Lost lamb, lamb to the slaughter, wolf in sheep’s clothing, black sheep of the family… references to lamb and sheep abound in our languages.
Lamb is, most likely, the earliest meat that humans consumed. The oldest find of domesticated sheep’s bones was made in Iraq, dated from 9,000 B.C. Similar finds have been made later in Mesopotamia, Greece, and northeastern Africa.
Lamb is the most often sacrificed animal in religions. The bible and the khuran have many many stories about sacrifices being offered and made, for various gods. In china, the ‘Book of Songs’ from 600 B.C contains a description of the spring sacrifice of a lamb. Even today, lamb is associated with the observation of Easter in many regions. In Greece suckling lamb, roasted whole, is the traditional dish of Easter. Similarly sacrificing lamb is a ritual for many Islamic festivals.
Sheep had a major economic role in the society of the middle ages. Growing sheep was one of the most profitable activities… they provided milk, meat, as well as clothing from wool and sheepskin.
Currently, Australia and New Zealand are the world’s leading producers and exporters of lamb and mutton.
Meat from sheep is referred to as lamb when the animals are up to a year old and mutton after that.
Every part of the lamb is cooked and eaten in some part of the world or other. In addition to the usual meatballs, kababs and curries, there are some unusual items like the Scottish haggis made from sheep entrails (liver, lungs and heart) cooked inside a sheep’s stomach. And the whole head of sheep (and its cousin goat) is eaten in lots of regions. Read somewhere that lamb fries (not what you think) are popular in Kentucky.
Lamb is not a popular meat in the US. The early establishment of the beef industry could be one of the reasons for this.
We are making a lamb meatball soup as today’s recipe. You can use veal or beef in this recipe with similar results.
Lamb Meatball Soup
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped onion
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 1 cup corn kernels
- 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 whole serrano or jalapeno chili, slit lengthwise without separating from the stalk
- Salt and pepper to taste
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ground lamb, cilantro, salt, pepper and egg, until well combined. Form them into balls of uniform size and set aside.
- In a heavy saucepan, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Add the onions and tomato paste and cook, stirring, until the onions are softened and the tomato paste is cooked into the onions, about 3 minutes.
- Add the celery, corn and carrots. Sauté until soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and lower the heat to a simmer.
- Add the lamb meatballs into the broth, taking care not to break them. Cover and let the meatballs settle and firm up for 5 minutes..
- Add the bay leaf and the chili to the broth. Cover and cook in a steady simmer for 35 minutes.
- When the meatballs are fully done, adjust the seasoning and ladle into bowls and serve hot.