Harira is a classic lamb and bean soup that is eaten by Muslims when breaking the Ramadan fast. Each family has its own recipe. This vegetarian version is filling, nourishing and packed with earthy flavours and seductive aromas. The quantity of spices may seem a little extravagant – but the recipe serves a lot of people, and remember that pulses on their own tend to be quite bland. This dish is somewhat time-consuming to make, but well worth the effort – especially if you’re cooking for a crowd. The cooking time is greatly reduced if you use tinned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), white beans and tomatoes, and hot water boiled in a kettle.
If you don’t like the idea of adding raw eggs, simply make a plain omelette, cut it in small squares, and add it to the soup just before serving. Traditionally eaten with flatbreads accompanied by dates and dried figs, you can also serve harira with sesame-studded flatbreads and a simple mixed-leaf salad. Serves 6 to 8.
4 tablespoons virgin olive oil, preferably Moroccan
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 sticks celery, peeled and sliced
4 oz/ 100g chickpeas, soaked overnight and drained, OR 1 tin chickpeas, drained
4 oz/ 100g haricot beans, soaked overnight and drained, OR 1 tin haricot beans, drained
5 pints/ 3 litres water or lightly flavoured unsalted vegetable stock
½ teaspoon saffron, crushed in a mortar and steeped in 1 tablespoon water
1 level tablespoon cinnamon powder
1 level tablespoon cumin powder
1 level tablespoon coriander powder
Salt and pepper
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 oz/ 50g uncooked white long-grain rice, such as Basmati
2 oz/ 50g brown or green lentils, washed and drained
1 lb/ 450g fresh tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped, OR 1 large tin chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons plain white flour
6 fl oz/ 175 ml cold water
2 eggs, lightly beaten (optional)
Juice of 1 lemon
Paprika and lemon wedges, to serve
1. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, and sauté the onions, garlic and celery for a few minutes until soft and translucent but not browned.
2. Add chickpeas, haricot beans and 5 pints/ 3 litres water or vegetable stock (make sure the stock is unsalted, or the beans won’t cook easily. I like to use the water I have soaked the pulses in – though if you’re using tinned pulses, do not use the water they come with). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the chickpeas and beans are very soft and tender. Depending on how old the peas and beans are, this could take 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Add the spices, seasoning and parsley (reserve a few leaves for garnish). Then add the rice, lentils, and tomatoes, cover, and cook until the rice and lentils are thoroughly cooked. This may take 20 minutes.
4. Make a roux by slowly mixing the flour with 6 fl oz/ 175 ml cold water, making sure that there are no lumps. Add to the soup and cook for a further 15 minutes.
5. Adjust the seasoning, and add more water or stock if the soup is too thick.
6. Stir in the eggs, if using, and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
7. Remove from heat and, just before serving, add the lemon juice. Ladle the harira into individual soup bowls, sprinkle with paprika, and serve with extra lemon wedges.