Harira is a traditional Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup made with lentils, chickpeas, celery, tomatoes, and spices. This vegan and wholesome recipe comes from one of my favorite cookbooks Near & Far.
Here I am sitting in front of my computer looking at the empty screen. I have been thinking about what to write and how to articulate my feelings for the last 45 minutes. And quite honestly, I am feeling like a failure. The truth is that I do not want this place to be an outlet for me to vent or share my frustrations in life. Instead, I want it to be a source for sharing recipes, my journey in photography and life. However with all that is happening around the world, I am finding it so hard to be honest and write about the weather or whatever mundane is happening in my life. The truth is I am sad. Seeing extremists do such nasty things without any kind of discrimination and compassion is scary, alarming, and saddening. Wasn’t it just a week ago they blew up a plane killing two hundred some people? How in the world is this happening, and more importantly, will this be our new norm? Everyday the unlucky people among us, who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, are dying from who knows what. Are we next?
Yesterday, I attended a meditation workshop. Our teacher, Loch Kelly started the class reading the words of Einstein:
“ A human being is part of the whole, called by us “universe”, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to use. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.”
After listening to this introduction, I couldn’t help but wonder when will the powers to be realize that we are all in this together. And that something that is happening to a person thousands of miles away from where we are will somehow someday affect us as well. In some shape or form, we are all connected to each other and none of us can build happiness onto someone else’s suffering.
About this Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup Recipe:
I really do not know how to tie all this into this Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup (also known as Harira), but honestly I am grateful to be still alive and be able to share this meal with my family. I made this soup a week ago and photographed with my husband. It was one of those last sunny and warm days of autumn, where we enjoyed a meal outside together.
Harira is the traditional soup of Morocco and Algeria usually made from lentils, chickpeas, tomatoes and a long list of spices and herbs. The thickening agent used in Harira is flour and it is added into the soup in the middle of the cooking. In addition, adding half a cup of orzo (vermicelli or angel hair pasta) not only helps thicken it more, but also makes it a one-pot meal. It is easy to make and as long as you have all your ingredients, you can make it on a Tuesday night.
A Few Tips and Tricks From The Cook:
- It thickens as it cooks on the stove. Therefore, if you prefer more of a soup-y texture, turn the heat off as soon as the pasta is cooked. Or if you want a more meal-like and hearty texture (like you see in the photos), let it cook for another 10 minutes or so.
- If you can’t find fresh marjoram, you can use fresh oregano as well. Though keep in mind that oregano has a much stronger flavor and it can take over the whole dish if you use too much of it. So I recommend adding much less and only adding more of it after giving it a taste.
- I used French du Puy lentils as they keep their shape better than green lentils. However, if all you have is green lentils and you use it, you’ll still have a delicious harira at the end.
- If you are on a gluten-free diet, instead of using all-purpose flour use 3 tablespoons of cornstarch and swap the pasta with your favorite gluten-free pasta or omit it altogether.
Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup
- pinch of saffron (about 30 threads)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped and divided
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 3 celery stalks cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 2 1/2 inches long fresh ginger peeled and minced (approx. 2 tablespoons)
- 6 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 canned 15 ounces chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- 1 1/2 cups French du Puy lentils picked over and rinsed
- 6 cups of vegetable stock or water divided
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- 1/4 cup lemon juice freshly squeezed (from 2 juicy lemons)
- 1 can 15 ounces diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons fresh marjoram chopped and more as garnish
- 1/2 cup orzo or angel hair pasta broken into 1-inch pieces
- 4-5 dates pitted and chopped
- Grind the saffron and sea salt with a mortar and pestle. Stir in the cinnamon, paprika, red pepper flakes, and cumin. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large heavy bottom pot. Stir in the half of the cilantro, onions, celery, and ginger. Cook until they soften, 5-6 minutes. Add in the garlic, and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Stir in the spice mixture, and cook while stirring constantly, until the vegetables are fully coated with the spices, 3-4 minutes.
- Add in the chickpeas and lentils. Stir thoroughly to make sure they are coated with all the spices as well.
- Pour 4 cups of vegetable stock (or water) into the pot, bring it to a boil and let it simmer in medium-low heat.
- Meanwhile, place the rest of the stock (or water) in a mixing bowl. Whisk in the flour and lemon juice. Add in the tomatoes and give it a large stir.
- Stir the tomato-flour mixture into the soup. Let it simmer for 20-25 minutes.
- Ten minutes before serving, stir in the orzo (or angel hair pasta).
- When ready to serve, stir in the marjoram and the rest of the chopped cilantro.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, top them off with chopped dates, and garnish with fresh marjoram.
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This recipe is adapted with minor changes from Heidi Swanson’s new cookbook Near & Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel.