Lustily spiced, cooled with fresh herbs, and sharpened with lemon, this type of lentil soup is what Moroccans eat to ward off the chill of the desert night.
Harira looms large in Moroccan culture, often served at weddings and other celebrations, but the soup practically unites all of Morocco during the holy month of Ramadan. Then, no food or water is taken from sunrise to sunset. But once the light fades and cannons announce the end of the day's fast, that is the moment of Harira, the one "break fast" dish all Moroccans eat each evening. Served with dates, dried figs, fried honey cakes and other finger foods, each diner takes his Harira as he pleases.
In this recipe, some liberties have been taken, but hopefully we have not offended tradition. The often-used lamb, chicken, chickpeas and eggs weren't included, and our accompaniments were modified by what is to be had close to home.
The soup can wait a day in the refrigerator. Add the final fresh coriander garnish at the moment of serving.
Cook to Cook: Greek walnut and honey baklava pastries cut into small bites can stand in for the honey-drenched fried cakes often eaten with Harira in Morocco.
- Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/8-inch dice
- 1 small carrot, minced
- 1/3 cup (tightly packed) fresh Italian parsley stems and leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup (tightly packed) fresh coriander stems and leaves, chopped
- 1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1-1/4 cups dry red lentils
- 2 teaspoons sweet Hungarian paprika
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes and their liquid, pureed (do not use tomato puree)
- About 8 cups Cheater's Broth or canned vegetable or chicken stock, enough to make a slightly thick soup
- 2 lemons, each cut into 6 wedges
- 12 or more dried figs, halved
- 12 or more dates
- 3 tablespoons cumin, freshly ground if possible
- 3 tablespoons ground hot chile, Aleppo if possible
- 12 small filo pastries of honey and nuts (see Cook to Cook)
- 2 tablespoons (tightly packed) fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1. Film the bottom of a 6-quart pot with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot, parsley, coriander and a little salt and saute 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Reduce the heat to medium-low, stir in the pepper, garlic, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds.
2. Blend in the lentils, paprika, tomatoes and broth. Bring to a gentle bubble, partially cover, and simmer 45 minutes, or until the lentils have dissolved and the soup tastes rich and good. Season to taste with salt and pepper if needed. Add a little water if the soup is too thick.
3. While the soup cooks, set out small plates for each diner with the accompaniments—lemon wedges, about 2 figs and dates for each, a little of the ground spices and bite-size pieces of pastry.
4. To serve the soup, sprinkle it with the 2 tablespoons of coriander and ladle into bowls.