Iraq – Shorbat Rumman (Lamb & Pomegranate Soup)

As a child I used to spend my summers in Newquay, eating huge Knickerbocker Glories, trying to learn to surf and coveting the latest ‘Fat Willy’ t-shirt (for those not familiar with this brand it’s best not to ask, or google it!).  We stayed with the parents of my Mum’s bestfriend in a terraced house that to a seven year old seemed palatial.  They had a strange oven in the corner of their dining room (an Aga) and cooked vegetables that they grew themselves; to someone familiar only with tinned sweetcorn and frozen peas this in itself was something to wonder at; I would look on in amazement as muddy carrots and potatoes just plucked from the earth were turned into my tea.  My one distinct memory is of the little silver pot that always appeared on the table for lunch and dinner.  It was filled with homegrown and homemade pickled beetroot and it was served with roast dinners, salads and even beans on toast.  I devoured the little purple discs, watching the little rivers of deep red run around my plate forcing themselves on the other flavours and colours.  I haven’t been to Cornwall for at least fifteen years but I still love beetroot, although the mess and fuss has led me to rely on the readymade pickled variety.  But when I saw this recipe in all its glorious purpleness I just knew that I would have to get my hands dirty.  The flavours are strong, the lamb competing with the pomegranate and the onions; but lurking in the background is the raw earthiness of the beetroot reminding me of summers spent building sandcastles and catching shrimps.

Shorbat Rumman

Serves 4 – 6

  • 2 Lamb shanks
  • 1 onion – finely chopped
  • 1.5l water
  • 125g yellow split peas
  • 2 raw beetroots – peeled and diced
  • 100g rice
  • 2 spring onions – chopped
  • 2tbsp sugar
  • 2tbsp lime juice
  • 2tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2tbsp parsley – chopped
  • 50g spinach
  • 1tsp dried mint
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

The day before soak the yellow split peas (or for at least 8 hours).

Put the water, onion, yellow split peas and lamb in a large pot, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer for 1 hour.

Add the beetroot and rice to the pot and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the lamb from the pot, shred the meat off the bone, return the meat to the pot.

Add the spring onions, sugar, lime juice, pomegranate molasses and parsley to the pot, cook for five minutes.

Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serve topped with the dried mint and accompanied by lots of bread and butter.

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