Lamb Curry Tomato Soup (adapted from Smart Shopper’s Cookbook, 1972)

Lamb Curry Tomato Soup is an easy-to-prepare weeknight soup from Smart Shopper’s Cookbook.  Lamb is a surprising ingredient for a cookbook dedicated to budget-friendly meals.  In my little corner of paradise ground lamb is priced higher than ground Wagyu, and the discount grocery chains don’t always have it in stock.  Lamb is something of a premium item for twenty-first century shoppers, but judging from the dozens of lamb recipes in Smart Shopper’s Cookbook and other, older cookbooks I suspect that this wasn’t always the case.  I can’t find any reliable information on historical lamb prices, but the USDA notes that lamb consumption in America has been on a long decline.  The average twenty-first century American consumes around a pound of lamb per year, down from nearly five pounds per year in the 1960s.   (My family, apparently, is well above average.)

If you are one of many Americans who doesn’t like lamb this might be a good dish to help you reconsider.  The rich spiced tomato soup helps to balance out the lamb’s potent flavor and aroma without burying it altogether.   You’ll be able to tell the difference from ground beef, but it shouldn’t offend more delicate palates.

I’ve made a few adjustments from the original recipe to conform to twenty-first century sensibilities while still staying true to the budget-conscious original.   The recipe as written is bland and underseasoned – I’ve doubled the curry powder, supplemented it with cumin, and added crushed red pepper to give it a mild heat.  You could, alternatively, use a homemade curry powder in place of storebought Madras-style powder.  Even the better-quality curry powders tend to be heavy on turmeric, which adds more color than flavor.  I’ve also added a can of chickpeas for protein’s sake plus a squeeze of lemon juice at the end for some much-needed acid.

With the added chickpeas, Lamb Curry Tomato Soup is hearty enough for a standalone meal, with maybe some croutons or crusty bread served on the side.   If you want to lean into the Mediterranean flavors consider garnishing with pine nuts and additional olive oil, and serve with fresh pita bread and a store-bought hummus.  If you’d rather lean in to the very American tomato soup vibe, serve this with grilled cheese sandwiches, made with sourdough and a mild white cheese like Swiss or Provolone.  Enjoy!


Lamb Curry Tomato Soup (adapted from Smart Shopper’s Cookbook, 1972)

  • Preparation: 15 min
  • Cooking: 30 min
  • Ready in: 45 min
  • For: 6 main dish servings
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  1. In a large dutch oven over medium-high heat brown lamb in olive oil. When lamb is mostly browned add celery and onion and saute for 2-3 minutes until vegetables start to sweat. Then add spices and saute 1-2 minutes more until spices are fragrant.
  2. Add canned tomatoes plus one can of water and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Add chickpeas and bay leaf and cover.
  3. Simmer 30 minutes or more. Remove bay leaf.
  4. Just before serving, chop cilantro and cut lemon into 8 pieces (cut in half, then quarter). Squeeze lemon juice into soup when serving.

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