I recently went on a research trip to Morocco where I stayed for two months, and I am now back with loads of new recipes, ideas and inspiration. I went there expecting to buy a few popular products such as Argan oil, but I was completely blown away by the amount of natural products available, and regularly used by Moroccans. Walking around the souq, I found chebbah (Alun stone), a huge amount of different oils, from avocado to habba sawda (black seeds), a large number of herb and spice mixes used as medicine, my favourite ghassoul and henna… I experienced a whole different culture, with men and women taking regular trips to the hammam to peel their skin with a loofa glove, called keess, and to purify themselves. Close to Meknes where I was staying, there are two thermal stations, called Sidi Hrazem and Moulay Yacoub, where water and mud and used to relax and cure various ailments. Over the next couple of weeks, I will discuss all those in more details and try out new recipes to use my findings.
For now, as we are in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan, I would like to share a soup recipe, Harira. Moroccans traditionally break their fast with a couple of dates, a bowl of harira seasoned with lemon juice, boiled eggs and sweets such as chebbakia or sellou. Harira is the perfect food to replenish the body after a long day, as it has a great balance of vitamins, proteins and nutritients. It is an ultimate comfort food: warm, feeling and full of flavour. It is also easy to adapt to your taste, by using different vegetables or turning it into a vegetarian or gluten free version.
Here is my recipe for Harira soup:
– 1kg of fresh tomatoes, skinned (if I am being lazy, I use two tomato cans).
– 2 Onions
– A few branches of celery (can be replaced by cabbage, carrots, peppers, or pretty much any veg you have left in the fridge, in small quantity).
– A small bunch of parsley
– A small bunch coriander
– 100g of red meat, cut in small pieces (I use either beef or lamb; bones are good too as they give more depth of flavour).
– 200g of chick peas, canned/ 200g of brown lenses (I tend to use a bit of both)
– 200g of vermicelli pasta (you can use rice instead)
– Two tablespoons of flour (it is used to make the soup thicker, but you can do without for a gluten free soup)
– Spices to taste: salt and pepper, 1/2 tsp of curcuma and 1/2 tsp of paprika.
– A table spoon of cooking oil
My recipe is very simple: I put the tomatoes, the onions, the parsley and the coriander, all roughly cut, in a pressure cooker with the oil and spices. I add about 1L of water, cover and let cook for 30 mins. Once cooked, I mix everything with a hand mixer, then put back on the fire after adding the meat and the chickpeas/lenses. I cook for another hour or until the pulses are cooked. I then add the pasta and the flour, which I mix with a bit of water first. Tada! It’s ready to serve. Add water if you find the soup a bit thick, and serve with lemon.
This soup keeps really well in the freezer, so you can cook a big batch and use when neeed (for Ramadan for instance).