Harira is Morocco’s famous tomato and lentil soup, a recipe that every Moroccan cook has in their collection. It is somewhat of a hearty dish, as it features meat--beef, lamb, or chicken--as well as legumes. It is fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon, and also boasts a robust quantity of fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley. The inclusion of celery and onion give the soup added depth and texture.
Although made throughout the year, and seen at celebrations and weddings, harira is best-loved by Moroccans during the month of Ramadan when it is frequently served to break the fast at sunset. Some families also enjoy eating harira at suhoor, the meal taken in the early morning hours before a day of fasting officially begins.
Harira recipes vary greatly from one family to another and are often passed down generation to generation. Some cooks make the soup light in texture while others prefer a more filling version with chick peas and rice or broken pieces of vermicelli.
One Moroccan cook may favor more tomato, where another will mix in more lentils, or perhaps add paprika to the recipe. Fresh lemon juice may also be squeezed in if desired. An ingredient some people include is smen, a preserved butter with a distinctive, Parmesan-like taste. But no matter what ingredients the cook prefers, he or she will most likely choose to thicken harira’s rich broth with either eggs or flour.
Modern Kitchen Techniques and Tips
The traditional method of making harira requires considerable preparation and cooking time, but many cooks use a food processor and pressure cooker to speed up the process. In addition, many families prep large quantities of the ingredients in advance and freeze them so that the soup can be made on short notice.
A Classic Harira Recipe
Here is a classic harira recipe to try, but feel free to add or subtract ingredients to your liking. A harira soup mix is available in some Middle Eastern markets and on grocery store shelves in Morocco but shy away from it. Instead, start gathering the fresh ingredients to make your own harira from scratch. The soup benefits from sitting as the flavors will meld and the soup will thicken; if you plan to eat it the same day as cooking, place in the refrigerator for a bit to help the soup thicken up.
As they say in Morocco—bssah’ha!—to your health!