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Sder bel Kâaber | Tunisian Meatball Soup

 A traditional Tunisian soup enriched with semolina and garnished with meatballs, capers and preserved lemons.

بِسْــــــــــــــــــــــمِ اﷲِارَّحْمَنِ ارَّحِيم
السلام عليكم و رحمة الله و بركاته
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In Arabic, the word chourrba (also spelled chorba or shorba) means soup. The chorba is an everyday  dish in North Africa, ever-present on family gatherings and Ramadan. Soups of all variations exists in the region, from Chourba hamra in the center to Hariras in the western lands. Meat and vegetables give subtle fragrance to these deliciously hearty soups.

With winter approaching fast, I thought it would be wise to offer some additional soup recipes, since they are so easy to prepare and do warm the bones during the colder months. 

The soup I propose today is is Chourba Sder (also spelled Zder, or Zdir), which is a spicy soup made from semolina, usually consumed when it is cold, or when you are sick. And in this soup indeed the pepper warms, and in addition it works very well against microbes! It can be consumed at the breaking of the Ramadan fast with bread or kesra, or during the evening meal. It is therefore ideal for the month of Ramadan when Muslims fast during the day. A bowl of nourishing soup to break the fast with is always a welcomed sight. This soup is very easy to prepare and is very similar to the Algerian couscous soup called Chourba Smida

I have prepared the  'bel Kâaber' version, meaning with meatballs, but it can be garnished with Quedid (dried mutton meat), beef, lamb, chicken or even made meatless. The inhabitants of the Tunisian oasis Tozeur like to add some green vegetables (el figel in Arabic) to perfume this soup, but this is, of course, is optional. I have not added them but instead added sweet peas that my dear children enjoy. The addition of honey (or sugar) is needed to balance the acidity of the tomatoes and preserved lemons.

Sder, in addition to semolina, is garnished with celery, capers, and lemon pulp making it a very refreshing soup to consume.

You will find on this blog several soup recipes in the Recipe Index

To come back to my story, Algerian peas are quite big and sometimes very starchy. They have a slightly sweet taste, but are only in season in the spring. Luckily, due to modern technology we can enjoy this dish year round.

๑۞๑ Sder bel Kâaber contains gluten, meat and grains. See Kitchen Tips for tips on how to make Vegan, Gluten-Free and/or Paleo friendly.

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So let's get started with the recipe.


soups | serves about 4

  Sder bel Kâaber 
Tunisian Meatball Soup 
 A traditional Tunisian soup enriched with semolina and garnished with meatballs, capers and preserved lemons. 


⇥ For the meatballs:
‣ 300g - 1/2 lb ground beef
1 cup - 125g  breadcrumbs

‣ 1 egg, lightly beaten
‣ Handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
‣ 3 garlic cloves, minced
‣ 2 TBS water.
‣ salt and pepper
‣ Harissa, to taste

⇥ For the soup:

‣ 1 onion, roughly chopped
‣ 1 large carrot, finely chopped
‣ 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
‣ 300g - 1 cup sweet peas
‣ 250g - 1 cup large grain semolina (semoule gros)or dry couscous
‣ 4 TBS tomato paste
‣ 1 bay leaf
‣ 2 teaspoons paprika
‣ 1-2 hot peppers
‣ Harissa, to taste
‣ 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
‣ 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
‣ 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
‣ 1 heaping tablespoon honey
‣ large handful of finely chopped parsley
‣ oil, 1 liter water or stock

‣ finely chopped preserved lemon, capers, cilantro or parsley and harissa, to garnish

1 - In a large bowl, mix together the ground meat, spices, harissa, breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp. water. Using a fork, stir in the egg and parsley ; season generously with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into sixty 1/2-inch balls and set them on a platter.
Brown the meat in a heavy bottom pan for about 5 minutes, before adding in the onions to brown.

2 - In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and garlic and sweat until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the paprika, ginger, cumin and cinnamon, and a big pinch of salt and pepper, and cook 1 minute more.
Add the tomato paste, herbs and the water or stock. Simmer the soup for about 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add the lemon juice, honey, and more salt and pepper, to taste.

3 - Add in the remaining ingredients, except for the garnish and about one liter of water or stock, then cook for about 30 minutes over a medium heat.

4 - Pour the semolina or couscous along with the meatballs in the soup; and allow to simmer for another additional 5 minutes. Test the meat for doneness, then add in the peas, cook for another 5 minutes.  

Serve by  garnishing with chopped cilantro or parsley, capers and the preserved lemon.

    Make Ahead
    ⇝ This soup is easily made ahead up to 5 days before you would like to serve it.

    This soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 days in a food storage container or up to one month in the freezer. To use, just gently heat on the stovetop.

    ⇝ You could substitute ground turkey for a healthier meatball or alternatively mix beef, veal and lamb meat for a more interesting flavor.

    ⇝ You substitute bulgur, cracked barley, frik or even some small soup pasta in this soup if you like.

    Vegan & Vegetarian
    ⇝ To make this dish veg-friendly omit the meat and use vegetable stock.

     CATEGORIES: Soup, quick & easy,  Tunisian, autumn, winter, ramadan, mediteranean, north african

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     ➤ This soup would go deliciously with this homemade mini Matlouh bread. 
    ➤ Or even try these other Tunisian dishes Or even this vegetarian stew.
    ➤ Or get inspired at the Recipe Index.

      Do you like harissa? let us know which ones in the comments below. 

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