My Take on Harira
When I was a kid (probably 6 or 7 years old) my parents took me on a road trip to the south of Spain. Eventually, after hours and hours of driving under a massive sunlight, we arrived at Gibraltar (which technically is a British territory). Since we were so close to the north of Africa, I proposed we could go to Morocco, something that unfortunately didn’t happen as the plan was to stay for about a week in Málaga.
Flash-forward to date and I have yet to go to Morocco. Until then, I will try to continue to bring Morocco to me by exploring its cuisine and making my own versions of dishes such as tagine and harira. The latter – a chickpea and lentil soup – is traditionally made with meat (which I obviously don’t consume) and, sometimes, rice and vermiccilli noodles. The soup is cooked for a long period of time – sometimes over an hour – and thickened up with a couple tablespoons of flour, almost verging on a hearty stew. It is a one pot meal, and what a delicious and filling one… I’ve been having Harira for dinner for the last couple of days and I can tell for sure it is the best lentil-based soup I have ever made. Its heart-warming nature makes it just the perfect meal for the few cold winter nights we still have ahead.
(serves 6 to 8)
½ cup / 95 g dried chickpeas, sorted, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
1 cup / 215 g puy lentils
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion / 1 cup / 130 g finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
2 medium carrots / 1 cup / 130 g cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, coarsely pounded in a mortar
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
a pinch of red pepper flakes
1 can / 2 cups / 450 ml canned tomatoes, liquidized in a food processor
5 ½ cups water
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 lemons, quartered
1. In a large pot over medium heat add the oil, onion, garlic, carrots, cinnamon, ginger, crushed cumin seeds, pepper and pepper flakes. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion has softened. If the mixture seems dry and the spices start to stick to the pot, add up to ¼ cup of water to loosen things up a bit.
2. Add the liquidized canned tomatoes, chickpeas and 5 cups of water to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium-high and let the liquid come to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat to low, cover the pot with a lid and cook for 30 minutes.
3. After that time, add the puy lentils and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes.
4. In the meantime, in a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with ¼ cup of water. Stir well so that the cornstarch dissolves completely.
5. At the very last minute of cooking, add the salt as well as the cornstarch mixture to the soup. Give it a good stir with a wooden spoon (it will thicken up a bit thanks to the cornstarch), have a taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve in large bowls, adding a splash of lemon juice to each individual serving.