“Foodie Fridays” are dedicated to my two great loves: food and Fridays. In these posts, I’ll introduce you to some of my favorite varieties of Moroccan and North African cuisine. This particular post is part of my Ramadan Edition, which covers dishes that are common during the month of Ramadan.
Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and often some sort of meat. It’s fragrantly seasoned with pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cilantro, parsley, and may even include celery or onion, depending on the recipe. Generally passed down generationally, harira recipes vary enough to keep its consumers excited, but remain similar enough to always be identifiable. While the soup is made throughout the year, it makes the majority of its appearances at the Iftar meal (the meal that signifies breaking fast) during the month of Ramadan.
1/2 pound uncooked meat (chicken, beef, or lamb), chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
Several soup bones, optional
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped to yield 1/4 cup
1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped to yield 1/4 cup
1 celery stalk with leaves, finely chopped
1 large onion, grated
1 handful dried chickpeas, soaked and peeled
1 tbsp smen (salted, fermented butter), optional
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1.5 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
6 large tomatoes (about 2 pounds), peeled, seeded, and pureed
3 cups water
3 tbsp dried lentils, picked over and washed
3 tbsp tomato paste, mixed evenly into 2 cups of water
3 tbsp uncooked broken vermicelli
1 cup flour mixed with 2 cups of water
Ahead of Time:
- Prepare the seasonings.
- Pick the parsley and cilantro from their stems, making sure to discard the long, thick pieces containing no leaves.
- Wash the herbs, drain them well, and finely chop them by hand, or with a food processor.
- Soak and skin the chickpeas (soaking them the night before will greatly help).
- Peel, seed, and puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor.
- Pick through the lentils and wash them.
- Brown the meat.
- Place your chosen meat, soup bones, and oil into a 6-quart (or larger) pressure cooker.
- Over medium heat, cook the meat for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.
- Make the stock.
- Add the cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chickpeas, smen, spices, and tomatoes to the pressure cooker.
- Stir in 3 cups of water.
- Cover tightly and heat over high until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and release the pressure.
Make the Soup:
- Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and 2 quarts of water to the stock in the pressure cooker.
- Set aside, but don’t yet add the vermicelli.
- Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved.
- Reduce to medium and continue cooking on pressure for 45 minutes.
- Release the pressure, and add the vermicelli.
- Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the vermicelli is plump and cooked.
- Thicken the soup.
- While the soup is cooking, mix together 1 cup of flour with 2 cups of water. Set aside, making sure to stir or whisk it occasionally.
- If the mixture isn’t smooth by the time you’re ready to use it, pass it through a sieve to remove lumps.
- Once the vermicelli has cooked, bring the soup to a full simmer.
- Slowly pour in the flour mixture, stirring constantly so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom. The soup will noticeably begin to thicken when you’ve used about half of the flour mixture; the thickness is up to you. Some people prefer a creamier texture.
- Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes to cook off the taste of the flour.
- Remove the soup from heat and serve.
- Healthier thickening option: For a healthier thickening option, 2 or 3 beaten eggs may be used. Add the eggs in a thin stream to the simmering soup, stirring constantly. You will see cooked strands of egg in the soup as it thickens, which is delicious.
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