A fragrant, Greek-inspired lemon and orzo soup with lamb meatballs, spinach, and orzo…Avgolemono With Lamb Meatballs and Spinach combines Mediterranean flavors in a hearty and healthy soup that may have you dancing the Kalamatiano…
Αυγολέμονο με αρνί Κεφτεδάκια και σπανάκι or Avgolémono me arní Keftedákia kai spanáki...
Say What? Language fascinates me. I bemoan the fact that I haven’t the time to learn Spanish, polish my French, expand my English vocabulary… When it comes to creating and developing new dishes, I enjoy learning something about the country that inspired it. I love mediterranean food, and this Greek-inspired soup is one that I’ve gone back to time and again over the years.
I call this soup Avgolemono with Lamb Meatballs and Spinach. Google Translate allows me to translate the names of my recipes. The above highlighted sentence is the Greek translation of my recipe in both the Greek and the Roman alphabet. Avgolemono means “egg and lemon.” Greek is difficult for English-speakers because they use the Greek (rather than our Roman) alphabet… Interesting? I love to chase rabbits. 😉
On to the recipe… The creamy, lemony base for this soup is both light and filling. Adding fresh lemon juice and egg into the chicken broth thickens the soup and adds complexity. Care must be taken by tempering the eggs to keep it from curdling and thus resembling Chinese egg drop soup. This recipe is a great way to use leftover rice, or you can use orzo (a favorite at our house!). The lamb meatballs come together quickly, so if you focus you can get it on the table in 30-45 minutes. That’s hard to beat. 🙂
Put your stock into a large pot or dutch oven to heat. Make the meatballs. Add them into the hot stock to finish cooking. Beat the eggs and lemon juice until creamy, then temper them with some of the hot stock. Add that mixture into the pot. Add cooked rice or orzo and the fresh spinach. Voilà!
We love Avgolemono with Lamb Meatballs and Spinach with a medium-bodied red wine like a zinfandel or a sangiovese. If you prefer a white wine, try an oaked chardonnay or bordeaux blanc. Happy cooking!
Making the meatballs:
- I prefer to cut the onion into chunks and place in a small food processor. Pulse several times. Scoop into a strainer, and press out excess liquid. This results in a firmer meatball with a better texture.
Tempering the Eggs:
- Break the eggs into a small mixing bowl.
- Add fresh lemon juice.
- Beat with a fork until smooth and creamy.
- Using a ladle, add a small amount of hot stock, and beat it into the egg mixture.
- Repeat with additional stock several more times.
- With a wooden spoon, stir the pot slowly to keep from breaking your meatballs.
- With the other hand, pour the tempered egg mixture into the pot.
- Stir until completely combined.
- Turn the heat all the way down to keep the soup hot while you finish it.
- If you must, you can substitute ground sirloin for the lamb, but you will lose a bit of the “Greek” flavor.
- Left over white or brown rice works really well in this soup.
- Don’t try to substitute frozen spinach. It needs to wilt in the hot stock.
- Fresh lemon juice is best, and I like to use the zest in the meatball mixture, but you can get away with bottled lemon juice.
- Fresh or dried dill is fine in the meatball mixture.
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For the Meatballs
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 small onion, finely minced or processed
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, finely chopped, (1 teaspoon dried)
- 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup bread crumbs
For the Soup
- 6 cups good quality chicken stock or broth, I use homemade or Trader Joe's brand
- 4 eggs
- 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 juicy lemon
- 2 cups cooked rice or orzo
- 5-6 ounce bag of baby spinach
- parsley to garnish
- Heat stock in a large pot or dutch oven.
Make the Meatballs
- Combine ground lamb with onion, garlic, parsley, dill, egg, zest, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mix until very well-combined. (A rubber spatula works well.)
- Working with a walnut-sized amount, roll meatballs. Saute in a small amount of olive oil until lightly brown on at least 2 sides.
- Add meatballs to the hot (not boiling) stock. Bring to a low simmer. Do NOT boil. Allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes to make sure the meatballs are completely cooked. The length of time depends on the size of your meatballs.
Finish the Soup
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine lemon juice and eggs.
- Beat with a whisk or fork until smooth and creamy.
- Temper the eggs: Using a ladle, take a small amount (about 2 tbsp.) of stock and whisk into the egg mixture.
- Repeat a few more times until the egg mixture is warm. Take your time! Adding too much hot liquid at one time will scramble your eggs.
- Add the tempered egg mixture into the soup pot with the heat on low. You don't want to boil the soup from this point on, or the soup may "break" and resemble egg drop soup rather than the creamy soup we hope to achieve.
- Add the fresh spinach, and orzo or rice.
- Stir gently to combine. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and/or pepper if necessary.
- Heat gently for about 5 minutes. Again, don't allow the soup to boil.
- Ladle the soup into 4 bowls. Garnish with toast and fresh parsley.
I prefer to cut the onion into chunks and place in a small food processor. Pulse several times. Scoop into a strainer, and press out excess liquid. This results in a firmer meatball with a better texture.
Macronutrients (estimate only) from MyFitnessPal: 396 calories; 27 g protein; 49 g carbohydrates; 24 g fat.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 396 Total Fat: 24g Carbohydrates: 49g Protein: 27g