Lamb soup is a staple in some parts of Europe, but utterly unknown elsewhere. A volume from 1835 on our bookshelves, the splendidly titled ‘Gunn’s Domestic Medicine or Poor Man’s Friend’, commends lamb soup as the perfect remedy for dysentery. Quite what kind of lamb soup Dr Gunn had in mind when prescribing it for his patients we do not know. But it was probably a thin broth, nothing at all like the wonderful lamb soups that we have encountered on our travels around Europe.
Lamb soup has the status of a national dish in Iceland. Every Icelandic cook has his or her preferred recipe for kjötsúpa. Switch to Georgia and the local lamb soup, called kharcho, is an exotic mix of herbs and spices. Kharcho often includes sun dried tomatoes, cilantro, walnuts and more. Curiously, one of the best bowls of kharcho we have ever tasted is served at a cheap café right by Charlottenburg railway station in Berlin. That simple Berlin café is one of our regular haunts.
Lamb soup is big in the Balkans, and visitors to Bosnia should try the local variant which is called chorba. We have enjoyed Welsh cawl, Orkdal soup in Norway and yet more lamb soups in Portugal and Italy. In some parts of Italy, lamb soup is particularly associated with Easter. It is a dish that is much too good to be reserved only for those with a bout of dysentery.
Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries