Eggplant soup with lamb is filled with fresh vegetables and satiating flavors. Sautéed onions, tomatoes, and eggplants. Hearty ground lamb. A pinch of spices. They all come together to create layers of complexity. And the whole thing only takes an hour, start to finish.
To make this soup into a meal, we sautéed ground lamb for a savory topping, then sautéed diced eggplant in the rendered fat to impart char and deep flavor. After reserving some eggplant for a second topping, we simmered the rest with broth, onion, and tomatoes before pureeing. Seasoning both the soup and lamb with the spice blend ras el hanout brought complexity.–America’s Test Kitchen
Eggplant Soup with Lamb
- 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces ground lamb
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ras el hanout*
- 1/8 teaspoon table salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound eggplant cut into 1/2‑inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 small (8 oz) onion chopped fine
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 cups store-bought or homemade chicken stock
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- Hot water
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
- Slivered almonds toasted (optional)
- In a 12‑inch (30-cm) nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, warm 2 teaspoons oil until shimmering. Add lamb, 1/4 teaspoon ras el hanout, salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, move the lamb to a small bowl. Pour off all but 2 teaspoons fat from the saucepan. (If necessary, add oil to equal 2 teaspoons.) Add the eggplant to the fat in skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and deeply browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Move to a second bowl.
☞TESTER TIP: If necessary, add an extra teaspoon of oil during cooking to help the eggplant brown evenly.
- In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, reducing the heat if necessary to avoid browning, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the remaining 1 teaspoon ras el hanout and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the broth, tomatoes, and all but 1 cup eggplant and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
- Divvy the soup between individual serving bowls, then top with lamb, remaining 1 cup eggplant, cilantro, and almonds, if using. Serve.
*What is ras el hanout?The literal translation of ras el hanout, the North African spice mixture, is "head of the shop." There was a time when spice merchants would mix together their best spices as a way to showcase top-shelf products. This meant that there wasn't really any agreed-upon recipe for ras el hanout, but eventually, a combination of specific spices became the most common. Cumin seed, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, dried ginger, nutmeg, aniseed, cloves, and turmeric are some of the most frequently used. Nearly every family or home cook has their own version that they rely on and have made to their own tastes.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
We thoroughly enjoyed this eggplant soup with lamb, and I felt that flavor-wise it was something that I could imagine on the menu of the really nice Mediterranean/Middle Eastern restaurant in our neighborhood. I decided to double the recipe because I wanted to make sure we had enough soup for four servings since soup always takes some work. The end product was this really lush soup that was an earthy burnt sienna color (my husband kept commenting on the striking color).
I didn't need to add any liquid as the viscosity was perfect—not watery but also not too thick, just right. I was very happy with the level of flavor in both the ground lamb and the soup itself, and adding the sauteed eggplant on the top with the ground meat made this a whole meal, along with a side of bread. My husband doesn't always care for the texture of eggplant, so a soup is a great vehicle to serve it. I did end up adding a little brown sugar at the end to cut the acidity of the soup from the tomatoes. He said this is the "best soup" that has come out of our kitchen.
This eggplant soup with lamb was a welcome revelation, combining ingredients that don’t readily come to mind when I think of soup. Warm and spice-driven, hearty yet basically all-season, the dish was just what we needed on a cooler-than-usual late spring day and went perfectly with some thick slices of peasant bread toasted with a schmear of gorgonzola to make a very satisfying weeknight meal.
The recipe is straightforward and swift to prepare and works very well as written. It’s also very attractive when all of the ingredients are layered in the bowls for serving. The only change I’d suggest is the addition of a little bit more oil to sauté the eggplant.
Originally published June 27, 2021