harira was the first meal i cooked that really got me excited about cooking. after my first kid was born i found myself doing a lot more cooking than i used to. i found myself doing a lot more of many things than i used to. like shopping for bum cream. and yawning. but cooking was one of the more enjoyable new adventures that fatherhood brought. my wife helen is english and one quarter egyptian and eats mediterranean food like she drinks tea. often and with a romantic enthusiasm. so harira was an attempt at a north african treat for her. harira is known as a morrocan soup dish – almost the national dish of morroco – but it is found all over the arab world, mostly during the holy month of ramadan which encourages patience and humility, to break the fasting day. its substantial range of ingredients with meat, vegetables and sometimes 4 starches, make it an especially filling meal in itself. of course, like any traditional dish, there are a gazillion versions of harira, depending on the particular country, village or mother-in-law. some have rice, some have pasta or beans, some have all three or none of those. the israeli bistro down the road from us, zahava’s in norwood, does an especially good one, which is coarsely blended and heavy on the lemon to counter the greasiness of the lamb. as a north african meal, it is traditionally made with lamb meat, but i’ve seen – and tried – versions using diced beef or whole chicken pieces, as well as vegetarian versions – which i’ve started favouring, and here is one. right here. although this version is more of a thick hearty stew than a soup. and has no meat. and i don’t fast. still. its always very good. insha’allah.
Time: About 2 hours
Feeds: About 4 medium-sized adults
olive oil – exactly 2 dashes
whole cumin – 3 teaspoons
whole coriander – 3 teaspoons
onions – 2, fairly finely chopped
garlic – 3 cloves, chopped or crushed
fresh ginger – about 3 teaspoons, chopped
2 carrots – quartered then sliced
2 or 3 sticks of celery, depending on your fondness for that stuff, with its leaves – sliced
4 fresh tomatoes – chopped (obviously fresh is ideal, but a tin will do. obviously)
about a tablespoon of tomato paste
stock – veg stock (or chicken or lamb stock if doing a meat version), about 3 cups.
chick peas – 1 and half cups of soaked chickpeas (or 1 tin)
lentils – a brave handful of rinsed lentils (i usually use the brown lentils for this)
rice – a slightly more cowardly handful of brown rice
chilli – 1 whole, dried or fresh chilli. not traditional, completely optional.
turmeric – 2 teaspoons
cinnamon – 1 teaspoon
salt – a few pinches
black pepper – a few cracks
fresh parsley – big handful,including stalks, chopped
fresh coriander – 2 big handfuls, including stalks, chopped
greens beans – half a cup, chopped
2 lemons – 1 halved, 1 in 4 wedges
mediterranean bread – to serve. i usually use pita bread, lightly warmed in a toaster, but not crisp
(for a meat version, its simple enough to add about 400 grams of browned, chopped lamb steak, or beef, and to make the veg stock a meat one)
in a frying pan, drizzle a few drops of olive oil and place on a medium heat. add the cumin and coriander and roast til they are lightly browned. remove and set aside. if you have a pestle and mortar its good to grind them up a little. in the pan, add the rest of the olive oil and when its hot, add the onion. cook for about 3 or 4 minutes and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. add the carrots and celery and cook for another 4 minutes. transfer everything into a large pot.
add the roasted cumin and coriander, the tomato paste and the tomatoes and cook for about 15 mins. add the stock, the chick peas, the lentils, the parsley, half the fresh coriander, the turmeric, the cinnamon, the juice of 1 lemon, the chilli, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 45 mins. add the rice and cook for another 30 mins, adding more water if necessary. add the green beans and cook for another 10 mins. discard the chilli. serve in a bowl, topped with the rest of the fresh coriander. serve with the lemon wedges and bread.
eat with patience, humility and a belly-dancer.