Sunday, February 10, 2013

Harira - Traditional Maghreb Soup from North Africa

Harira is a traditional soup of northwest Africa called the Magherb. My recipe includes tiny meatballs made of a spicy lamb mixture called merguez. If you are short on time, skip the meatball step, brown the ground lamb and then carry on with the Harira recipe. As with all soups, they are always better the second day so the spices blend and mellow. 
Merguez Meatballs

1 tsp. fennel seeds         
1 pound ground lamb
3 garlic cloves            
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander        
1 tsp. salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons hot sauce (or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne - more if you like it spicy)

Place fennel seeds in a pan and toast lightly on the stove. Watch them closely so they don’t burn. Place toasted fennel in a small food processor with garlic and process until chopped. Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.  If you have time, let the meat mixture set in the fridge overnight. This makes it easier to form into meatballs and lets the flavors develop.

Pinch off a small amount and roll into 1/2 to 3/4” meatballs. This sounds very small but the small size fits into a spoon and is perfect for this soup. Follow the recipe below for the soup.

Harira Soup

1 pound lamb merguez meatballs (see above)    
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion             
1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
1/2 cup finely chopped celery            
8 cloves garlic - finely chopped
1 small can tomatoes (14.5 oz)            
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon                
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. paprika (hot if you prefer)            
1 tsp. coriander
1 packet saffron (.13 grams)            
1 tsp. salt
2 quarts chicken, lamb or vegetable stock    
3/4 cup French green lentils
2 cans chickpeas                
1/2 cup Israeli couscous (or other very small pasta or rice)
fresh parsley and cilantro to garnish        
one lemon - sliced

In a large soup pot, brown the meatballs in the olive oil. Set the cooked meatballs aside. Cook the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until onions are transparent in the remaining oil and lamb fat. Add the tomatoes, spices, stock and lentils. Cook until the lentils are cooked through - about 30 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, couscous (or pasta or rice) and reserved meatballs. Cook until the pasta is done.  Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking.

If you have time, let the Harira sit for a day refrigerated. Serve with fresh parsley, cilantro and a squirt of lemon. 

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