Today’s recipe is for harira soup, a Moroccan chickpea, rice and lentil soup that our whole family devours regularly. During our trip to Fes and Rabat in late 2016. Morocco is like a second home to the hubby, who spent three years living and working there. The tall, cobbled walls of the medina (the old quarter) and the hushed sounds happening behind those walls were a big change from the sleek, stately architecture of London. Keep reading to see more about harira soup and why we love it so!
All four of us fell in love with different aspects of Morocco. For Meimei, who was four at the time, couldn’t get enough of the leather slippers. The hubby took pride in showing off “his Morocco,” and I loved all of the open-air markets selling everything from vacuum cleaner hoses to the lemons the size of your head.
For six-year-old Ge Ge, the beauty of Morocco lay in the food. He loved the varieties of cakes and drizzles of clear honey with smears of butter over flatbreads for breakfast. For lunch, a meatball filled tagine (a Moroccan casserole) with torn shreds of more bread for dipping. His hands-down favorite was harira, the homey tomato-based soup flavored with lentils, chickpeas and rice.
Harira soup is usually served with lemon wedges and handfuls of freshly-chopped cilantro (coriander), which adds a lively tartness to the soup. It’s also filling enough to serve as a full one-dish meal, when served with rolls or flatbread (I use pita when I’m in a pinch). On the weeknights when I serve it, Ge Ge closes his eyes and inhales deeply, as if he’s being transported back to the souks (markets), crowded around plastic bowls while waiting to be served his harira by a kindly stall owner.
This is why I love to travel. Two years ago, before we moved London, none of us except the hubby knew how much we’d love Morocco or harira. Now, we can’t imagine our lives without either.
This recipe for harira is based on my new favorite cookbook, Orange Blossom & Honey: Magical Moroccan Recipes from the Souks to the Sahara by John Gregory-Smith. You can check it out here.
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- ⅛ cup olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 3 celery sticks, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1-14 ounce (400g) can chopped tomatoes
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 14-ounce (400g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ¾ cups (90g) white rice
- 1 cup (200g) Puy lentils
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro (coriander) leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
- Juice of 1 lemon, plus more lemons for serving
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Put a cast iron Dutch oven (or other heavy-bottomed stock pot) over medium-low heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast, stirring often, until the seeds are golden brown and fragrant. Remove the seeds from the heat and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Return the pot to the stove on medium-low heat again and drizzle the olive oil into the pot. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent but not browned and the other vegetables are soft, approximately 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir for another minute, then add the ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and turmeric and continue stirring for a minute or two until the spices are blended and everything is a little sticky looking. Pour in the tomatoes, tomato paste, chickpeas and stir together, bringing everything to a simmer.
- Add the stock, rice, Puy lentils, and a handful of the cilantro and parsley leaves. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the rice is cooked and the lentils are tender.
- Remove from the heat and stir in more freshly chopped cilantro and parsley. Squeeze in the lemon juice and then serve with more lemon wedges.
Want to see more soup recipes? Check these out:
- Chicken Soup with Homemade Gnocchi
- Three Ingredient Miso Butternut Squash Soup
- Instant Pot Pancetta and Bean Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup