Hajar's Own Harira -- the National Soup of Morocco

Total Time
4hrs
Prep
1 hr
Cook
3 hrs

There are as many recipes for harira as there are people who eat it though there are essentials. The beans and lentils, cilantro (fresh leaf), tomato and pasta of some sort. This is my own recipe based on ingredients and flavors which I enjoyed from other hariras. Harira is eaten all year, not only at Ramadan though it would not be Ramadan without it! This soup along with others is used traditionally for breakfast at sunset. This would be a first course served with accompaniments and bread before moving on to heavier foods. Many break fast with milk and dates; a very old tradition and I doubt that they knew way back when that the combination of natural sugar and the milk protein were a near perfect combination. Some find this a bit too rough for the first thing in the stomach. While harira is the national soup of Morocco, history tells that this is not a Moroccan invention but an invention of the Maghreb of which Morocco is a part. This recipe may look truly daunting though it really isn't. In our house the first course on the table is always either harira, chorba, or one of my stews; usually chicken, dates, pistachios and fruit. Then after that settles we move on to a normal main course without the use of garlic as it is forbidden during Ramadan. Before bed we will usually have a pot of tea and a rice pudding, dessert couscous or just the tea. Shebakia, the very honey sweet special Ramadan sesame cookies are always here though we prefer to have them with coffee and not necessarily daily.

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Ingredients

Nutrition

Directions

  1. Rinse and pick over fava beans if you can't get these then use dried broad/lima/butter beans and chickpeas. Soak overnight in water to cover. Quick soak method; place beans in large soup pot and add 2 litres hot water. Bring water to a rolling boil for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and soak beans for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Squeeze each fava bean and chickpea between your thumb and first two fingers to remove skins. Set aside.
  2. In large soup pot over medium heat, cook the onions and meat (chicken can be used as well as beef or no meat at all though NEVER pork) stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and translucent.
  3. Add turmeric, ginger, paprika and 2 litres water. Cover and bring to rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add fava beans, chickpeas and cook, covered, until beans are tender. 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on your beans.
  4. Finely chop together tomatoes, parsley and cilantro. Add this mixture along with the tomato paste, the lentils, pepper, juice of the lemon and drop in 1/2 of the squeezed lemon and salt to taste. Cover and cook until lentils are tender 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Bring back to the boil and make a fairly thick slurry (flour and water) with the 1/2 cup of flour. Add this to the boiling soup stirring very briskly to avoid lumps. Boil one minute stirring constantly. Add nutmeg and caraway. Bring the soup to medium heat, you just want a nice slow bubbling.
  6. Add pasta (orzo or small soup pasta can be used as well though I always prefer vermicelli) and cook until soft. Taste and add salt to taste and adjust pepper. When soup is heated through, ladle harira into individual soup bowls. Serve immediately with lemon wedges, Moroccan flat bread ("My Rough Khoubz works well) or crusty french baguette. This soup should be velvety, not overly thick.
  7. Prep time does not include soaking the beans.
  8. NB: Harira is eaten all year, not only at Ramadan. In Morocco the nutmeg is ground to a powder which is darker and very pungent. If you cannot find or do your nutmeg this way, then I recommend that you purchase the freshest nutmeg that you can find.