Shake me, wake me…. Is this real? Ah yes, I’m here in Morocco, one of my favorite places on earth! I'm leading a small group on a Culinary Journey in Marrakech and before their arrival, I went to visit my friend Abdoul at his home in the old medina or center of town. Imagine this….
As the door to his home opened, exotic music, incense and the light of a thousand candles, poured into the alley. Inside, the central courtyard opened to the clear night sky and the gentle breeze stirred the date, palm and olive trees that grew towards the night stars and the nearly full moon above. A fountain, the centerpiece of the courtyard, trickled with water. Rose petals floated in the pool. Low tapestry pillows were spread around low brass tables on the intricate mosaic floors. It was here for the next several hours my friend Abdoul, his family and I shared a traditional Moroccan feast.
A bowl of the richest, most delicious peppery soup called harira, a minestrone‑like soup served with lemon wedges and fresh dates, is the typical dish served to begin the meal.
Harira has a long history whose roots come from the Berbers, indigenous North Africans from the mountains and deserts. It’s eaten throughout the year, but especially
during Ramadan, a period of atonement and forgiveness when fasting is done during daylight hours. When the bells chime to announce sundown, silence is heard in every Moroccan village as the families gather at the table and break their month‑long daytime fast with a big bowl of harira.
Abdoul's Harira was incredible. I could easily get used to this tradition!
Try it yourself:
1/2 cup dry chick peas
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds small lamb cubes, trimmed of all fat
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pulverized saffron threads
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup spaghetti, broken into small pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 cup fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
8 lemon wedges
Pick over the chick peas and discard any stones. Cover with water and soak for 4
hours or overnight.
In a large heavy soup pot over medium high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the lamb in a
single layer in batches and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned on all sides,
10 to 15 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the onions and celery and cook until the
onions and celery are soft, 12 minutes.
Puree the tomatoes, tomato paste, ginger, turmeric, saffron and 1 teaspoon black
pepper in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add the tomato mixture and the
lamb to the onions and celery. Add 6 cups of water, the lentil and chick peas and bring
to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered 2 hours until meat and chick
peas are very tender.
Thirty minutes before serving, add the beaten egg and stir briskly until it makes
strands. Add 2 cups water and the pasta and cook until tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper.
Increase the heat to medium high. Bring the soup to a boil. Blend the flour with 1 cup
water and add the mixture to the soup pot, mixing vigorously. Simmer slowly 5
minutes. Add cilantro, parsley and lemon. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and serve each bowl garnished with lemon wedges.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
P.S. Ready to make a Moroccan feast? Try these recipes that Chef Bahija of Jnane Tamsna and I created, too: