Are you looking for a hearty vegetarian soup that will put “meat” on your bones? Then this Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (Harira) is just for you.
This hearty and easy to make soup is perfect for the cold winter days we are having here in the north. Although I have never made it in a slow cooker, I am sure it is quite adaptable. Either way, your house will smell wonderful when this soup is cooking.
One adaptation is the use of lamb.
You see, according to a student from Morocco who attends the university where I work, this is a typical dish to eat during Ramadan. It is what you eat at sunset to break the fast.
When you dig into a bowl of this Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (Harira) you won’t need anything else. It’s that satisfying. This soup reheats beautifully, and also freezes well.
Now, if you want to be 100% authentic, then you need to use dry chickpeas that have been soaked overnight. The cooking time will be longer though. For this recipe, I was in a bit of a hurry, so I used canned chickpeas. Make sure you drain and rinse them. For the lentils, I did use dry lentils because they don’t take too long to cook.
Minimal spices, max flavor
Now, given the rich taste and aroma, you’d think that this recipe uses tons of spices. Not so! Turmeric, cumin, paprika, and a dash of cinnamon. That’s it. The cinnamon is not as strange as it sounds; it gives an incredible depth to the already rich flavors in this soup.
Apart from its incredible flavors, this Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (Harira) is VERY healthy. It is packed with protein that comes from the chickpeas, and iron that comes from the lentils. Both chickpeas and lentils have been around for millennia. Chickpeas have been cultivated since around 3,000 B.C. Like many of the foods we know today, they originated in the Fertile Crescent. From there they spread to India, Africa, and Egypt. Eventually they made their way to Europe where they were a favorite of the ancient Roman diet.
An ancient legume
Lentils, like chickpeas, are an ancient crop. Actually they are even older, with the oldest record of cultivation dating back to around 5,500-5,000 BC. Lentils were a valuable crop because they made up for the protein needs which could not be obtained from cereals.
The lowly parsley which is often relegated to the job of garnish is also rich in nutrients. This is worth mentioning since there is 1/2 cup of this herb in this recipe. Parsley is rich in vitamin C and iron.
Here’s a culinary tip: I mix all the spices together, and then, also the herbs (separate dishes). Especially with the spices, I find that they mix more evenly.
Make a batch of Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (harira) and share the recipe with your friends.
If you want to explore more Moroccan recipes here are a few you can try that are very easy to make. I have two dishes for a tagine style chicken that you can easily make in a slow cooker. The Moroccan chicken tagine has a nice balance of sweet and savory flavors with apricots, an exotic spice blend and topped with sliced potato. Another tagine dish to try is Moroccan saffron chicken with savory delicate flavors. Moroccan country bread or khobz maghribi is a simple bread that is traditionally used as a utensil to soak up all the wonderful juices of those tasty tagine dishes.
Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup (Harira)
This Moroccan chickpea and lentil soup (harira) is hearty and delicious. You can adapt it to make it vegan by substituting the chicken broth for vegetable broth. Turmeric, cumin, and paprika are the main spices. A dash of cinnamon adds incredible depth.
Place all the spices in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.
In a soup pot heat the olive oil on medium Sauté the onions, carrots, and celery until onions are translucent.
Sprinkle with cornstarch and stir a few times.
Sprinkle the spice mixture, and stir.
Add the vegetable and chicken broth. Using an immersion blender, break up the solids a little bit, but not too much.
Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the parsley, cilantro, chickpeas, lentils, and crushed tomatoes.
Turn heat down to medium, and cook for 25 minutes.