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Harira – my interpretation of a classic Moroccan soup


A recipe for Harira can vary between regions and families. I stuck to what was palatable for us, and lessening the sugar that Moroccans would usually add to it. I’d recommend that if you make it, source Harissa, however if you’re unable to, traditional red masala is a suitable alternative.

Harira is usually served in Ramadaan (usually the only time that I make it too) and I learnt recently that Moroccans eat it alongside dates and Chbakia.

Classic lamb, chickpea and lentil soup with cumin; ‘Harira’.

In a heavy based large soup pot add:

  • 2-3 tblspns of olive oil
  • 2 onions finely cubed
  • 2 celery sticks, diced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, left whole and smashed
  • 1 tblspn whole cumin seeds

To this add:

  • 500g of mutton, cut into bite-sized cubes, or 1kg of lamb cut for curry with the bone (you will later need to shred the meat off – that’s my preference and the bone gives the stock a meaty flavour)
  • 2 tsp ground tumeric
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tblspn Harissa
  • 2 tblspn tomato puree
  • 1 liter Chicken stock (I used Ina Paarmans, it’s Halaal). If chicken stock is not an option, then water is suitable
  • 1 tin of drained chickpea
  • 1 tin of tinned tomato, drained
  • Half a tin of brown lentils
  • A small bunch each of chopped fresh parsley and coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • Lemon to garnish

Here is the full method:

  1. Heat the oil in the pan.
  2. Stir in the onions, celery, carrot and cook gently just until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the smashed garlic, cumin seeds and lamb.
  4. Cook until lightly browned.
  5. Add the spices, sugar and bay leaves and stir in the tomato puree.
  6. Pour in the stock or water and bring to boil.
  7. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour until the meat is tender.
  8. Add the tomato, chickpeas and lentils to the pot and cook for a further 30 minutes on low. the lentils should be soft and almost as thick as stew.
  9. Top with a little water and season with salt and pepper.
  10. Garnish with parsley and coriander and lemon wedges to squeeze over.

I love how hearty and satisfying this soup is. There’s no fussing about it either – leave it all t boil and develop its flavours with little interference.

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