I first had this wonderful dish in Essouria, Morocco, many moons ago, en route to Casablanca. I was not in the least bit impressed when I read the English translation that said Chickpea and Lentil Soup, the 2 pulses not making my list of foods to eat while on holiday! However, when the waiter started explaining what it was, I was intrigued, and let me tell you, it didn’t disappoint, it had – everything: meat, vegetables, pasta!
Although this is traditionally made for breaking fast during the month of Ramadan, it is also very popular as a quick and easy evening meal in itself. You’ll find many Moroccans stopping off at their local stalls for dinner, ordering just a bowl of Harira accompanied with some local bread called khobz to soak up all that delicious, soupy goodness.
And if you have some harissa handy, serve the harissa on the side as a condiment if you like your food spicy or even stir 1-2 tsp of it into the harira just before serving.
The recipe that follows is my version of it and I make no apologies for its more substantial constitution! The Moroccans cook Harira with crumbled vermicelli and while I do that occasionally, I prefer to cook it with tiny cubed potatoes, also serving it with some bread or rice. However, I have also given you vermicelli in the ingredients, so you can try them both, the picture above is the thicker version with potatoes while the picture below is the lighter version with vermicelli, just as its eaten here in Morocco. What you serve it with determines the number of portions you get out of the recipe. The amount here can easily go to 8 portions if served with rice and a green salad as a side dish.
Chop everything up into roughly the same size, ie, 1 inch cubes. Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off – after assembling them, it’s a case of adding them all into the saucepan.
Quick note: try and use dried chickpeas soaked overnight, canned ones are a poor substitute.
- 250g lean beef or lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes or same amount minced
- 120g chickpeas (soaked overnight)
- 100g green lentils (no need to soak)
- 1 medium onion, chopped small like the meat
- 2 cloves garlic, pounded to a paste
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2 inch ginger, pounded to a paste
- 2 inch cinnamon stick
- half tsp ground cumin
- quarter tsp crushed pepper
- 1 carrot, chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 2 stalks celery, chopped into 1 inch cubes
- 2 medium sized potatoes - or more/less, depending on taste, cubed as above
- OR 2 handful vermicelli pasta, broken into roughly 2.5cm/1" lengths
- big pinch of saffron threads
- 400g canned chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato puree/sundried tomato paste
- 1 medium bunch each of flat leaf parsley and coriander, chopped
- 500 mls beef stock plus 1 litre of water or a good stockpot or cube mixed with 1.5 litres water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp harissa
- quarter tsp mustard (only if using beef or lamb)
- lemon wedges, fresh parley, fresh coriander and harissa paste for serving
- Heat a large saucepan on high heat and when hot, add the beef, garlic, ginger, cumin and cinnamon and dry fry quickly.
- After a minute or so, add the flour, mixing it in thoroughly.
- When the flour's mixed in completely, add everything else apart from the potatoes, lemon juice, egg, harissa and mustard.
- Bring everything to the boil and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.
- Add the potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes or till potatoes are done.
- Mix the egg and lemon juice well and pour this into the saucepan, stirring it vigorously to mix it up.
- You don't want big bits of egg.
- Stir in the mustard and harissa, cook for a minute and serve with a sprinkling of the herbs and a wedge of lemon and some harissa paste on the side.