Last week my friend Amrita and I went to a new Mid-Eastern lounge that's opened in Delhi. While the ambiance is really awesome, it was the food that we couldn't stop talking or thinking about. We'd started our meal with this stew-like soup that had catapulted our expectations. And each bite after that lived up to it.
The soup however, stayed etched in my head. Called a Harira, it had tender lamb that had been cooked with chickpeas and tomatoes and all sorts of spices would burst in the mouth. There was some cinnamon, some cumin, some nutmeg, total taste explosion and moping it with bread seemed the only consolation. It was warm, filling and total soul food.
The day after this meal, I felt possessed by this soup. I read up everything there was to it about it. I understood that this was a soup that is traditionally made during Ramzan in Morocco and is used to break the fast, I also read that it's Morocco's answer to our haleem as it is the national soup of the country ( I didn't know countries have their own soups!).
Thing is the Harira is and is not. I mean its got meat and lentils alright but its much lighter than the haleem and uses no oil/butter/ghee at all, unless u want some. It does take a while to cook down, but you can easily break it down in two parts like I did. Fact is, they are both just awesome.
I hunted for a recipe that sounded close to what I had tasted. And then decided to mix and match to get my flavours down pat . I used a recipe that didn't need stock, because the true flavours come from the bones. I also had some tagine paste lying in the fridge so used that, but it is totally optional. What's not optional is making it. Because trust me, it's divine!
I made the whole quantity and froze half the soup for later. It freezes beautifully and all you have to do is warm it squeeze a bit of lime and then throw in a handful or coriander leaves.
Adapted from Wicked Food
600g neck or shank of lamb, cut into 3 or 4 pieces
2 liters cold water
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp turmeric
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Pinch of nutmeg
2 large bunches fresh coriander, washed and chopped
100g red lentils (masoor ki daal) soaked for half an hour
120g chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 1 x 400g tin cooked chickpeas
2 tablespoon tomato purée
2 tablespoon flour dissolved in 1/2 cup water
2 tsp spicy tagine paste (optional)
1 lemon juiced
1 lemon, quartered
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste
1. Place the lamb and water into a large pot and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, skimming off any scum or fat as it appears.
2, Add the onion, garlic, celery, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander powder, nutmeg, salt and pepper as well as half the coriander. Cook for 20 minutes.
3. Add the lentils and chickpeas (if using dried, soaked chickpeas), then simmer for another 40 minutes.
4. Once the lamb is soft enough to be pulled off the bone, remove and flake. Return the lamb meat to the pot, along with the tomato purée, tagine paste, flour mixture and lemon juice (and chickpeas, drained, if using tinned).
5. Season the soup with salt (because of the lemon juice this soup may need more salt than one would expect), and sugar.
6. Continue to cook for 10 minutes, or until the pulses are soft. Take off the heat, and stir in the butter and the remaining coriander.
7. Serve with a wedge of lemon and, if you’re feeling exotic, sweet dates at the side
Oh and don't forget to participate in the first of my giveaways. It's a world wide giveaway so click here for more details. And remember comments close on March 8 midnight, Indian Standard Time.