This warm and hearty Speckled Butter Bean, Okra, Lamb Soup delivers on Southern flavors, and when topped with a wedge of rosemary cornbread, it is a filling dish. And it showcases lamb, an ingredient not often seen on Southern tables.
For far too long, Cajuns have been missing out. Beef, pork and chicken have been on the grocery list, but lamb has always come up short in the meat category. This spring, I’m out to change that with this Speckled Butter Bean, Okra, Lamb Soup recipe.
Still chilly enough for a fire, but knowing the worst of winter is almost forgotten, my thoughts turn to the beauty of springtime in South Louisiana. When I saw the speckled butter beans at Fresh Pickin’s Market, a recipe began percolating in my brain and my stomach began calling out for a hearty lamb-based soup.
Lamb is not an ingredient commonly associated with Louisiana or the Deep South for that matter. But, here in Acadiana there is a very large resident population that is of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent. Lebanese, Syrian and Greek families migrated to Acadiana years ago, and by the number of restaurants serving hummus, falafel and kibbe, it is obvious that taste travels. Cajuns have embraced these ethnic flavors and the 30-year old Cedar Grocery, with vats of Greek olives and fresh-made tabouli, has become a cultural icon as well as a culinary treasure trove.
Lamb is available in most Lafayette grocery stores, and while Cajuns of French Acadian heritage consume it sparingly, they absolutely love it nonetheless. Linking these spice-filled ingredients with traditional bayou recipes is common and results in some exceptionally tasty versions of the standards. And this Speckled Butter Bean, Okra, Lamb Soup recipe is the perfect combination of culinary cultures.
Spread the word: with this Speckled Butter Bean, Okra, Lamb Soup, lamb now has a place on the Acadiana Table.
- 2 tablespoons bacon grease
- 1½ cups white cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, stemmed and chopped
- 1 large egg
- 1¼ cups buttermilk
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, stems removed
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 (1-pound) bone-in lamb shanks
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced carrots
- 14 whole okra pods
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 teaspoon dried mint leaves
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups frozen speckled butter beans
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
- In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, add the bacon grease. Place the skillet into the oven.
- In a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients along with the fresh rosemary. In a separate bowl, add the egg and buttermilk, and whisk until combined. Add the liquid ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients, and add the melted butter. Stir to combine.
- Remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour in the cornbread batter. Place the pan back into the oven and bake until it begins to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the bread comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove and keep warm.
- In the container of a blender, add the mint leaves, garlic, salt, and pepper. On medium speed, slowly pour the olive oil into the container until combined and reaches salad dressing consistency. Set aside.
- In a heavy-lidded cast-iron pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and add to the pot. Cook until browned on all sides. Remove and keep warm.
- In the same pot, lower the heat to medium and add the onions, celery, and carrots. Sauté just until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and add the okra pods, garlic, and cilantro along with the spices. Add the butter beans, lemon juice, and zest. Pour in enough of the vegetable stock to cover. Once the liquid starts to simmer, turn down the heat to low. Place the lid on the iron pot and simmer until the beans are fully cooked and the lamb shank is falling off the bone, about 90 minutes.
- Once the soup is done, uncover and add the fresh basil leaves. Cover and let the basil leaves wilt, about 5 minutes. Uncover and remove the meat from the lamb shank and discard the bones. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- To serve, add a wedge of the cornbread to the bottom of a shallow bowl, ladle over the soup and add a spoonful of mint drizzle over the top.
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