Magiritsa (Lamb Soup for Pascha)

Magiritsa, a Greek Easter soup made from lamb and eaten to break the fast on Pascha

Photo: Wikimedia / Lemur12

In Greece, many families roast lambs on Pascha. Magiritsa, the traditional Greek Easter soup, is made with the parts of the lamb that aren’t roasted and would otherwise go to waste. Since those parts aren’t usually available at your local grocery in America, this version of magiritsa uses lamb shoulder and lamb shanks.

Ingredients:

3 1/2 lbs. lamb shoulder

3 lbs. lamb shanks

1 large onion

2 stalks celery (cut in half)

2 large carrots (cut in half)

10 whole black peppercorns

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup olive oil

4 bunches green onions, minced (only the green part)

1 bunch fresh dill, minced (about a cup)

1/4 cup cornstarch

6 eggs

Juice of 3 – 4 lemons

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Instructions:

You’ll want to make the lamb broth a day or two ahead. If you try to make it on Holy Saturday, you’ll just exhaust yourself. Besides, if you make it on Holy Thursday or Holy Friday, you can chill the broth, which makes it easier to remove the fat.

  1. Rinse the lamb and remove any thick layers of fat.
  2. Put the lamb in a large stock pot. Add enough water to cover the bones and meat by about 3 inches. Add the onion, celery, carrots, and peppercorns.
  3. Bring the water a boil. Just before it reaches a boil, foam and scum will start to form on the surface. Use a slotted spoon or mesh strainer to skim this off. Partially cover the pot, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for two or three hours.
  4. Remove the meat and bones to a large bowl or platter and set aside. Remove the vegetables and throw them away. Place a fine mesh strainer over another pot or large bowl and strain the remaining broth. Discard whatever you catch in the strainer. You should have about three quarts of strained broth. If you don’t have quite that much, add water or chicken broth to make up the difference.
  5. Chop the meat into small pieces. Throw away the bones, fat, and gristle.
  6. Put the broth and the meat in the refrigerator overnight.
  7. The next morning, remove the fat that has solidified on top of the broth.
  8. Put your stock pot on the stove on medium heat. Melt the butter in the pot, and then add the olive oil and increase the heat to medium high. Add the green onions and dill, and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped lamb meat and continue to cook until the meat is slightly browned. Add another drizzle of olive oil or a dab more butter if the mixture seems too dry.
  9. Carefully add the chilled broth to the pot and bring it to a boil. Skim any foam and scum that forms. Reduce the heat and simmer another half an hour.
  10. Add the cornstarch to a small bowl and stir in enough hot broth to dissolve the cornstarch. Add the cornstarch mixture back to the simmering pot. Reduce the heat to low.
  11. Shortly before it’s time to serve the soup, beat the eggs in a large bowl until they’re very frothy and light. Continue beating while you slowly drizzle in the lemon juice.
  12. Slowly beat about 2 cups of the hot broth into the egg-lemon mixture. This will temper the eggs and prevent them from curdling when you add them to the soup.
  13. Carefully add the tempered egg-lemon mixture back to the stock pot. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once you’ve added the egg mixture, do not let the magiritsa boil! You can use a crock pot set on low to keep it warm until it’s time to eat.

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