Harira – Moroccan Lamb and Legume Soup – is loaded with healthy chickpeas, lentils, and vegetables, scented with the exotic flavors of Morocco.
Originating in Morocco but loved throughout the Middle East, Harira is a popular soup during the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. While living in Dubai, we had the opportunity to witness first hand the magnificence with which the local residents celebrate this month of fasting. Food and drink are not allowed from dawn until sunset, however it’s more than made up for after sunset. Schools and businesses have shortened hours to allow the people to catch up on sleep after long nights of feasting and gathering with friends and family. Restaurants and special festive tents offer every type of delicacy from sunset until dawn. The city is decorated and full of celebrations enjoyed by all, even those who aren’t fasting!
I was fortunate enough to have a Moroccan neighbor who invited me to her home at sunset during Ramadan at the time of breaking the fast. Her family breaks the fast relatively simply: dates, freshly squeezed orange juice, various meat and cheese filled pastries (including these fabulous Cheese Sambousek), and this delicious Harira.
Lamb is cooked in a flavorful broth until falling off the bone tender. I use a whole lamb shoulder but you can use any cut you like that is on the bone to give the broth flavor and that luscious mouth-feel that results from the gelatin in the bone. After the broth is ready, onion, celery, celery leaves, and parsley are sautéed in butter or ghee. The broth and tomato are added. You can use fresh or canned tomatoes, but I like the texture the tomato paste gives to the broth.
The broth is scented with traditional Moroccan spices: turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, and a pinch of saffron. The saffron is optional if you don’t have any on hand. Some cooks don’t use it, and the Harira is just as delicious without it. Another optional ingredient that I do use, although some other cooks don’t, is powdered ginger. I love the brightness it adds to the soup.
Chick peas, lentils, and fine soup noodles are simmered in the broth until tender. Freshly squeezed lemon juice is the finishing touch and gives the Harira its tangy, lemony flavor.
Harira is great served with Cheese Sambousek. I hope you try it!
For the Lamb broth:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2½ pounds lamb on bone, approximately, I use a whole shoulder (1.1kg)
bones from the carcasses of 2 chickens, or the equivalent
1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
stems from 1 bunch of parsley
2 chicken bouillon cubes
salt and pepper to taste
For the Harira:
2 tablespoons butter or ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks with leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ginger (optional)
pinch of saffron (optional)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 cup dried red/brown lentils, pick over and rinsed (7.2oz, 204g)
15 oz can chickpeas, drained (425g)
1 cup fine soup noodles
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
For the Lamb broth:
1. Heat oil in a large pan, stock pot, or pressure cooker. When hot, sear the lamb on both sides until browned.
2. Add the remaining broth ingredients and cover with water.
3. Bring to a boil then simmer until lamb is very tender, this can take several hours in a normal pan. Or cook in the pressure cooker for 1½ hours.
4. Strain broth to make 2½ quarts.
For the Harira:
1. Melt butter in a large pan. Sauté onion and celery until softened.
2. Add parsley and celery leaves and sauté for 1 minute.
3. Add turmeric, cinnamon, ground coriander black pepper, ginger, saffron, and tomato paste. Stir for a minute until combined.
4. Add 2½ quarts lamb broth and bring to a boil.
5. Add lentils and allow to cook until half way tender, about 15-20 minutes.
6. Add drained chickpeas and fine soup noodles. Cook until noodles and lentils are tender but not mushy.
7. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice to taste. It should be bright and lemony, but not overpowering.
8. Sprinkle with cilantro. Salt and pepper to taste.Print
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