Friday, 19 August 2011

Libyan Soup with Lamb and Mint: Sharba Libiya شربة ليبية

As its name suggests Libyan Soup is our national dish, equally popular in all regions and summing up in a spoonful the flavours that dominate Libyan cuisine.  There is definately something addictive about this aromatic soup, it's made almost everyday during the fasting month of Ramadan and the only complaints are when another soup is made for variation. There are versions with chicken and fish, but this is the recipe for the classic Sharba Libiya with lamb and dried mint. You can omit the whole spices and still produce a delicious soup, but this is a recipe where more truly is more.

Serves 4-6
200g lamb meat, chopped into small cubes
1 onion, chopped
1 finely chopped tomato 
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried mint
4  tablespoons finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup lisan asfour (orzo or other soup pasta)
1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight then cooked or use canned (optional)
about 11/2 litres boiling water
1 heaped teaspoon each of: turmeric, black pepper, red paprika, mixed spice
1 level tablespoon salt
Whole Spices (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
5 cardamom pods, crushed
A few shaiba leaves (known as dagad phool in Indian cuisine)
3 bay leaves  

Pour the oil in a pot, add the chopped lamb and chopped onion, drop in any whole spices you are using, stir on medium heat for a few minutes until the oil is infused.

Add the ground spices, chickpeas,chopped tomato,  tomato paste and  cook for few minutes on medium heat, stirring occasionaly.

 Add 1/2 a litre of water and 2 tablespoons of parsley , then cover and cook on low heat for 45 minutes. Once the lamb is cooked, remove the whole spices. Add a litre of boiling water, then add the parsley, and lisan asfour (orzo) cooking for further 15 minutes.

After turning off the heat rub a handful of dried mint between the palms of your hands straight into the pot, then give the soup a final stir.

Serve the soup with lemon wedges, tanoor bread and mbattan.


  1. yummy mashAllah this is pretty much just like Moroccan harira.

  2. Libyan sharba is just....fab! Absolutely love it! Love it, love it!
    Warning, once you try you may become addicted, just like me ;)

  3. Yummy! Ramadan mubarak! Insha'allah your family is well in Libya, I heard that the donkey fled today, may Allah bring him to justice in this life and the next! Freedom to all of the Muslim world!!

  4. The ultimate queen of our Libyan cuisine.
    Your recipe here is a multi cultural one, humus a choice of west regions, shaiba and bay leaves of eastern I guess. I love it, I can't imagine Radmadan without it fresh cooked daily :)

  5. Thank you for your comments, and Ramadan mubarak to you too! Our family is well elhamdulilah, we are all praying that this is the beginning of the end.

    Libyan soup is similar to harira I guess, and it is definitely very addictive. This recipe is a bit of a mix, but the more this rich soup has in it the better I think :)

  6. I am searching for this recipe, yours is the only one I found that has no fresh coriander (cilantro), I am now confused, did you omit it or it isn't an authentic ingredient?

  7. Hello cooks and books,

    As naohama said in her comments, there are regional variations to Libyan Soup. This recipe includes all the standard ingredients and some regional additions like chickpeas. Adding coriander to this soup is specialty of the city of Benghazi, but we omitted it as it overpowers more delicate flavours like the shaiba leaves.

    Thanks for checking out our recipes!

    1. I eventually made a version of it based on the recipes on the net and a book I have, and used coriander. I'll post it on my blog at some point. Never met a shaiba leaf :(
      your blog is Great.

  8. Greetings from Ireland and thank you for your wonderful blog! I remember a Libyan friend giving me this recipe many years ago but it was with chopped/diced beef rather than lamb. Would this be traditional in Libya?

  9. Hi Ruairí,

    Yes a lighter sharab libiya is made with beef or chicken.