Our greenmarket obsession for the past several months has been what Izzy refers to as, "the sheep lady", 3-Corner Field Farm. One miracle this farm produces is a wonderfully spicy lamb sausage, otherwise known as merguez. It is prominent in North African cookery and her particular version is superior to many I have tasted here.
Now I have been eating merguez for years, since I discovered it in Paris. It often plays a role in couscous or can be found grilled. The sheep lady, however, introduced us to an unlikely use for merguez, as a component in "Libyan Soup." In fact, she had a sample of the soup at her stand a few months ago and Izzy and both gave it the thumbs up. She happily passed on the recipe to us (she seems to keep a file there for customers). I have been making it ever since. As a result, merguez has become a staple in our freezer, since the soup can be made in the shake of a lamb's tail.
Take note: I substituted merguez for the meat and omitted the spices..you can adjust accordingly.
Libyan Soup Time: 1 1/2 hours
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/2 pound boneless lamb shoulder or dark chicken meat, finely chopped
4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 can (3 ounces) tomato paste
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper or harissa, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup orzo, fine pearl barley or couscous 1 cup cooked chickpeas, drained (canned are fine)
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 tablespoon dried mint.
1. Heat oil in a four-quart casserole or saucepan. Add onion and lamb or chicken and cook, stirring frequently, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, paprika, cayenne or harissa, saffron and salt and pepper. Stir, then add 8 cups water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.
2. Add orzo and chickpeas and cook 15 minutes, until orzo is tender. Add cilantro and parsley. Taste and adjust salt and cayenne or harissa. Add dried mint. Cook for 5 minutes, then serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
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