Harira is a tomato-based soup with chickpeas and lentils that is spicy and fragrant. It's heavily seasoned with ginger, pepper, cinnamon, and a variety of fresh herbs.
The name harira comes from the Arabic word for silk and refers to the texture of the soup after it has been thickened with eggs or a tedouira (flour and water) mixture. The tedouira (thickener) may contain yeast and should be fermented for a day or two.
Although harira is cooked all year, it is most famous for being eaten with chebakia and other traditional meals to break the fast during Ramadan. This custom is so deeply engrained in Moroccan culture and some middle eastern countries that consider a Ramadan meal to be incomplete without harira.
If you want to prepare harira on a regular basis, during Ramadan, you should consider getting that prep work done first. Allow time for the chickpeas to soak overnight or to prepare the ingredients ahead of time. The cooking time is for a pressure cooker; if simmering the soup in a regular pot, double the time.
8 oz. lamb, beef or chicken, diced (optional)
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
several soup bones (optional)
2 lbs soft, tomatoes - (about 6 large)
1 handful dry chickpeas, soaked and peeled
2 handfuls dry green or brown lentils
1 large onion, grated
1 stalk celery (with leaves), chopped
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 small bunch coriander, finely chopped
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ginger
1.5 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp turmeric
3 tbsp tomato paste - combined with 1 or 2 cups water
3 tbsp uncooked rice or broken vermicelli
1 cup flour - combined with 2 cups water
lemon wedges and cilantro (optional) - for garnish
Preparing Ingredients Ahead of Time:
Overnight soak the chickpeas. Drain and peel them the next day. This can be accomplished by pressing chickpeas between your forefinger and thumb one by one, or by firmly rubbing all of the chickpeas in a kitchen towel. (You can freeze the chickpeas once they've been prepared.)
Remove any stones or debris from the lentils and set aside until ready to use.
Cook the tomatoes until they are soft, then purée them in a food mill, discarding the skins and seeds. Alternatively, quarter the tomatoes and puree them in a food processor, skin on or off, until smooth. (You can freeze the pureed tomatoes until you need them.)
Grate the onion or pulse it in a food processor until it's a thick paste. (The grated onion and pureed tomatoes can be combined and frozen until needed.)
Wash and finely cut the celery. Remove from the equation. Large stems from parsley and cilantro should be removed and discarded. Wash and thoroughly drain the parsley and cilantro before chopping finely by hand or in a food processor. (You can combine the chopped herbs together and freeze them until you need them.)
Brown the meat in the oil in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker or stock pot over medium heat. Soup bones, peeled chickpeas, pureed tomatoes, grated onion, spices, smen (if using), and 3 cups (710 ml) water are added to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium pressure and cook for 25 minutes (or simmer for 50 to 60 minutes).
8.5 cups (2 liters) water, lentils, tomato paste combination, chopped herbs Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Step 3 or 4 should be followed.
If using rice, cook the soup under medium pressure for 30 minutes (or 60 minutes if using a slow cooker); then add the rice and cook under pressure for another 15 minutes (or 30 minutes by simmering).
Alternatively, if adding broken vermicelli, pressure cook the soup for 45 minutes (or simmer for 90 minutes) before adding the broken vermicelli. Simmer for a few minutes more, or until the vermicelli is soft.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. By gradually adding the tedouira (flour and water mixture) and stirring regularly to ensure that it is thoroughly integrated, thicken the soup to a silky, cream-like consistency. Use only as much as you need to get the soup to the desired thickness.
Cook for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, stirring regularly and removing any froth that forms on the surface.
Take the pan off the heat and serve.