I was very intrigued the first time I came across harira soup – the list of ingredients was extensive!
Which just made me more interested in eating it.
After making it the first time, and sharing it with family, it has become one of my all time favourite soups/stews.
Harira is one of the most popular dishes in Morocco, which originated in North Africa.
Typically served as an appetizer, it is often eaten during the holy month of Ramadan to break the fast.
This very hearty dish is filled with lentils, chickpeas, pasta, and even egg, making it into a very unusual recipe.
Also full of a bunch of spices that give it its very full and deep flavors.
Of course there is not one recipe for this Moroccan soup that is passed from generation to generation.
Many people cook the soup in a way that is typical in their family, but there is no correct way to make it.
I know some people who make this more like a lentil soup, but it should be so much more than that.
What is Harira Soup?
Harira soup is a wonderful combination of meat, broth, vegetables, and spices with a tomato base.
Add to this lovely base are added lentils, vermicelli pasta, chickpeas, herbs, lemon and egg.
This soup takes a while to make, from the dried chickpeas soaked overnight to the slow cooking for tender meat.
Although you can use canned chickpeas to speed up the process.
It is not one of those soups you’d rustle up when you are feeling a bit hungry, there is planning that needs to go into it.
Of North African origin, Harira has become very popular during the month or Ramadan.
This is the holy month of fasting in the Muslim calendar, when Muslims fast from sunlight to sunset for 30 days.
Harira is traditionally the dish that is served to break the fast in the evening once the sun goes down.
Harira soup is a very nutritionally dense meal, providing fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and so much more.
What are Preserved Lemons?
Some Harira recipes call for preserved lemons to be thrown into the mix as well.
I haven’t used them in my recipe, but it is a well known ingredient in North African cuisine.
Because of that I thought I would give a quick description of what preserved lemons are.
As in so many other cultures there is always a way to keep popular fruits and vegetables for the months when they are not available.
Nowadays we are used to getting just about everything during any part of the year, but it hasn’t always been that way.
Lemons were kept by cutting them open and smothering them in salt, and the putting them in a jar with salt brine.
Usually it is the skins that are used due to their very lemony and tart flavor after being soaked in brine.
What is Harissa?
Harissa is a spicy paste, popular in North Africa, and often eaten alongside many dishes.
Usually made with three different kinds of peppers, most typically Baklouti peppers, serrano peppers for the heat, and red pepper to help give it a lovely color.
Added to this olive oil, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, garlic paste, cumin, lemon juice and salt.
Some people will add some tomato paste, again this is one of those recipes that families hand down.
Can I Make it Without Meat?
The answer is yes, and that is one of the wonderful things about this particular dish.
Even without meat you are getting a lot of nutrition due to the chickpeas, lentil and vegetables.
And you can make this a vegan dish too just by tweaking a few ingredients.
Very versatile, maintaining its great flavor even with the changes.
How to Make Harira Soup
If you are making your own tomatoes you can use a food processor or you can canned diced tomatoes.
In a soup pot, saute the onions in butter until soft and fragrant, add the spices and salt.
Put heat to medium, add the meat, and cook for 10 minutes, until browned.
Add the tomatoes and cilantro, cook for 30 minutes.
Add 7 cups of water, lentils and chickpeas, and bring to boil, then simmer the soup for 1 hour 15 minutes.
If too much water cooks off don’t be afraid to add more hot water, and this dish can also be made in a pressure cooker for speed.
Add the vermicelli and eggs, stir well making sure it’s incorporated well.
Cook for 15 more minutes, and remove from the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir.
Tips for Making
- Make sure to simmer slowly to ensure tender meat, and to allow all flavors to infuse the soup.
- Don’t add the pasta too early or it will fall apart, you want it to be soft but not in pieces.
- Don’t overprocess the tomatoes if you do them yourself, you want pieces, just just puree.
- Serve hot with lemon wedges.
soup in the Middle East
It is said that the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was very fond of a particular Arabic soup.
It was made of broth, stewed meat, and breadcrumbs known as tharida, and popular at the time.
Many variations of this soup exist, changing from country to country, province to province, and neighborhood to neighborhood.
Like so many foods in the Middle East, diversity of recipes is a typical occurrence, where different families have their own twists to their approach.
Soup was a food that originated as a way to stretch food to make more to go around.
Soup in the Middle East is a very popular food, and comes in many different ingredients.
Meats are often cooked slowly, developing beautiful broths that are perfect hosts to lovely ingredients of all kinds.
Meats, legumes, and vegetables are all common types of soups found in the Middle East.
Developed through the years, soups were also a way to use up leftover food, to avoid waste.
The lower cost profile of soup was and is a very popular reason people east soups in poorer countries.
Harira Soup Recipe
- 1 lb Lamb preferred cuts
- ¾ cup Yellow Pepper diced
- 1 Yellow Onion diced
- 1 Red Onion diced
- ½ cup Cilantro
- 2 cans Diced Tomatoes
- 7 cups Water
- ¾ cup Lentils
- 1 can Chickpeas
- 4 oz Vermicelli
- 2 Eggs whisked
- 2 tbsp Butter
- 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp Turmeric ground
- 1½ tsp Black Pepper ground
- 1 tsp Cinnamon ground
- ¼ tsp Ginger ground
- ¼ tsp Cayenne Pepper ground
- 1 tsp Salt
- Add butter to a soup pot over medium heat until melted.
- Add onions and saute until soft and fragrant.
- Add spices, salt and pieces of meat.
- Cook for ten minutes over medium low heat, stirring.
- Add the tomatoes and cilantro, and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
- Add 7 cups of water, lentils and chickpeas.
- Simmer on low for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Add the vermicelli and eggs, stir well. Cook 15 more minutes.
- Remove from heat and add lemon juice, stir.
- Serve warm.