Harira…Moroccan “chili”

In Recipies on November 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Harira will not let chili dominate!

The Phyne Dyning soup-trek continues with a hearty, almost stew-like soup from Morocco…harira

It is almost a misnomer to call harira soup.  The dish has a thick consistency that is not dissimilar to Yankee-style chili.  I say “Yankee-style” because no self-respecting Texian would put beans in chili.  While there are no chili beans in harira, the soup is full of wonderful lentils and chickpeas that stand in for beans nicely.

Another similarity to chili is the soup’s spiciness.  Not every recipe for harira incorporates hot chili peppers (or jalapenos), but I do not consider my bowl of harira complete without them.

I also add some broken, uncooked spaghetti about 10 minutes before serving my harira.  The chickpeas and lentils already supply (dare I say) “bulkiness” to the soup.  The small strands of spaghetti add some color (from the turmeric they absorb), they add a bit of interesting texture as well.  Some Middle-Eastern cooks disdain putting pasta in harira and others claim pasta is the more authentic version.  Either way, harira is a magnificent soup to beat the desert night’s chill or the cold of the Ukrainian/Iowan winter.

Like most Moroccan foods, harira gets a lot of its unique flavor from cinnamon.  A lot of people familiar with only American-style cooking wrinkle their brows at the thought of cinnamon in a soup, but its flavors strongly compliment its meaty flavors.

Harira contains either lamb or beef and I prefer the beef version to the lamb version.  Unless the lamb is very well trimmed or comes from a very lean cut, the soup gets a bit “greasy” to my palate.  On the other hand, lamb is the more authentic version.

Let’s start making our harira!  You will need:

2 TBS olive oil (for lamb, 4 TBS for beef)

1 lb beef or lamb cut into very small cubes

1 medium onion, small dice

1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and minced

2 C celery, small dice

4 cloves (or up to 1/2 bulb-seriously!) minced garlic

1 ½ C lentils, sorted and rinsed well

¾ C dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (or 1 14oz can, drained)

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp saffron threads, crushed

1 C (loose) spaghetti, broken into 2” pieces

7 C chicken broth

1 lb diced Roma tomatoes, or 1 14oz can with juice

¼ C chopped cilantro leaves

lemon juice or 1-2 fresh lemons

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 Heat the oil in a deep pot (having a cover) over medium heat.  Add the beef (or lamb), onion, celery, garlic, peppers, and half of the cilantro leaves.  Cook until the meat turns color.  Stir in the lentils, chickpeas, saffron, turmeric, half of the cinnamon, broth, and tomatoes.  Bring to a boil.  Then, reduce the heat to simmer and cover.  Allow to cook about one hour or until the lentils are just tender.  Stir in the remaining cinnamon and the broken spaghetti and allow to cook, uncovered, for another 10-12 minutes.  Before adding salt and pepper (after checking seasoning) add in 1-2 TBS of lemon juice and stir well.  NOW check for seasoning again and gently add some salt and fresh black pepper if it is needed.  Garnish with the remaining cilantro leaves.

Serve hot or warm with lemon slices and plenty of good pita to mop up with.


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