It’s (Almost) Too Darn Hot: Since it has already hit 80 degrees a few times recently, I want to cook a few of the soups from Jerusalem before it’s so hot that I can’t bear the thought of soup. I have never cooked a soup with lamb and was looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately, the grocery store I went out of my way to go to, so sure they’d have good lamb stew meat, didn’t have any when I was there. That’s why there is an asterisk in the title of this post, because I had to use beef stew meat (the recipe says beef’s a fine substitute). There happened to be only one package of organic beef stew meat, and even though it was only .75 lbs, and the recipe calls for a pound, I had to go with it because the non-organic stuff came from Harris Ranch, a horrifying factory farm in Central California that I recently had the misfortune of driving past.
Start One Day In Advance: I had planned on making this soup for dinner a couple of weeks back until I read through the recipe and realized it was too late for that because the cannellini beans need to be soaked overnight. At that point, I didn’t have any cannellinis on hand and added them to my grocery list, assuming I could get a bag from my local grocery store. I suppose I’ve never purchased cannellini beans before and I didn’t realize they are not as readily available as most other types of beans. They do not carry them at my nearby grocery store so I had to get them from the same store I went out of my way to go to for the meat.
Simple Preparation: At this point I have cooked around twenty of the recipes from Jerusalem. Most require quite a few ingredients, many are rather time-consuming, all are delicious. This soup is one of the simpler recipes, less labor intensive than others and easy to prepare. Since it doesn’t entail the amount of chopping that so many other Jerusalem recipes do, this one is a great candidate for doubling. I wish I had doubled it because it came out super tasty.
(Note to Self) Celery Root and Celery Are Different: It wasn’t until I got home from the grocery store, unpacking the ingredients and re-reading the recipe that I noticed it called for celery root rather than celery. Learning something new every day, I now know that they’re not the same thing (d’oh!) but I decided to just use the celery because I’m not sure where to purchase celery root and it seemed silly to go hunting around at various stores for it when I know that plain old celery would still work in this soup. And it did! The base of the soup is sauteed onion, celery, 20 cloves of whole garlic, and cumin. Super aromatic!
Delicate and Delicious: I don’t necessarily expect a soup containing lamb or beef stew meat to be delicate, but this one is, particularly when you squeeze a little lemon in it as the cookbook advises. It’s a recipe inspired by the soups prepared by the Yemeni Jews of Jerusalem, famous for their ability to elicit maximum flavor from a little bit of meat and a lot of aromatic ingredients. Although I used about 25% less meat than the recipe called for, I did not wish it had more meat and thought it was lovely as is. I did use a bit more salt than it called for but that’s pretty standard for me. The chefs and authors of Jerusalem also recommend serving it with good bread and zhoug, a spicy Yemeni condiment that they compare to an Italian gremolata. I prepared zhoug to serve with this soup and will post separately about it. It was an excellent complement to the soup, particularly when eaten off of a little of the bread after soaking it in the soup. You can find the full recipe for the soup here.