Spicy Freekeh Soup With Lamb Meatballs

October 15, 2014
Spicy Freekeh Soup with Lamb Meatballs - Lamb meatballs combine with veggies and freekeh to make a hearty, sweet, and substantial soup. 

“Extraordinary benefits accrue to the tiny minority of people who are able to push just a tiny bit longer than most”    ~ Seth Godin | The Dip

Runner 1

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Week 6 of our latest 8-week Challenge

The number of faces at weekly weigh-ins has slowly declined.  Ten days from now, it'll be time for the final pictures, along with the inevitable question, “Why do so many people start and not finish?”

The Dip

I've done it, more times than I care to admit.  Please, how many declarations have I made over a glass of wine at dinner, projects I'm going to take on, places I'm going to go, cassoulets I'm going to cook.  Only to find myself three, four, six months later, not following through.

Spicy Freekeh Soup With Lamb Meatballs - Lamb meatballs combine with veggies and freekeh to make a hearty, sweet, and substantial soup

Maybe there's an eternal optimist in us all, maybe it's the society we live in, but there's something about the promise of starting things, that generates excitement and applause.  When you join the gym, you already feel happier; all you did was write the check.  When you say you're going give up your favorite food, lose fifty pounds, and run a marathon, your friends will smile and give you a hug.

But the reality is, most of the people who join the gym aren't still going March.  People who can take off fifty pounds often find it challenging to maintain, and twenty-six miles is one heck of a long way when it's you and the open road.

As Seth points out, the reason these outcomes are so valuable is because they're scarce, not everyone is willing to go through the levels of effort it takes to make it to the finish line.  So somewhere between the day we start and the end, we quit.

Spicy Freekeh Soup With Lamb Meatballs - Lamb meatballs combine with veggies and freekeh to make a hearty, sweet, and substantial soup

We quit our workout schedule just before it's about to become a habit.  We quit the marathon, not at mile two when everyone is cheering us on, but at mile twenty-two, when we're in The Dip

It's in those moments when we thought we couldn't go on when a short-term desire overshadowed that of the long-haul.  If we'd have pushed just a little harder, just a little further, we could have reaped all the benefits from finishing.

Those I'm lucky enough to coach, have heard much about The Dip by week 6.  “I know it's tough.  The initial excitement's worn off, and the scale's moving slower.  But remember why you've chosen to do this.  This isn't simply about eight weeks; this is about establishing habits for life.”

“There will be detours along the way, but that's ok because you'll learn from them every time.  Promise me you'll keep going because when you get to the other side, it'll be very much worth it.”

Food for thought

Spicy Freekeh Soup With Lamb Meatballs - Lamb meatballs combine with veggies and freekeh to make a hearty, sweet, and substantial soup

This week I've found myself thumbing through cookbooks of authors I love, and Jerusalem is always favorite.  This recipe is described as “warming, hearty, sweet, and substantial.”

We couldn't have agreed more; the resulting soup is truly something special.  What a wonderful blend of middle eastern flavors.  If you haven't had freekeh, give it a try.  You'll be glad you did.  If not, bulgar will work as well, but keep an eye on it as it won't take quite as long to cook



ps:  If you're having trouble finding the baharat spice mix, you can make your own

— — —

~ Adapted from Ottolenghi

Spicy Freekeh Soup With Meatballs


  • Meatballs
  • 1 ¼ ground lamb, or beef or a combination of both
  • 1 small onion, diced fine
  • 2 Tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Soup
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½" chunks
  • 2 celery sticks, cut into ½" cubes
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped (or 1 ½ (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes)
  • 3 Tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 Tbsp baharat spice mix (found in most Middle Eastern grocery stores or online)
  • 1 Tbsp coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp natural sugar (Sugar in the Raw or Turbinado)
  • 1 cup cracked freekeh
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups hot water

  • Optional Toppings
  • cilantro, chopped
  • lemon wedges


  • Meatballs
  • In a large bowl, combine lamb, onion, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp pepper. Using your hands, mix well, and form the mix into ping-point size balls (~ 15 total)
  • Roll them in flour and fry in a large dutch oven over medium for a few minutes, until they are golden brown on all sides.
  • Remove the meatballs and set aside.

  • Soup
  • Wipe out the pan with paper towels and add the olive oil for the soup. Over medium heat, fry the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 2 -3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, sugar, 2 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper and cook for another minute.
  • Stir in the freekeh and cook for 2-3 minutes
  • Add the stocks, water, and meatballs. Bring to a boil.
  • Lower the heat and simmer gently for another 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the freekeh is plump and tender. (At this point the soup should be thick.)
  • Reduce or add a little water as needed. Adjust the seasonings.
  • Serve with optional toppings (if desired)
Serves: 8
Nutrition + Show
Calories 355
Total Fat 20.7g
Saturated Fat 7.7g
Carbohydrates 24.4g
Fiber 3.4g
Sugars 5.3g
Protein 18.3g
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1 Comment

  • Reply heydave October 16, 2014 at 9:46 am

    5 stars
    I understand why this soup is considered comfort food on some cultures… simply wonderful!

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