Although made throughout the year, Harira is best-loved by Moroccans during the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar that is a time for prayers, spiritual reflection, and acts of generosity. Harira is frequently served to break the fast at sunset. A delicious and hearty soup, recipes vary greatly from one family to another. Some make the soup light in texture, others prefer a filling version with chick peas, rice or broken vermicelli. One Moroccan cook may favour more tomato, another more lentils, still another may add spicy harisa. But no matter what the family prefers, almost all choose to thicken Harira’s rich broth with either eggs or flour.
The basic recipe includes meat, usually lamb, simmered with lentils, tomatoes and other vegetables, fragrantly perfumed with cinnamon, cilantro and fresh ginger, thickened with flour, basmati rice or short vermicelli, and enriched with beaten eggs. It can spiced up or kept quite mild, or even made without meat for a purely vegetarian version. The proverbial meal in a pot, Harira can be prepared in not much more than an hour and also freezes really well. As they say in Morocco—bssah’ha!—to your health!
Moroccan Harira Soup
1/2 pound beef or lamb, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
8 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup lentils
3/4 cup canned chopped tomatoes
1 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 cup celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
3-inch stick of cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated
1/2 tsp saffron threads or turmeric
1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, or 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flour
1 cup basmati rice or thin vermicelli
juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Into a large pot, put the diced meat, lentils, tomato, parsley, coriander, celery, onion, cinnamon, ginger and saffron. If you are using soaked chickpeas, add them now. Add 8 cups of broth, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the chickpeas are tender. (If you are using canned chickpeas, add them after the 30 minutes are up.)
Whisk the flour and 1 cup of water until smooth and add the mixture to the soup. Raise the heat to high and when the soup has just begun to boil, add the basmati rice.
Whisk the egg with the lemon juice and briskly stir the mixture into the soup. Reduce the heat so that the soup bubbles gently and allow it to cook partly covered for an additional 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle the soup into individual warmed bowls. Garnish with a little chopped coriander and serve with lemon wedges and a small bowl of harissa.