Mom’s chorba frik

I usually don’t care much for soups. Your classic vegetable soup can be tasty, yes, but not dreamy.

When you add carbs to it, on the other hand…

This soup is very high on the list of my absolute favourites. I wouldn’t know whether I prefer this one or the Spicy Szechuan beef soup. They have entirely different flavour profiles, but they share the same wonders : an aromatic broth full of spices ; the lovely addition of noods/barley ; a meat that is added quite sparingly, mostly here for the taste ; and they pack full of veg, as a bonus.

This chorba frik is special to me though, because it is one my mom’s beloved meals. Both my parents originate from Algeria : my mom, who is a wonderful cook, would make this dish quite often in winter. It is a traditional Ramadan soup, too ; it quickly became one of my favourite time of the year, because I would get to enjoy this soup a lot !

On a winter night a few years ago, when I started to live in Paris in my tiny 18m² apartment, I asked her for the recipe. It was the first time I asked her for any recipe. We’ve had a tricky relationship, my mother and I, and I feel cooking is what allowed us to bond and share.

She sent my a photograph on Whatsapp of a hand-scripted recipe she just wrote. I immediately went to fetch the ingredients and cooked it. And there it was ; this exact taste of childhood, giving me a much needed virtual hug in my tiny kitchenette.

Hell, I like this dish so much that I brought it to work for my colleagues to try it. I was there, riding the subway with a 2-liters tupperware that was threatening to spill over, holding it carefully upright with my both hands. In the end, they loved it ! This is such a happy memory.

Mom’s chorba frik – Recipe

Ingredients – Advice & key points

  • Ras el-hanout : This is one of the two king spices in any Algerian kitchen. You can usually find it quite easily. You might find two kinds of ras el-hanout : a yellow one, and a red one. I use the yellow one. The yellow ras el-hanout is rich in turmeric, which gives it its yellow color, while the red gets its color from the dominant spice in the blend, the sweet chili pepper, which gives it a slightly spicier flavor.
  • Lamb : I usually go for the shoulder, which has more flavor than the leg and is a little fattier. You can also use the leg part. I ask the butcher to cut it in small chunks. You don’t need much here, only 500 grams for 6 portions, because we mostly care for the taste it brings. My mom also switches for chicken wings sometimes, which I also like ; feel free to use it instead.
  • Barley semolina or freekeh : You might need to go to a local oriental grocer or to an organic store if you want to get your hands on this. It should look like this one (it’s ok if it looks greener). It must be a bit coarse ; if you have several sizes, choose medium (this is what I use) or big, but not fine. If you can’t find it, just use bulgur instead !
  • Cilantro : Don’t skip it ! I think cilantro was made for this soup  ; it elevates its flavour instantly.

Let’s get soupy !

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 min Cook Time 50 min Total Time 1 hr
Servings: 6
Best Season: Winter


An aromatic broth, thick enough to make it feel like a real meal, with those little barley pearls that make it so satisfying. The strength of the lamb flavour, even with a small amount, adds depth to this vegetable-rich soup. 



To serve


  1. Prep your ingredients

    Salt your meat the day before ideally, but it's ok if you do it right when you start prepping. Use around half the amount of salt (3/4 tbsp for 6 servings). 

    Cut your onion, leek, celery and turnip into chunks. 

    Mince your garlic and peel your ginger. 

    Separate your cilantro leaves from their stems. Mince your cilantro leaves, but keep the stems whole. 

    Salting the meat the day before before helps seasoning it deeper and tenderizing it.
  2. Onto the stove

    Add your oil to a quite large pot and get it to medium-high heat.

    Add your lamb and your onion. Brown the lamb on all sides. 

    Add your minced garlic and let it sizzle about 30 seconds. Add your tomato paste, allow it to cook slightly for around 1 minute while stirring your ingredients. Add your remaining salt. 

    Add your vegetables, then pour your water. Scrape the bottom of the pan to integrate all the deliciousness from the browned meat.

    Let it cook for 30 minutes.

    Browing the lamb should take around 10mn.
  3. Blend and finish !

    After 30 minutes, filter the soup using a strainer. Keep your broth aside and put the meat back into the broth. 

    Put this broth on medium heat. When it starts simmering, add your barley semolina and allow it to cook for 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, place the veggies that remain in a mixing bowl, then blend until you get a quite smooth purée. 

    When your barley is cooked, grate your ginger into the soup, then add half of your purée.

    Turn off the heat, add your chopped cilantro leaves.

    Et voilà !! You're done !  

    You can add more or less than half the purée depending on the soup texture you prefer. If you add it all, it will be quite thick ; if you don't add it at all, which is what some recipes for chorba instruct, you will have a brothy chorba.


  • This sauce freezes well. I definitely advise you to make a large amount, since the cooking time is quite long, then freeze it in batches (I pour individual portions in plastic bags). You will be so glad to find one on a lazy winter night. 
  • This amount will enable you to serve 10 plates of pappardelle al ragù, or 4 plates of pappardelle and 1 lasagna bake. 
Keywords: home made, lamb, soup, chorba, frik, barley, oriental, comforting

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