convinced me that I simply had to bring the gist of those two together in some way. And this speedy soup for two is what I’ve come up with~!
The Apricot & Harissa Meatballs
500g Minced Lamb – 70% Lamb, 30% Beef works best for meatballs in my experience
2 Shallots, very finely chopped
1 Clove of Garlic, very finely chopped
5-6 soft dried Apricots, very finely chopped
2 Tbsp dry Harissa
1 generous Pinch of Salt
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil for frying
1) Sautée the shallot and garlic cubes in a small pan rubbed with a few drops of olive oil until they start to turn translucent.
2) Pop all of the ingredients – sans the oil – into a large mixing bowl and knead the “dough” with your hands until everything is well combined and evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
3) Pick up heaped-teaspoonfuls of the mixture and roll them into firm balls between the palms of your hands.
4) Set a large pan onto medium-high heat, add the oil and fry the meatballs – in batches, to avoid crowding the pan and ending up with grey’ish undesirables – until they’re golden and crispy all around.
5) Take the finished meatballs out of the pan, set them onto a plate lined with paper towels and cover them with aluminum foil to keep them warm until you’re ready to serve.
6) You’ll probably end up with more meatballs than you want for a single round of soup, but rejoice! Freezer-friendly as they are, you’ve just cooked up two meals in one go~ I love popping those on an impromptu lunch or dinner salad in need of something interesting on top after a quick thaw-and-warm-up round in the pan.
The Minted Pea Soup
400ml Vegetable Stock – I usually go with a frozen batch of my own Herbed Veggie Stock
1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
500g frozen Peas – keep back 4 Tbsp for the garnish
2 Spring Onions, white and light green parts, roughly chopped
4 Tbsp Crème Légère
6 bushy Springs of fresh Mint, leaves picked and very finely sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1) Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot set on high heat. Send the garlic swimming at this point.
2) Once the stock is merrily bubbling away, add the peas, spring onions, mint and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper and simmer the lot for 5 mins on medium heat.
3) Move the soup into the jug of your blender and, once 5 mins of cool-down time have passed, whizz it into a silky-smooth soup.
4) Add the crème légère and incorporate it into the soup with a few more pulses.
5) Have a taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
6) Once you’re satisfied, transfer the soup back into the pot and set it onto low heat to keep warm until you’re ready. Don’t leave it to stand there for too long, the peas will turn the soup darker the more time goes by.
Assembling the Dish
8 Mint Leaves, finely shredded
4 Tbsp thawed and blanched Peas
4 Tsp Crème Légère
1) Pour the soup into warmed bowls.
2) Pile 5-6 meatballs into the middle, pyramid-style.
3) Dot the servings with the peas and drops of the crème légère.
4) Scatter the mint shreds on top and serve immediately.