It’s no surprise that one of my favorite world cuisines is Moroccan. The spice blends, generous use of fresh herbs, loads of veggies, savory meats, and the beautifully balanced fusion of the many food cultures that have influenced the area come together to make Moroccan food both magical and memorable.
This Moroccan soup, called harira, is a perfect example of what makes Moroccan food so special. It is satisfying yet light, and wonderfully spiced yet well balanced.
A bit of Harira history
Harira is a healthy combination of tomatoes and chickpeas thickened with lentils and pasta, and generously spiced with the aromatic flavors of Morocco.
It is considered the national soup of Morocco, although it has been enjoyed for centuries throughout the greater Maghreb region of North Africa. With ancient and mysterious roots, it is one of those wonderful, traditional dishes that varies greatly from family to family and region to region.
Harira is often eaten to break the daily fast during the month of Ramadan in Muslim cultures, and is usually enjoyed with dates and sweet cakes or cookies. I can completely understand why this soup would be so loved to break a fast – it’s loaded with goodies – pasta, legumes, veggies, and egg and meat if you like, plus it is savory and zingy, and happens to be easy on the tummy. A winner all around!
Although a Ramadan tradition, this dish is loved by many throughout the world, and can be eaten any time of year.
Meat vs. Veggie harira
Many versions of harira call for meat, especially lamb, but I wanted a lighter, more summery veggie soup. But don’t let that make you think this soup isn’t satisfying. The chickpeas, lentils, and vermicelli all serve to thicken things up, and turn the harira into a meal.
So what about the egg?
When I was researching harira, I was surprised to see eggs in so many of the versions. Some recipes call for whisking the egg with lemon juice before adding, while others call for simply drizzling beaten egg into the finished soup. The egg serves to thicken the harira, as well as add additional protein – a good thing if you are embarking on a fast like Muslims do during the month of Ramadan. I personally like the additional texture and interest the egg adds to the finished dish.
If you would like a vegan harira, simply omit the egg. Easy!
A few harira making and eating tips
While this recipe calls for a lot of ingredients – especially spices – it really is quite easy to make. The secret is to have everything ready to go before you start cooking – chop all the veggies, measure out and sort through the lentils, measure all the spices, and then relax and enjoy cooking!
Like most soups, harira gets better the next day. Don’t be afraid to make a big batch so you can have leftovers. It will likely be quite thick on the second day – just loosen it with a bit of water while you reheat it, and it will be absolutely delicious!
To make harira into a meal, serve it with fresh bread, perhaps a simple salad, and dried dates.
While serving something sweet, like dried dates, with a savory soup might seem odd to many of our Western palates – I recommend giving it a try. It beautifully balances the flavors – tempering some of the sharper spices and bringing out the earthier nuances, and adds that memorable bit of Moroccan magic that we all love so much!