Meatball and lovage soup (ciorba de perisoare)

Frances Jones-Davies' soup brings out the musky, lemon flavours of this herb complementing the beef and vegetables
Meatball and lovage soup (ciorba de perisoare)
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6-8
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

For the meatballs

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 450 g lean minced beef
  • small bunch lovage, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp ground rice
  • 1 egg
  • 5-6 drops tabasco

For the soup

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1.5 litre water
  • 3 tbsp tomato purée
  • 100 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • small bunch lovage, leaves only, roughly chopped

Method

1. For the meatballs: heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and fry, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes until it is transparent. Put it in a large mixing bowl with the minced beef, lovage, ground rice, egg and Tabasco, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything together, kneading the mixture against the side of the bowl until you can feel the consistency become smooth and almost dough-like.

2. Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or baking parchment. Take a small amount of the meat mixture, about the size of a hazelnut, and roll it into a ball between your hands. Put it on the baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the mixture, then set aside. It is handy to have a bowl of warm water beside you; dip your hands in every few minutes to stop the meatballs sticking to your palms.

3. For the soup: in a large pan, heat the olive oil over a low heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and fry gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Pour in the water, increase the heat to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato purée, crumbled stock cubes, vinegar and sugar and simmer for another 15 minutes.

4. Gently add the meatballs to the soup, reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan and continue cooking for 30 minutes. Stir in the lovage and season with salt and pepper. Leave the soup to simmer for 10 minutes longer, before serving hot.

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