Sunday, 19 May 2013

Soup Sunday: harira

Thisu week's Soup Sunday is in a Moroccan state of mind too. Today's soup is Morocco's culinary gift to the world of soups: harira.

Occasionally I tell myself I travel in order to learn about humanity. To challenge myself, my prejudices and opinions in the face of new places and, at times, difficult situations - forced to realize how little I know and how sometimes I might actually be... wrong. But let's face it - I probably do it all for food.

When I finally managed to talk The Gentleman into going to Morocco with  me, my dream was to get to Marrakesh. And not least because of the legendary Jemaa el-Fnaa market. Due to logistical issues we compromised and went to Tangiers. But one thing I held on to: I needed to have some harira.

Harira is a thick soup, popular especially during Ramadan, the fasting month. It warms and comforts the body and soul. There are as many traditional recipes as there are eaters, but it is a tomato-based soup with warm, gingery and cinnamony notes and has lentils and chickpeas  though some even add rice or noodles to give it more body. The meat used in this is usually lamb. Often it is the kind of cheap cuts that require a lengthy, slow cooking but missing time, patience and pressure cooker I used minced lamb which means that the soup will take 30 minutes and not 3 hours. The chickpeas I used were pre-cooked too. 

In spite of the warmth and rich aromatic scent the soup itself isn't very hot. It's surprisingly gentle. You can crank up the heat if you want by adding more chillis or a couple of spoonfuls of harissa that would add a nice kick to it. Most recipes don't even have chillis, but mine does. Small, but so feisty the lady at the ethnic shop at Hakaniemi shooked her head with disbelief. "I don't know what you think you're doing, girl - these are HOT!"

For 6

1 large onion, finely chopped
1  large carrot, finely cubed
2 large garlic cloves
2 chillis (or more or less, depending on your palate and the hotness of your chillis)
2 generous tsp ginger (dried)
1 heaped tsp tumeric
250 g lamb mince
1 generous tsb cinnamon
2 litres stock (meat or chicken)
3/4 dl tomato puré
4 large tomatos, blanched, peeled and cubed
3 dl red lentils, rinced
1 can (240 g) pre-cooked chickpeas
salt, pepper
2 handfuls of shopped parsley
2 handfuls of chopped coriander

Heat about 1/2 dl of oil in a big pot. Add onion, garlic, chilli, carrot, ginger and turmeric. Let the spices cook for a while. Then add mince and brown. Add tomato paste and stock. Stir well. Add tomatos and lentils and cook for about 10 minutes until lentils are done. Add cinnamon and chic peas and continue cooking for another 5-10 minutes until they too are hot all the way through. Season. Finally add the herbs and serve with lemon wedges.

Oh, and I so don't need to lament that unbearably bare ring finger of mine anymore. These days it's being occupied by a rock so big I'm surprised the casting director at Real Housewives of OC hasn't been in touch with it yet. But I have just discovered one thing that doesn't go with it: turmeric. That thing stains everything with such gusto you really want to look out...

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