How to make Moroccan Harira
Moroccan Harira is a classic soup made with tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, fresh herbs, dried spices, and meats, making it a filling and satisfying dish. Although served throughout the year, it is especially popular for breakfast during Ramadan. It can be served as an appetizer or main, depending on the size of the serving, and is usually served with sliced lemon (or lemon juice), crunchy bread, figs, and a pastry flavored with honey and rosewater called chebakia.
There are many variations of Moroccan Harira, and recipes are often passed down from generation to generation. Some versions contain chunks of vermicelli and margarine – a preserved butter that tastes similar to parmesan cheese. Moroccan Harira is usually made with chicken, lamb or beef, but some variations of this recipe go beyond meat to be both vegetarian and vegan. Make it gluten-free by replacing the vermicelli with rice noodles and skipping the flour.
In this recipe we use a pressure cooker for a shorter cooking time; To adapt to stove-boiling, follow the directions for the traditional stock pot method. To make it easier, we soak chickpeas and lentils overnight.
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 pound lamb (or beef or chicken, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces)
6 large tomatoes (peeled, seeded and pureed)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (or 1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring)
1 bunch parsley (no stems, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup)
1 bunch cilantro (no stems, finely chopped to yield about 1/4 cup)
1 stalk celery (with leaves, finely chopped)
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 large onion (grated)
1 handful dried chickpeas (soaked overnight and peeled)
Optional: 1 tablespoon smen
11 cups water (divided)
3 tablespoons dried lentils (soaked overnight)
3 tablespoons tomato paste (mixed into 1 cup water)
Optional: 2 tablespoons rice
2 tablespoons vermicelli
For Thickening the Soup:
1 cup flour
2 cups water
Garnish: 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
Steps to Make It
Note: Although there are multiple steps for this recipe, this soup is divided into practical categories to help you better plan your preparation and cooking. Before getting started, be sure to soak the chickpeas and lentils, clean and chop the herbs without any large stems, and crush the tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Instead, stew the tomatoes and pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.
- Gather the ingredients.
- Heat up the cooking oil in a 6-quart or larger pressure cooker. Add the meat.
- Cook for a few minutes, stirring to brown all sides.
Make the Stock
- Add the pureed tomatoes, kosher salt, turmeric, parsley, cilantro, celery, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, onion, chickpeas, and smen (if using). Stir and add 3 cups of the water.
- Cover tightly and heat over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and release the pressure.
Make the Soup
- Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, and the remaining 8 cups (2 quarts) of water. If at any point there’s an oily surface forming on top of the soup, simply skim it off and discard. This can happen because of the meat’s fat, if left on.
- Have the rice or vermicelli at hand, if using, but don’t add yet.
- Cover the pot and heat the soup over high heat until pressure is achieved. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking.
- If adding rice, cook the soup on pressure for 30 minutes. Release the pressure and add the rice. Cover and cook with pressure for an additional 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.
- If using vermicelli, cook the soup on pressure for 45 minutes. Release the pressure, and add the vermicelli. Simmer the soup, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the vermicelli is plump and cooked. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if desired.
Make Soup Thickener
- While the soup is cooking, make a soup thickener by mixing together the flour and water.
- Mix well, but if the mixture is not smooth, pass it through a sieve to remove lumps.
Finish the Soup
- Bring the soup to a full simmer. Slowly, and in a thin stream, pour in 1/4 of the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom or cooks up in lumps.
- Add another 1/4 of the flour thickener. You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you’ve used approximately half the flour mixture. The thickness of harira is up to you.
- Simmer the thickened soup, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes to cook off the taste of the flour. Remove the soup from the heat, serve, and garnish with some chopped parsley.