INDIA: Harira, a traditional tomato-based soup cooked with legumes like chickpeas and lentils, fresh herbs, and toasty spices like cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon, is typically served to break the fast during Ramadan.
The name Harira derives from the Arabic word حرير “harir”, which means silk—a fitting reference to the velvety texture of the soup after it has been thickened with tedouira of flour and water, broken vermicelli pasta, eggs, or rice. The thickener (tedouira) sometimes contains yeast and may be left to ferment for a day or two.
Originating from North America’s Maghreb cuisine, the soup, harira, is mainly prepared in Morocco and Algeria. As the soup has many variations, Moroccan harira differs from Algerian harira; lentils are present in the Moroccan harira but not in the Algerian one.
This tasty chickpea and lentil soup is served all year around in parts of North America. Still, it is famously associated with the holy month of Ramadan, as people prefer this delicious soup to break the fast. This tradition is so deeply embedded in Moroccan culture that many Moroccans feel that a Ramadan meal is incomplete if harira is not on the table.
The soup is a part of Maghrebi cuisine, where the soup’s flavours are brightened by adding egg and lemon juice. Just like Muslims prefer this filling soup to start the iftar, Jews also break their fast by consuming the soup during Yom Kippur.
Depending on the serving size, it can be consumed as an appetiser or a main course. It is typically served with dates, lemon slices (or lemon juice), figs, crusty bread, a hard-boiled egg, and a honey-rosewater-flavoured pastry known as chebakia.
Well, it’s unknown how harira became a North American staple, but today, it symbolises the unification of Muslims during Ramadan, both culturally and religiously. From the cuisine of North America, this spiced dish is a staple with ingredients like seafood, lamb, couscous, dates, almonds, and olives.
Let’s look at the recipe for the delicious, filling tomato-based soup that wraps you up like a soft piece of velvet, immersing you in the goodness of tomato and aromatic, favourable spices and giving you a warm boost from the inside out.
But before jumping to the recipe, take note of the ingredient list so you don’t miss any.
Ingredients: Olive oil, chopped onion, dried chickpeas, dried green lentils or red lentils, a small bunch of celery (chopped), a few parsley leaves (chopped), freshly grated tomato and tomato paste, salt, pepper, turmeric, ginger powder, flour, water, uncooked rice or vermicelli pasta, a few chopped leaves of coriander, dates, a lemon, and the meat of your preference (cut into small pieces).
Note: Soak the chickpeas overnight in water with the skin peeled off, or use the available canned chickpeas.
Harira soup recipe
Step 1: In a stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the minced onion and meat, then stir in the lentils, chickpeas, parsley, celery, and fresh tomato. If you are using canned chickpeas, you can add them at the end of the cooking process.
Step 2: Add the tomato paste and simmer it for 10 minutes. Spice it up with salt, ginger, pepper, and turmeric, and cover it with cold water as per your requirement. Set the temperature to simmering and add a lid. Let simmer until the chickpeas are cooked, around an hour.
Step 3: Whisk flour with cold water—a ratio of 1:2 flour to water—to make a slurry without any lumps. Put aside.
Step 4: Check if the lentils and chickpeas are cooked nicely. Once cooked, add the rice or vermicelli, and if you are using canned chickpeas, it’s time to add them too to the pot and cook for a few extra minutes.
Step 5: Reduce the heat, slowly pour in the flour and water mixture, and swirl to prevent burning or sticking to the bottom of the vessel. Stir the soup with a wooden spoon, letting it continue to thicken as you go.
Step 6: Continue cooking for a further 12 to 15 minutes while often stirring over medium heat. At the very end, add the fresh coriander, and then serve with dates and a half-lemon for extra flavour.
With the whistling of pressure cookers and a wafting tangy scent in the air, your harira soup is ready, filled with the goodness of tomato. Serve warm to enjoy the zest of every bit!