Harira: Soup that Transports You

Harira is one soup that I would have never imagined to be vegetarian, no less vegan. The flavors are overwhelmingly fragrant (in a good way!) And strike taste buds in a manner that I’ve never experienced before. This traditional Moroccan soup with a tomato, lentil base is chunky, hearty, satisfying, and filling—what more could a Veggiewallian (yes, that’s what we are!) ask for? Traditionally, Hairira is conjured up and enjoyed during Ramadan, and in reality, it’s good anytime of year.

What I find peculiar is that this delightfully fragrant soup is not easy to find, nor is it difficult to make! The flavors come from a mixture of cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic and onion. And the brothy tomato base with chickpeas allows for some substance in addition to a neutral flavor, which allows you to enjoy, appreciate, and pause between the boldness that comes from the fusion of spices.

The first time I had Harira was in the souks of Marrakech—I know, it couldn’t get any more authentic than that. Whenever I do have a taste of this hearty soup, it brings me back to that one incredible experience—where senses are overwhelmed—fragrant herbs, colorful spices, wafting aromas, and visual chaos smack you in the face. I bet you didn’t know all this could be embodied in just one dish. Without the actual luxury of being able to go to Morocco, I encourage you to try Harira, for a taste of what life there is like.

Recipe adapted from eCurry

What You Need:
3 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, sliced
1 cup pureed tomatoes (fresh or canned)
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 large carrots, chopped
1 medium potato, peeled & cubed
1 large zucchini
1/2 cup red lentils
1 cup of cooked garbanzo beans (if using canned, keep the liquid)
1/4 cup orzo
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2″ cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
A pinch of caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon paprika
A generous pinch of saffron — crushed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
A handful of flat leaf parsley
Water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp all purpose flour
Salt to taste
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper and/or harissa paste to taste |
Garnish: lemon wedges and dried fruit (dates, raisins, figs or whatever you like)

What to Do:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the onions and celery and cook until the onions are translucent and slightly browned. At this point, add in the lentils, potato, zucchini, carrots, ground cumin, ground coriander, caraway seeds, paprika, ground turmeric, ground ginger, saffron, cayenne and the cinnamon stick. Stir everything together constantly until you get a smoked aroma. Be careful that the spices don’t burn.

Add in the tomato puree, salt, black pepper, and chickpeas. Then add in enough water and/or stock to cover the vegetables by 2-3 inches. Cover the pot and boil over medium for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the flour to 1/2 cup of water. Once the potatoes are tender, add the flour-water mixture to the soup to thicken it (add more flour for a thicker consistency). Then stir in the orzo, parsley and cilantro and simmer at low heat for another 20 minutes and the pasta is cooked.

When you are ready to serve, ladle the soup into bowls and garnish each bowl with a squeeze lemon juice, cilantro leaves and your choice of dried fruit.

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