As we head into the winter months, Heather and I have been on the lookout for more warmer and heartier dishes that pair well with the colder weather.
Using these criteria, harira was a really easy find. And with an abundance of extra ingredients as we come away from Thanksgiving, it was the perfect way to make efficient use of what we had left.
What is Harira?
Harira is a hearty and thick stew common to the Maghreb, a region of northwest Africa to the west of Egypt. While harira is commonly considered a Moroccan recipe, you will find similar variants to the recipe in the rest of the Maghreb that spans through Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. As we talk about harira today, though, we’re talking about the traditional Moroccan version of the recipe.
Harira is a dish served most usually during the month of Ramadan as part of the iftar – or when those observing break the day’s fast. You might also see harira as part of the menu for festive occasions, or even as a simple comfort meal at home during the winter months. Its versatility as a dish knows no bounds.
About the Recipe
The beauty to making harira is that there is no one singular correct way to making a delicious harira. In our own research, we found such an amazing diversity in different harira recipes, and we actually drew our own inspiration from two separate sources, one from Maroc Mama and one from Pamela Salzman.
Depending on your dietary preference, the harira can either be made with meat or as a vegetarian dish. In earlier times when meat was more expensive and more limited in availability, the more meaty variation of harira was often reserved for the more special and festive occasions. Honestly, it’s just as good both vegetarian and with meat.
What is absolutely necessary to make a good harira, however, is the abundant inclusion of fragrant spices. Moroccan cuisine is well-renowned for its use of strong spices and the vibrant tastes that result from it. Cinnamon and cumin are two of the most prevalent spices used in any recipe, although there’s a whole world of other herbs and spices to go with.
The key to getting the desired thick consistency of the end harira product is by creating a thickening mixture called the tadouira. At its most basic, the tadouira is a mixture of flour and water that is mixed into the broth towards the end of cooking to condense the soup and make it more wholesome.
Our Take on the Recipe
For our recipe, we opted to create the soup base from scratch with homemade vegetable broth and fresh tomatoes. This was our preference over canned tomatoes, and it did add a few extra minutes of cook time to our recipe, but we found it to be well worth it. If you’d prefer, however, canned tomatoes can be a suitable substitute… (we recommend you use cans free of BPA lining).
Another major alteration we made for our recipe was to effectively double the amount of spices used in the soup. For the proportion of harira that this recipe creates, we personally found that it didn’t come out spiced enough, which would be a shame given the beauty and vibrance that comes from Moroccan spice mixtures.
Finally, for the tadouira, we opted for a healthier flour with better nutritional value. Since the recipe has chickpeas in it, what better flour to use than a chickpea flour? Loaded with protein and a great source of iron and fiber, swapping the chickpea for the all-purpose flour gives an added gluten-free bonus to an already delicious recipe.
And that’s pretty much it! The actual cooking of the harira itself is fairly intensive and will take some time to fully stew and have the flavors marry together, so be sure to make a fair amount. It stores well and can last for days… if it makes it that long.
What is your favorite method for preparing harira? Leave a comment below!
- 1 pound cubed beef (or other protein), cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 pound fresh tomatoes, chopped
- ½ cup dried lentils
- ½ cup long-grain basmati rice
- 3 cups homemade vegetable stock
- 1 can tomato paste
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas (from a can), or dried chickpeas soaked overnight
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 1½ teaspoons sea salt
- ½ cup chickpea flour
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
- 1 tablespoon ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ground paprika
- ½ tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon saffron, crushed
- 2 teaspoon of ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)
- Heat large saucepan over high heat and add oil. Once hot, place meat into pan and cook for 1-2 minutes
- As the meat starts to brown on each side, remove the meat and place into a bowl. Set aside
- Bring the saucepan down to medium-high heat and add the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with a splash of vegetable stock. Stir around and begin to cook the vegetables together.
- After several minutes, add the tomatoes and their juices. Cook for another 2 minutes
- As the tomatoes start to soften, add the spices and mix thoroughly through vegetables and tomatoes
- Once the spices are well mixed in, re-add your meat and any additional juices that have accumulated in the bowl. Then add your lentils and rice and stir
- After ~30 seconds of stirring, begin adding vegetable stock into the mixture 1 cup at a time. As you add the stock to the saucepan, stir it throughout and distribute the liquid well
- Once the stock is fully added, add the tomato paste and chickpeas. Bring the saucepan to high heat and to a boil
- As the soup starts to boil, bring to a simmer and let cook for at least an hour
- While the harira is simmering, begin making the tadouira by gradually adding water to the chickpea flour in a bowl.
- The end result should be a runny yellowish slurry, which will go into the harira at the end
- Periodically check on the harira via the texture of the meat. The meat should be very soft but still retain its original form.
- Once you feel it's right to move on, add the fresh greens (cilantro and parsley) and simmer for another 5 minutes
- Add the tadouira and stir thoroughly in the soup over the simmer. As it starts to thicken (after 1-2 minutes), take the harira off the heat and serve.
- If desired, add a splash of lemon juice and additional fresh greens as a garnish. Enjoy!