June is the month of Ramadan and since Fez is a Berber-Arab city it is expected that preparations for this sacred season will be ongoing. So in light of this we are going to try our hands at one of the recipes that is very popular this season.
Harira, is a soup dish often served as a starter to break one’s fast during the Ramadan season. It is delicious and filled with the right amount of nutrients one would need to recharge during the often strenuous fasting period.
Mediterranean food is always filled with an astonishing number of spices that lends it a unique flavour and aroma, such that one’s taste buds would be dancing with joy after a spoonful.
Fez has become a tourist hotspot in recent years, a must when visiting Morocco. An urban city where cars cannot traverse due to the narrow streets you get to have a feeling of what life may have been like before car transportation.
So if you like to try new things like I do, whip up your cooking tools and let’s get to work!
Cooking Time: 130 minutes
Ingredients: ½ lb. uncooked meat (lamb, beef or chicken), chopped into 1/2” pieces
several soup bones (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bunch cilantro (coriander), finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
1 bunch parsley, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup
1 or 2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped
1 large onion, grated
1 handful of dry chickpeas, soaked and then peeled
1 tablespoon smen (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric or ¼ teaspoon yellow colorant
6 large tomatoes (about 2 lb. or 1kg), peeled, seeded and pureed
2 to 3 tbsp dry lentils, picked over and washed
3 tablespoons tomato paste, mixed evenly into 1 or 2 cups of water
2 to 3 tablespoons uncooked rice OR uncooked broken vermicelli
1 cup flour
Cooking Method: Soak and skin the chickpeas. (You might want to soak them the night before you cook.)
Pick through the lentils and wash them.
Peel, seed and puree the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Or, stew the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.
Pick the parsley and cilantro leaves from their stems. Small pieces of stem are OK, but discard long, thick pieces with no leaves. Wash the herbs, drain well, and finely chop them by hand or with a food processor.
Put the meat, soup bones and oil into a 6-qt. or larger pressure cooker. Over medium heat, cook the meat for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.
Add the cilantro, parsley, celery, onion, chick peas, tomatoes, smen and spices. Stir in 3 cups of water.
Cover tightly, and heat over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and release the pressure.
Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and 2 quarts (or about 2 liters) of water to the stock. Set aside, do not add in the rice yet.
Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking.
Cook the soup on pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure, and add the rice.
Cover, and cook with pressure for an additional 15 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, make atedouira (soup thickener) by mixing together the 1 cup of flour
with 2 cups of water. Set the mixture aside, and stir or whisk it occasionally. The flour will
eventually blend with the water. If the mixture is not smooth when you’re ready to use it, pass it through a sieve to remove balls.
Once the rice has cooked, taste the soup for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if desired.
Bring the soup to a full simmer. Slowly — and in a thin stream — pour in the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom.
You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you’ve used approximately half the flour mixture. How thick to make harira is your own preference. I like to thicken the broth so that it achieves a cream-like consistency.
Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for five to ten minutes to cook off the taste of the flour. Remove the soup from the heat. Then serve.
Recipe by Christine Benlafquih