I recently posted a photo on Instagram featuring Harira soup. Harira is a traditional Moroccan chickpea soup, and can also be found around the Maghreb (North Africa). We normally eat Harira during the winter months since it is such a hearty soup.
However, this month is the month of Ramadan. For those of you who do not know, Ramadan is one of the holiest months in Islam where Muslims fast. Muslims fast from sun up to sun down and are required to abstain from food and water between those hours. Fasting is important to Muslims for two reasons. The first is taqwa (remembrance of God/Allah) and the second is to recognize our blessings and realize the plight of the less fortunate.
Taqwa or the remembrance of Allah is incredibly important in Islam. Fasting is a means to bring ourselves closer to Allah and be grateful for his bounty. Furthermore, fasting helps us cleanse our soul and during Ramadan, Muslims pray, read the Quran and donate to charity.
Fasting puts into perspective just how lucky we are. I am incredibly blessed with many things. In particular, I am blessed with good food to eat and a roof over my head. However, around the world, there are still people who struggle for food and shelter. Ramadan and fasting are such an incredibly humbling experience because it makes us recognize that many of us are so lucky with what we have.
Now the breaking of fast is called Iftaar and around the world, these iftaars tend to be the time where many women make more traditional recipes. A lot of these recipes are time – intensive and require you to be in the kitchen for many hours. The prep work is laborious but totally worth it and cooking is the best way to pass the time.
Thus, Harira is a warm and comforting soup that traditionally breaks the fast. It is a mix of beef or lamb, and spices such as cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and paprika, and includes vegetables like celery, onion, and carrots. Now there are plenty of variations of this soup and the ingredients vary from region to region in Morocco and North Africa. Certain variations include adding different lentils, rice and even orzo! The variance in recipes only adds to the fact that Morocco and the Maghreb are diverse and unique regions. Nevertheless, they each type of harira soup tastes delicious.
That is enough rambling on my part. Here is my harira soup recipe. Give it a try and let me know what you think! 🙂
This traditional Moroccan soup is made during the month of Ramadan. Filled with the flavors of cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric, this soup is hearty and delicious!
Heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat and brown the beef (about 10-15 minutes). Transfer the beef to a plate and set aside. (Leave the browned bits in the pot, as it will add flavor.)
Add the onions and cook until soft and golden, 6-8 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, garlic, and ginger and cook for another five minutes. You want to make sure that is fragrant. Add the canned tomatoes (or tomatoes from food processor), tomato paste, spices, the tablespoon of lemon, and let the mixture simmer for a couple of minutes.
Return the beef to the pot with the chickpeas. Add the broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for one hour, or until beef is cooked and is soft and tender.
Stir in cilantro and parsley and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with some chopped fresh cilantro. If you like, serve with lemon wedges to squirt in some lemon juice. I like to eat my haria with Afghan naan, but it is delicious on it's own!
*You can easily make this dish vegetarian and not add the meat
**If you do not have canned diced tomatoes on hand, you can take 8-10 roma tomatoes and dice them in a food processor.
***Because of the vegetables and beef, the soup will thicken up. If you like your soup with more liquid, add an extra cup of broth!
****The soup will slowly begin to develop deeper flavours overnight. This means that you can totally make the soup the day before and heat it on the stove prior to serving. In addition, the soup freezes extremely well. Just be sure to place the cooled soup in a freezer friendly container. It should keep for about 3 weeks with the beef or up to 6 weeks if there is no meat. To reheat, remove the soup from the freezer and keep it on your counter till it thaws. Afterwards you can heat the soup on the stove or in the microwave
If you are in the market for a cookbook that brings the spices of the Middle East into your kitchen I recommend this book called The North African Kitchen (find it here). The book samples recipes from all over North Africa, and even has a harira recipe which is distinct from mine.
Give this recipe a try and let me know what you think. I assure you that once you try this, you will want to make it over and over again. It is that good!
Should you have any questions, leave them in the comments below.
Happy eating & Ramadan Mubarak!