Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Harira (Hearty Soup)


Ramadan--the ninth month of the Moslem calendar year--is a time of fasting during daylight hours. Thick, peppery Harira, full of vegetables and legumes, is the traditional Moroccan way of breaking the fast.


1/2 lb. lamb or chicken, diced
2 lg. onions, chopped
1/2 c. celery, including leaves, chopped
1 c. parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (optional)
1 tbsp. clarified butter
1/2 c. lentils or chick peas (or both), pre-soaked
2 lb. tomatoes or 2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 or 3 sprigs of fresh coriander, if available
1/3 c. vermicelli noodles (thin spaghetti)
3 tbsp. unbleached or whole wheat flour
1 lemon, sliced in wedges


In a large, deep pot, combine the meat, onions, celery, parsley, pepper, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and butter. Stir over medium heat for 15 minutes until ingredients are well browned. Add the lentils or chick peas along with about 6 cups of water. Stir, partially cover the pot, and simmer for an hour and a half.

Puree the tomatoes. Bruise the coriander leaves with a mortar and pestle. Dump them into the pot along with the tomatoes and simmer for another 15-20 minutes. Break vermicelli into inch-long pieces, then bring the mixture to a boil and stir in the noodles. Reduce heat slightly and cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, dip out about 1/2 cup of the liquid and mix it with the flour to create a smooth paste. Using a wire whisk, quickly stir the flour paste into the soup. Cook for another few minutes until noodles are done, stirring constantly to prevent flour from forming lumps. The texture of the soup should be velvety; if necessary, add more water or more flour (being sure to make a paste before putting flour into the soup). Serve with lemon wedges which are to be squeezed into each portion at the table.

Serves 8.

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