Moroccan cuisine is by far my absolute favorite (yes, I prefer it to Lebanese – don’t go all ooh and ahh now).
I was born and raised in Morocco, and this country has one of the richest cuisines in the world. Moroccans are known for their mixing between salty and sweet in the same dish. From Couscous, to tajines, to Pastilla, to their decadent desserts (shebbakiyya, sello, kaab ghzal, etc.), Moroccan food is fit for royalty. Nothing but wholesome, nutritious and top quality ingredients are used, and this is the main reason why their cuisine is so popular and delicious.
Today is Independence Day in Morocco, and on this occasion, I will share with you a recipe for their famous Harira soup. It is truly the heartiest and most delicious soup you can ever have. It is packed full of nutrients and approved by all ages!
This recipe yields a huge pot!
1 cup lentils
1 cup chickpeas, soaked in water overnight (for the lazy ones, use 1 can of precooked chickpeas and add it towards the end of the cooking time)
1/2 cup short grain rice, rinsed
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and blended, or very finely chopped (I grate them with the coarse grater)
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
300 grams of cubed beef (I tend to cut them into small cubes so they cook faster)
1 tbsp tomato paste
200 ml tomato puree (I use Pomi – my mom omits it, but I find it makes the soup richer)
2 tbsps olive oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 big bunch of cilantro, finely chopped and divided into 2 parts
Salt and pepper to taste
At least 3 liters of water (use hot water to accelerate the process)
The juice of 2 lemons
In a huge pot (at least a capacity of 6 liters), put the onion, celery, tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato puree (if being used), parsley, half the cilantro, meat, lentils, chickpeas (if not using precooked), olive oil, salt, pepper and turmeric, and cover the whole thing with water. I think you will need about 3 liters. Remember, you will be adding the rice later so the pot needs to have a lot of water, as the meat needs time to cook slowly to become all tender and yummy!
Bring the pot to a boil, cover and let simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally. After about 2o minutes, add the rinsed rice and cook for another 20 to 25 minutes, after which you check if all ingredients (lentils, chickpeas, rice and meat) are cooked through and the meat is tender enough. If you feel like the pot needs more water, go ahead and add a little bit more, adjusting the taste with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and simmer for another couple of minutes, before turning the heat off and mixing in the remaining chopped cilantro to give the soup freshness.
Serve immediately with an additional squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Don’t omit the lemon juice at the end; it’s traditional and makes all the difference!