Twice as Tasty

Harira (Moroccan Tomato Lentil Soup)

This filling vegetarian soup traditionally breaks a Ramadan fast but can showcase Montana-grown and homemade ingredients

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

In my recent lentil workshop for Free the Seeds, I shared numerous recipes made with lentils, including this Moroccan soup. I tasted many versions of it while traveling in the country, always vegetarian because it is traditionally served to break the Ramadan fast. When I returned to the United States, I built my variation with easy-to-find dried green or brown lentils and chickpeas.

I soak and precook the lentils because they’ll soften completely anyway, but you can add them later if you’re preparing extra chickpeas for, say, Roasted Garlic Hummus. The technique I share here just needs a stockpot, but other tools, such as a pressure cooker, will speed up the process.

This soup can showcase homegrown and homemade ingredients. Use dry-stored or grilled and frozen onions, and empty a bag of still-frozen small tomatoes or larger chunks right into the pot. Homegrown cilantro frozen as a pesto-style base can be dropped in by the cube. Crumble in mint dehydrated last fall for tea as you wait for the garden’s perennial to splay its first leaves.

Harissa, a North African chile paste, adds a distinctive flavor to this soup. It’s so delicious and easy to make that I included a recipe in The Complete Guide to Pickling. Local natural-food stores sometimes carry a commercial brand. The same amount of a different chile paste, such as sambal oelek or garlic-chili paste, will give a similar heat but different flavor.

Harira (Moroccan Tomato Lentil Soup)

Serves 8-10

2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

1-1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils, soaked overnight

3 quarts plus 1/4 cup water, divided

2 large onions

16 ounces frozen or canned tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon arrowroot

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons harissa

1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

8 leaves dried or fresh mint, crumbled or chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a colander, rinse the chickpeas and lentils briefly under cool water; pour them into a stockpot, cover with a couple of inches of cold water and soak 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans before returning them to the stockpot with 3 quarts of fresh water and bringing it to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, until the chickpeas are tender.

Stir the onions, tomatoes with any juice, ginger, turmeric, cumin and cinnamon into the beans. Cover the pot loosely and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour, adding water as needed.

In a small cup, dissolve the arrowroot in the remaining 1/4 cup of cold water to make a paste. Add a few tablespoons of hot soup, stir it in thoroughly and return the mixture to the pot. Stir vigorously until the soup thickens without lumps. Add the lemon juice, harissa, cilantro, mint, salt and pepper. Stir well and cook over low heat for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.