Harira is an earthy, spicy, hearty Moroccan soup, often eaten to break the Ramadan fast. I like to close my eyes and imagine myself sitting round a camp fire under the stars somewhere near the Atlas Mountains. This is a high-risk strategy as eating soup with your eyes shut is generally not to be recommended unless you're drinking it out of a mug.
That would be tricky as harira, thick with chickpeas and lentils, is best eaten with a spoon. It's a main course in itself and perfect for a cold, damp winter's day. It can be made with meat, often lamb, but this is veg-heavy version: as ever, adapt to your own tastes. I used home-made chicken stock as a base but a good vegetable broth works too.
If you have time, leave it to sit and thicken up for anything up to 24 hours and re-heat when you want to eat. Try it with warmed flatbreads for dunking and scooping.
Harira with Root Vegetables (serves 2-4)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
2-3 stalks of celery, diced
3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
About 140g swede, peeled and diced
2 tspn ground cumin
2 tspn hot smoked paprika
1 tspn ground turmeric
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1 tspn ground ginger
Large pinch of saffron strands, crumbled and soaked in a little hot water
1 tbsp tomato puree
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped, skinned if preferred
About 250g tinned or bottled chickpeas
125g green lentils (or 100g green and 25g red)
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper, to taste
The juice of 1/2 lemon plus extra lemon chunks to serve
Large handful each of chopped fresh coriander.and parsley
Heat the oil in a deep pan and gently fry the onions and celery until soft and golden. Add the carrots, sweet potato, swede and garlic, stir to coat in oil and cook for five minutes more.
Now add the spices, except the saffron, stir and cook off for a few minutes. Pour in the saffron with its water, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree, the drained chickpeas and lentils, stirring again to coat in the spicy mixture. I like to use a handful of red lentils in addition to the green ones, to thicken the soup.
Add the stock and bring to a boil. Put a lid on at a tilt and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender and the flavours have blended. Stir in the lemon juice and most of the herbs, reserving a few to garnish.
Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper and more lemon juice, to taste. Ladle into deep bowls and serve with extra lemon to squeeze over.