“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving and identity.”
Jonathan Safran Foer
A Twist on the Lebanese Classic, Lentil Soup with Kefta
When I was a kid there were certain things which were never served for dinner; liver and onions and meatloaf were at the very top of that list. The reason? My father HATED them! Okay, but here’s the twist… Lebanese chicken livers (and no, strictly speaking the chickens do NOT have to be Lebanese) done up with some garlic, onion and a whole whack of lemon was ALWAYS one of my Dad’s favourite hors d’ oeuvre and kefta is just Lebanese meatloaf and he just loved it. A rose by any other name I suppose! I wonder if that’s why sweetbreads are so named?
As always here on Be Still & Eat I try to provide not only healthful (well, usually) recipes but also ones that are approachable, relatable and re-creatable. This recipe for Kefta meets all those criteria, and it’s YUM! You can be assured of this fact because if it was Richard D. Kalil (aka my Dad!) approved then it is guaranteed to be DE-LISH!
As usual I’m making a few changes to the recipe I was served as a kid in order to try to remove some of the questionable ingredients (crumbled crackers? ACK) which of course, were used to stretch a pound of lamb or beef, so please feel free to add them back in should you need to. Just remember that those crackers or bread crumbs will leech some of the flavour so adjust your seasonings accordingly. My trick for knowing when you have exactly the right amount if you’re winging it is to use your sniffer… you should be able to really smell the spices in the meat for truly flavourful dishes.
I’ve also changed the presentation from traditional meatloaf style to meatballs and tossed them into a soup, ‘cuz, well, I felt like it! And I’ve already got a fabulous meatloaf recipe on Be Still & Eat.
And yes, I do realize I’m inundating you with soup recipes over the past few weeks, but it’s January and I always seem to crave soups in January. I’d like to say that this will be the last one, and it probably will be for awhile, but I must admit that after a conversation about the spice markets in Istambul I was far too tempted to try a Turkish soup which is burbling away on the back of the stove as I type this! 🙂
While devising the recipe for this luscious, silky soup I had planned on using the lamb stock in my freezer from a recent roast leg of lamb, but it was frozen around the bars on the freezer drawer and I honestly did not see a good outcome from my trying to pry it off. Chicken stock is quite lovely, but hey if you haven’t managed to freeze your lamb stock in place for all of eternity, then by all means use it instead!
Enjoy & Namaste!
- FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 lb ground veal (beef will do although I like the subtlety of veal with this dish)
- 4 generous tsp of Syrian Spice
- FOR THE SOUP:
- Olive oil for the pan
- 1 large
- 2 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 generous TBSP tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 - 540 ml (19 oz) tin lentils
- 1 generous handful swiss chard (or other hardy leafy green) roughly chopped
- Combine all the ingredients for meatballs, mixing gently with your hands being careful not to overmix which will create tough meatballs. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a large
heavy bottomedsoup pot over medium high heat
- Add onions, stirring often until they start to become translucent.
- Lower heat to medium and add garlic, stirring constantly for about 2 mins to avoid burning the garlic.
- Add tomato paste and stir to lightly brown the paste before adding chicken broth.
- Add bay leaf, chicken broth and lentils, stirring to combine.
- Bring broth to a gentle simmer.
- Slowly introduce meatballs a few at a time.
- Cover and simmer until meatballs are cooked through, about 30 minutes but time will depend on how large you make the meatballs. I chose to roll about 16 from 2 lbs of meat
- Add swiss chard toward end of cooking time allowing about 5 minutes or so to wilt.