3 tablespoons olive oil
175g trimmed stewing lamb or beef, cut into about 1cm pieces
1 red or yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ripe tomatoes, halved crosswise and grated, peel discarded
2 heaped tablespoons double concentrated tomato purée
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
cayenne pepper, to taste
100g (½ cup) canned chickpeas, rinsed or cooked dried chickpeas
2 heaped tablespoons finely chopped flat-leafed parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
100g (about ½ cup) orzo or another small soup pasta
1 heaped tablespoon dried mint
salt and pepper
lemon wedges, to serve

This soup with lamb, dried mint and plenty of spices is considered something of a national dish and often referred to as shorba libiya, ‘Libyan soup’. Versions vary from kitchen to kitchen, but one of the key constants is adding a generous amount of dried mint at the very end, and it is usually spicy. During Ramadan, it can be found almost nightly on tables.


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1.Add the oil, lamb and onion to a soup pot, season with salt and pepper and cook over a high heat for 8–10 minutes until the meat is browned and the onion begins to soften.
2.Stir in the garlic, then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and 4 tablespoons water.
3.Add the cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper and cook for 2–3 minutes.
4.Pour in 750ml (3 cups) of hot water, cover with a lid and simmer for 30 minutes.
5.Add the chickpeas, parsley and coriander. Pour in 500ml (2 cups) of hot water, cover again and simmer for 15–30 minutes until the meat is tender.
6.Add the pasta, increase the heat slightly and boil for 8–10 minutes until tender. Stir in the mint.
7.Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.

This is an edited extract
from The North African
Cookbook by Jeff
Koehler, photography
by Simon Bajada,
published by Phaidon,