Lamb and Dried Lime Soup

Lamb and Dried Lime Soup

Mowie Kay

This is a soup that incorporates lots of flavours I associate with Middle Eastern food, but it doesn’t really conform to any specific dish. It’s quite beautiful – a deep ochre colour flecked with fresh green and yellow. You can use the brown or black dried limes in this recipe, and it’s up to you whether you crush them up and leave them in to be eaten. I love the sour hit combined with the other ingredients, but it might be a bit much for some. You can use any cut of lamb here, but just make sure you trim it of any excess fat.


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red onions, fairly finely chopped
500g lamb, trimmed of fat and cut into 1–2cm
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
A pinch ground cloves
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
50g coriander, stems and leaves separated, finely chopped
50g parsley, stems and leaves separated, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 litre chicken, lamb or vegetable stock
50g red lentils, well rinsed
6 dried limes, see recipe note
2 roasted red peppers, cut or pulled into strips
250g cooked chickpeas
a squeeze lemon juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a large flameproof casserole or saucepan. Add the onions and cook on a gentle heat until well softened and lightly golden. Turn up the heat and add the lamb. Sear quickly on all sides, then add all the spices, the garlic, coriander stems and parsley stems and the tomato paste. Stir until you have a rich brown gravy (the lamb will give out some liquid), then season with salt and pepper, pour in the stock and sprinkle in the red lentils.
  2. Pierce the dried limes several times with a fork, then add these to the pan, pushing them under until they sink (they will be buoyant until they take in a little liquid). Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and simmer for around 30 minutes.
  3. Squash the limes against the side of the pan with the back of a wooden spoon to help them release flavour, then add the red peppers and the chickpeas to the soup. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Stir through the chopped fresh herb leaves and add the lemon juice.
  4. Serve as it is, or with rice or couscous.

Dried limes

  • To stop them going mouldy before they have completely dried out, it is better to boil them in salted water (add slightly more salt than you would when cooking pasta) for 15 minutes. Then drain, dry thoroughly and leave on a wire rack somewhere sunny, or speed up the process by putting them in a low oven and leaving them until they are light and hollow-sounding when tapped; it is up to you how dark you want them.
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