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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recipe: Harira: A Delicately-Spiced Moroccan Soup

Harira, my way  (recipe below)

Harira: A Delicately-Spiced Moroccan Soup
by Victoria Challancin

I first fell in love with the people of Morocco, then the food.  From my first visit in the seventies I starting documenting the food, tracking down recipes, bothering all my Moroccan friends for their help in my quest.  And now I am lucky enough to go every year as the tour leader of a small group of intrepid travelers, continuing my culinary education as I go.

Harira, though a traditional soup used to break fast during Ramadan, appears throughout the year on the Moroccan table, both at home and in restaurants.  As with any traditional dish, there are as many versions as there are cooks.  I have eaten a hearty version with lamb, with chicken, and pure vegetarian as it is here.  Though I can't claim that this version is at all authentic, I have lovingly put together a very nice soup that explodes with Moroccan flavor.  My spicing is a bit heavier than is typical in Morocco, so use your own judgment as you experiment.  This soup, so redolent with spices and fresh herbs, is Moroccan comfort food at its best--and easiest!

Note:  I will be announcing the dates of my 2011 Morocco trip soon--watch for details!

Harira (A Vegetarian Version)
(Recipe by Victoria Challancin)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/4 cup packed cilantro, leaves and tender stems only
2 sprigs mint
2 sprigs parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 14 1/2-oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
8 cups water
1 cup lentils, picked over and washed
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 cup baby carrots, sliced in half lengthwise, if desired
1 small red bell pepper, diced (I forgot that I had wanted to add this, but it would be nice in this soup)
2 cups cooked garbanzos, (I used freshly cooked dried beans, but canned are fine if rinsed before adding to soup)
1/2 cup broken vermicelli pasta
To serve:  Lemon wedges, chopped cilantro (and/or parsley and mint), and dates (1 per serving)

Heat the oil in a large pot.  Add the onion and cook for 6 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until soft, approximately 4 minutes.  Add the ginger and cook for an additional minute, stirring.  Sprinkle the mixture with the dried spices; continue cooking for 1 minute.  Allow to cool slightly before puréeing in a food processor or blender (Note:  You can make this smooth or leave it a bit chunky, as I have).  Empty contents of the processor into the soup pot.  Add tomatoes with juice and water, stir, and allow to simmer over low heat for 15 minutes to blend flavors.

Add the lentils, celery, carrots, bell pepper, and garbanzos.  Cook, partially covered, for 35 minutes, or until lentils are soft.  Add the vermicelli and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until pasta is cooked through.  Check and adjust salt and pepper.

Serve with lemon wedges, chopped cilantro, and a date on each serving plate.

Note:  Sometimes this dish is served with a boiled egg sprinkled with salt, pepper, and ground cumin.

This version, from a favorite riad in Marrakech, uses a lot more turmeric than I suggested--and a touch of saffron as well, which is a nice addition

A restaurant version from Fés, served with cumin, lime, and dates

Oops!  This was harira...I must have been too hungry to wait for a photo!  This is also from a favorite riad, this time in Fés

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