Harira („حريرة“) is a delicious soup of the Maghreb and is served particularly often in Morocco. It is especially eaten after sunset during the fasting month of Ramadan, but can also be a breakfast dish.
Almost every family will have its own recipe, there are endless variations and you are of course free to create your own personal Harira. So don’t think there is one truly authentic recipe.
Of course, you can also prepare a legitimate and wonderful vegetarian or vegan Harira.
Today we present the quick version. We will describe a more sophisticated variant with or without lamb elsewhere.
For this we use garlic, ginger and lemon for aromas and whatever root vegetables we have at home.
In our case, that’s carrots, celery, an onion, bell pepper and a small parsley root. Everything is allowed.
Harira also needs pulses and tomatoes. Today we are using chickpeas from the jar and red Turkish lentils, which cook very quickly, as well as vine tomatoes, but any other variety will also taste wonderful.
We peel the root vegetables, except for the celery, which only needs to be washed, and dice them into even pieces to our liking. Not cutting it too finely will keep it crunchy in the end.
There are many clever techniques for cutting a bell pepper. We present the Chinese one here.
First of all, cut off the bottom and the top, just barely. You can then easily push the stem out of the top from the inside.
Now cut into the remaining body of the bell pepper, place it on the skin of the fruit and separate it all around from the centre where the seeds are.
In the end, the whole outer side is spread out and can be processed very easily.
In our case, we dice it just like the root vegetables.
The same goes for the tomatoes.
Cut garlic and ginger into very small cubes and peel the skin of half a lemon with a peeler – only the yellow part, as the white is quite bitter. And with citrus fruits, always remember: buy non-sprayed organic produce and wash it hot before processing.
Cut the lemon peel into fine strips and then into very small cubes. You could also grate the lemon peel with a grater, but in this case we prefer small pieces so that the flavour of the lemon comes out even stronger.
Now to the stove. Heat some olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and sauté the onions. We add some ground chilli right away so that the spiciness is evenly distributed throughout the dish.
Next, we add some minced beef and brown it. This is optional, of course.
Add the hard root vegetables and sauté for a few minutes.
We add the bell pepper only afterwards, because as a softer vegetable it needs less time to cook. At the same time, we add garlic, ginger and lemon zest.
After a few more minutes of gentle stirring, the pulses are added to the pot and the dish is seasoned. We use one tablespoon each of cumin, coriander and Ras el-Hanout. We also add a tablespoon of Spanish paprika powder, which adds a very nice smoky note.
Finally, we use another very important ingredient that we cannot do without – harissa (“هريسة”). Harissa is a very spicy paste of chilli, cumin, coriander, garlic, salt and olive oil that also comes from the Maghreb. This paste lasts almost forever and we strongly recommend always having some in the store.
Everything is mixed well and finally the tomatoes are added. You can already smell how all these flavours will combine and unfold.
Now we add some stock. We use chicken stock today, but it could also be vegetable stock or simply salted water, it’s a matter of taste. The trick is to add salted liquid and taste it beforehand. If the salt content is right for you, it will also be right for the finished dish.
After about 45 minutes of gentle simmering, the lentils are cooked and ready to serve. However, it always depends on the type of lentils, so check beforehand how long they will need. If you are using lentils that would take much longer, you should pre-cook them, otherwise your other ingredients won’t be very distinguishable.
We finalise our Harira with freshness: coriander leaves and lemon fillets. To do this, we cut about 4 mm thin slices from a lemon, remove the peel and cut out some of the little triangular chambers that hold the juice of the fruit together.
And may the taste be with you.
Ingredients (for 4 people):
Note: Everyone does what they like, these quantities are for orientation only.
200 g lentils
200 g chickpeas
1 – 2 carrots
A few stems of celery
300 g organic minced meat (optional)
300 g tomatoes
1.5 l salted water or stock of your choice
Some olive oil
Spices (Cumin, Coriander, Ras el-Hanout, Paprika…)