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Eggplant Soup with Lamb

Two bowls of eggplant soup with lamb, garnished with slivered almonds.
Eggplant is rich, meaty, and hearty—and when cooked with tomatoes and North African spices yields an unforgettable, tastebud-pleasing soup.
America’s Test Kitchen

Prep 20 mins
Cook 40 mins
Total 1 hr
Entree
Mediterranean
2 to 3 servings
382 kcal

Ingredients 

  • 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)

Directions 

  • 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.
  • Process the soup in a blender or using an immersion blender until smooth, about 1 minute. Return the soup to a clean saucepan over medium heat and bring to a brief simmer, adjusting consistency with hot water as needed. Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divvy the soup between individual serving bowls, then top with lamb, remaining 1 cup eggplant, cilantro, and almonds, if using. Serve.

Notes

*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.