Harira; the traditional soup of Maghreb, North Africa.
This week I bring you not one but two soups, what can I say? I’m a soup lover, anytime of year and whilst spring has sprung here in England the winds are still blowing a cold chill which makes me still long for warm comforting meals like this Harira soup.
Really though I don’t need a reason to make or eat a bowl of soup it’s my favourite one pot meal, closely followed by a tagine / stew.
Popular during the month of Ramadan, Harira is often served at the start of what can become a long, extravagant Iftar (breaking fast) meal but really for me Harira is sufficient enough to satisfy and nourish as It has enough protein and iron from the lamb, chickpeas and earthy lentils. Possibly I would serve it along with a salad and the obligatory bread, served with every meal in all Arabian homes but that’s it.
Our eyes are often bigger than our stomach and that is certainly the case by the end of Ramadan.
The spices turmeric, ginger and cinnamon used in the soup are gentle, sweet, and warming they compliment the lamb and tomato base so well.
Harira is such a versatile soup. I made it with lamb but you can easily use chicken or no meat at all, just add in more celery and maybe a carrot or a veggie stock cube.
Often Harira is thickened by a Tadouira – a flour and water mixture. The recipe I adapted didn’t require one and I found the soup thick enough, husband would have liked it thinner. You can’t please everyone, all the time but next time I will add more water in shaa Allah.
I halved this recipe removed a few of the ingredients and still found I needed the same amount of water which I added throughout the cooking process which is a long one, 2 hours but may I say it’s totally worth the wait.
Note: I’ve since tried this recipe again using canned chickpeas instead of dry pre-soaked / boiled for 2hrs and found the 7 cups of water is enough for a shorba like soup. I’m guessing the fact I used pre-soaked /pre-cooked dry chickpeas the first time meant they just kept on sucking up the water! therefore, do keep checking on the water level of the soup throughout the cooking process if using pre-soaked/cooked from dry chickpeas.
The traditional soup of Maghreb, North Africa
- 400 grams halal lamb (with bone)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Ras El Hanout spice blend *optional
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- small pinch ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika (you can use cayenne for a little heat)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 stick celery, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
- 2 tablespoon tomato puree (double concentrate)
- 1/2 (400gram gross weight) tin chopped tomatoes
- 1/3 cup green lentils
- 50 grams (dry weight) organic chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked for 1-2 hours (or 100 grams tinned chickpeas)
- 7 cups water (or more as required)
- 1 nest vermicelli
- lemon wedges
- coriander leaves
- In a stock pot over low heat place butter, once melted add onion, celery, meat, spices including fresh coriander, seasoning. Stir for 5 minutes. Strain the tomatoes (reserving juice) and add to the pot along with tomato paste. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add tomato juice, water, lentils, chickpeas (if using tinned add the 5 mins before vermicelli). Bring up to boil then as soon as you see bubbles cover and reduce heat to low. Allow soup to simmer for 2 hours. Add vermicelli by crushing it between your hands over the pot, cover, turn off heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Serve topped with coriander leaves and a lemon wedge on the side for those who like to add lemon juice to their soup.
In place of vermicelli you can use 2 tablespoon rice but make sure to add 10-15 minutes before the end of the 2 hour cooking process.