Moroccan spices simmer in a rich lamb and chickpea soup

When the Ramadan fast ends each day, the Iftar meal almost always begins with soup. It satisfies hunger and quenches thirst at the same time.

In North Africa, this dish is likely khorba frika meaty chickpea soup richly flavored with cumin, coriander, cinnamon, ginger and more.

It inspired the chefs at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street to create a hearty but quick weeknight dinner. Chorba fric Typically, it simmers beef or lamb cuts with chickpeas and freekeh, a type of green wheat that has been roasted and broken up. For the easy weeknight version, they use quick-cooking ground lamb that’s been formed into small meatballs, canned chickpeas, and coarse bulgur — which is easier to source than freekeh.

Seasoning the lamb with ras el hanout, a flavorful Moroccan spice blend, is another great shortcut. It typically contains at least seven spices. Look for it in well-stocked supermarkets, spice shops, or grocery stores in the Middle East.

Typically, chefs prefer the richer flavor of concentrated tomato paste, which is often packaged in tubes. But in this recipe, its strong flavor would overwhelm the other ingredients.

While the bulgur and meatballs are simmering, remember to stir occasionally to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

This hearty soup is a meal in itself, but warm, crusty bread pairs perfectly with it.

North African lamb, chickpea and bulgur soup

Season the lamb with ras el hanout, a flavorful Moroccan spice blend; Look for it in well-stocked supermarkets, spice shops, or grocery stores in the Middle East.

Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon ras el hanout (see top note)
4 teaspoons dried mint
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
12 ounces ground lamb
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch spring onions, thinly sliced, reserving whites and greens separately
1 stalk celery, leaves included, if any, finely chopped
6 medium garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup tomato paste
15½-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¾ cup coarse bulgur
2 medium-ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped

In a medium bowl, stir together the ras el hanout, mint, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Add the lamb and 3 tablespoons of water, then mix with your hands until well combined; put aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the spring onion whites, celery, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables have softened, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the paste is well browned, about 3 minutes. Add the chickpeas and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chickpeas are completely coated in tomato paste, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add 6 cups of water and scrape off any browned bits. Cover the pot and bring to the boil on high, then stir in the bulgur. Use your fingers to break off grape-sized chunks of the lamb mixture, letting them fall into the pot as you go. Reduce to medium-high and simmer, covered, until bulgur is tender and meatballs are no longer pink in center, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. With the heat off, stir in the spring onion greens and tomatoes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Kimball is the creator of Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street TV show, cookery school and cookbook author. This article was provided by The Associated Press.