During the highlight of the school year, the annual school Christmas dinner, each child brings something nice and home-cooked to share with his classmates at night. A few years ago, my daughter returned from this quite excited, telling me about the wonderful soup a Moroccan classmate had brought. Her enthusiasm resulted in a playdate in which the girls headed into the kitchen with the classmate’s mother. When I picked her up, we went home with the recipe and a steaming pan of harira.
Over the years I’ve adapted the recipe to my own taste and preferences. With thanks to Fadua, this is my vegetarian, vegan and gluten free version of her harira. It’s a spicy, warming soup that’s also quite nourishing due to the lentils and chickpeas. Though it’s actually a soup to be served during the festivities of Ramadan, it has made many people happy during Christmas and with its fresh veg base, it’s just so good you’ll want to eat it every season of the year.
Traditionally, this soup is served with fresh dates on the side. To further up the veg content, I like to serve it with a few handfuls of fresh spinach, soft grilled pepper and some orange zest for the same sweet accent.
Harira with orange zest and grilled red pepper – serves 4
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, cut into small cubes
- 4 celery sticks, cut into equally small cubes
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. paprika
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- ½ tbsp. ground ginger
- ½ tsp. saffron strands
- 200 g red lentils
- 400 g can of chopped tomato
- 300 g tinned chickpeas, or 100 g dried ones, pre-soaked
- 1 l vegetable stock
- 3 red bell peppers
- a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves
- zest of 1 orange
- 4 tbsp. Greek yoghurt or plant-based cream (optional)
- coriander leaves to taste
Heat the oil in a large pan. On a medium heat, cook the onion, carrot and celery until they’re soft but not browned. Add the garlic and cook it for a few minutes. Then tip the spices into the pan, followed by the lentils and stir until the spices release their fragrance.
Add the chopped tomato, the chickpeas and the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oven grill. Halve the peppers lengthwise, remove the stalks and seeds and place them, cut-side down, on a wire rack covered with aluminium foil. Grill the peppers until the skins blister and turn black. In my oven, this takes 5 minutes, but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on them from the start. Take out the peppers, put them in a glass bowl and cover tightly with cling film. Leave the peppers until cool enough to handle, then remove the skin and cut the flesh into strips.
When the lentils and chickpeas are soft, stir the spinach into the soup and leave it to wilt for a few minutes. Season the soup with black pepper and divide it over 4 bowls. Serve the paprika strips, orange zest, coriander leaves and yoghurt or cream, if using, alongside, so everyone can help themselves according to their own liking.