This Lamb and Lentil Soup with Habanero is a little something I came up with to warm up on a cold winter evening. The distinct flavor of lamb with some earthy baby kale and lentils is elevated with a bit of spicy / fruity habanero then topped of with fried baguette croutons.
I originally wanted to make a lamb and lentil stew but didn’t really have the time or inclination to butcher and stew a chunk of lamb shoulder. Instead, I reached for a pound of the packaged ground lamb and opted for lamb meatballs in a lentil soup – ala Italian Wedding Soup.
As we know, soup is the best way to stretch ingredients and flavor and this soup has a ton of flavor. Lamb, lentils and baby kale are all, what I would call, warm earthy flavors. To balance the ‘perfect for a winter evening’ flavors out, I wanted to add a bit of heat and sweetness with some habanero.
Habanero may be my favorite chili. I find the heat tolerable even in large quantities but it’s the fruity favor of this chili that makes it stand out above the others. After cooking in this soup for 30 minutes or so, much of the heat subsides and you’re left with a little brightness to balance the earthy richness of the other ingredients. I used about a teaspoon and a half in my soup but I’m recommending one half teaspoon (or one deseeded chili) for most people. I would not recommend skipping the habanero if you intend on adding habanero hot sauce. I think added hot sauce would be too acidic and unpleasant.
The grocery store had these amazing organic spring onions I just had to buy. They’re a little more earthy tasting than your yellow onion or leek but you could use either of those instead. You could also use a small can of chopped tomatoes instead of fresh Roma or vine ripened tomatoes.
Taking my Italian Wedding Soup inspiration full circle, I had to top off this Lamb and Lentil Soup with some freshly fried bread croutons. Find a nice sturdy French baguette and chop up some bread in to half inch cubes. Fry the bread in a tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and set aside on paper towel to drain. Super easy and way, WAY! better than that fake stuff in a box.
If you’re not in to lamb… how did you read this far? Anyway, if you’re not in to lamb or you’re unable to find it at your store you could make some grass fed beef meatballs instead. The distinct lamb flavor really enriches this soup so you want something with a lot of flavor. Most of the ground beef sold in grocery stores lack a lot of flavor but I’ve found the grass fed ground beef to be pretty good. You could also make a delicious meatball by finely mincing some hanger steak and sirloin together.
Lamb and Lentil Soup with Habanero
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 1 cup chopped organic spring onion
- 2 gloves chopped garlic
- 1/2 tsp minced habanero
- 1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes
- 1 cup green lentils
- 1 cup chopped baby kale
- 3 qt. water
- salt pepper
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- French baguette
- Prepare the lamb meatballs by pinching about a tablespoon (smaller than a golf ball) of ground lamb and rolling it in your hands to form a ball. Set aside on a clean plate and repeat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat and fry the meat balls until evenly browned on all sides. Transfer meatballs to a plate and reserve.
- Leave about a tablespoon of oil and fat in the pot and sauté the spring onions over medium heat until tender. Add the garlic and habanero and sauté for a few minutes. Stir vegetables often to prevent browning.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the pot and stir until they have broken down completely – about 5-7 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium low and add three quarts of water. Add chopped baby kale and slowly bring to a low simmer.
- Add lentils and meatballs and simmer until lentils are fully cooked, stirring occasionally – about 20 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.
- For the fried bread croutons, slice the desired amount of bread in to half inch cubes. Heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a non stick pan and add the bread. Toss occasionally until golden brown and crispy and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to paper towels to drain excess oil. Bonus points for tossing with any of the excess lamb fat you drained out between steps 2 and 3.