You guys, this soup is AMAZING. I discovered harira while traveling through Morocco. After days of paying through the nose for crappy, bland couscous-and-sauteed-veggies kinds of dishes in touristy restaurants, my friend and I happened upon this man in an alleyway who was serving up steaming bowls of this stuff for the equivalent of 25¢ US. And we never ate crappy tourist food again.
Harira is traditionally made with lamb meat, but there are many vegetarian versions as well (like this one, and the one served by the alleyway man). I’ve never tried a version with lamb, and I’ve never felt the need to, because this one is so incredibly tasty and satisfying.
The spices are what really make this dish. It calls for a lot (eight), but all of them are common and widely-available. Harira is also traditionally served with a Moroccan chile and garlic paste called harissa, which does add a nice additional kick to it, but it’s expensive and entirely optional. If you do go for harissa, I recommend this one. You can also make your own, though I personally find this way more trouble than it’s worth.
Served with a filling bread, this soup makes a lovely and hearty meal, and it’s great in the winter. The recipe below was adapted from this recipe on eCurry, which I’ve changed a bit to make it simpler to follow and a bit cheaper. I’ve also upped the spices because this soup needs LOTS of spices.
Harira – Moroccan Vegetarian Soup (adapted from eCurry)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp. ground ginger OR a 1 inch-long piece of fresh ginger, grated/minced
3/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 to 2 tsp. paprika (smoked, if you have it, but regular is fine)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 cup red lentils, well-rinsed
1 medium potato, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cooked chickpeas (about 1/3 cup dried), OR 1 14.5 oz. can chickpeas
8 cups water, stock, or water + bullion
1/2 bunch cilantro (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 bunch parsley (stems and leaves), chopped/minced
1/2 cup orzo, white rice, or other small grain item
1 Tbsp. flour + 1/2 cup water (as a thickener – omit to make gluten-free)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Harissa paste for serving (totally optional)
First, measure out all spices (including the cinnamon stick) into a bowl and keep it by the stove, to make things a bit simpler later.
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onion, celery, and carrot until the juices evaporate and they begin to brown or stick a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chop the rest of the veggies and wash the lentils while this is happening.
Add the lentils and the spices, stir, and let fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the chopped zucchini and potato, and fry for another 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomato puree, water/stock, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and let simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.
Whisk together the flour and 1/2 cup of water, and pour it into the soup. Stir to incorporate. Add the parsley, cilantro, and orzo/rice, and simmer, partially covered for another 20 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Serve with a dollop of harissa in the middle of each bowl (expensive and optional), if you like heat, and a nice, hearty bread. Brace yourself for mouth-gasms.
Cost of core ingredients: This recipe is a bit pricier than others posted here, due to all the veggies and herbs, but overall it’s still pretty cheap – if you omit the harissa paste or use homemade. Ingredients listed are primarily organic and were all purchased at my food co-op.
1 onion: ~$1.20
2 carrots: ~$1.15
1 potato: $0.96
1 zucchini: $1.83
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes: $2.49
1/2 bunch parsley: $1.00
1/2 bunch cilantro: $1.00
~1/4 lb. red lentils @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. chickpeas @ $2.29/lb. = ~$0.57
~1/4 lb. orzo @ $3.19/lb. = ~$0.80
Total for at least 6 servings: $11.57 + the cost of small amounts of olive oil, celery, all spices, flour, and bullion.