Alright guys, I’m not going to lie. I’m kind of over Ramadan this year.
Before you go judging me, hear me out. Yes, time spent with family and loved ones is indeed priceless, and the slower pace is a refreshingly welcome change, but I’ve simply had it with the perpetual exhaustion and energy drain.
The issue with having Ramadan in the summer (aside from the sweltering desert heat) is that the later sunset time means an after-hours social life that extends well into the work-week, leaving you sleep deprived, grumpy and, in my case, hangry. Let the record show that I am 80 years old, and not a fan of staying up till 3 AM on the regular.
In any case, in the spirit of the holy month I have vowed to remain positive and gracious. Let’s focus on the things that make a day without food and water truly worthwhile.
Like a bowl full of piping-hot vegan Moroccan-style Harira soup.
I have long been a fan of Harira – a traditional Moroccan mainstay soup consisting of pulses, vegetables, a melange of fragrant spices and often some meat or chicken. A Moroccan family friend and neighbour used to bring us some daily during Ramadan when I was little, and I remember lapping up every last spoonful with pleasure.
More recently though, it had been years since I’d had it. It always seemed to daunting to attempt at home and was pretty much never vegan-friendly at restaurants or supermarkets (I’m looking at you, Tesco’s Finest soups). It was only when a good friend brought some of her mother’s mouth wateringly delicious rendition to a weekend potluck iftar that I remembered how much I was missing out on.
- 1½ tbsp coconut oil
- 1 large white onion, sliced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 stalks of celery, finely sliced
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp groundnutmeg
- ¼ tsp red chilli powder (increase or reduce based on personal preference)
- ½ tsp grated fresh ginger
- ½ tsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 800 ml vegetable stock or water
- 1½ cup cooked chickpeas
- ½ cup green lentils, uncooked
- ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
- ⅓ cup each of fresh coriander and parsley, finely chopped
- Juice from half a lemon
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Start by sauteeing the onion, carrots and celery with the coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add a pinch of sea salt and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes until soft.
- Add in garlic, spices and tomato puree, then turn up the heat and cook for 3-5 ore minutes until fragrant.
- Add the tomatoes, stock, chickpeas, lentils and quinoa and allow to simmer before turning down the heat and covering. Allow it to cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding water as needed.The soup is done when vegetables are cooked through and lentils are tender.
- Remove from heat then taste to adjust seasonings before stirring in the fresh herbs and lemon juice. Serve piping hot.
I should preface this by saying that I cannot claim that my Harira is traditional in any way. The addition of ingredients like quinoa and coconut oil is pretty unconventional and I’m sure that it is one of those dishes that is inevitably prepared differently in every household.
That said, traditional or not, this stuff is incredible. Immensely flavourful, super hearty, and a true treat for the senses on account of the rich texture and fragrant aroma. (Side note: please excuse the wobbly lines and inconsistent pattern on my bowl. As you can probably guess, it’s hand painted, and yes, I will stick to blogging in the future. Art was never my forte.)
Some notes, for your cooking pleasure:
- Most harira recipes call for dried chickpeas, but I prepared this on a whim today after work (thank you Ramadan cravings), so I opted for pre-cooked chickpeas instead. If you decide to use dried chickpeas, you’ll have to soak them overnight beforehand and probably cook for about 15 mins more.
- Not a fan of quinoa? Try some brown rice, millet or even bulghur. The addition of grain makes this soup into a meal-worthy dish, not to mention upping the protein content.
- The ingredient list may seem a little long, but it’s mostly the spices and it comes together in a cinch.
I even had time to make an accompanying salad.
Roasted butternut squash, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate pearls on a bed of mixed local lettuce.
But back to the star of today’s show.
Make this soup, soon. You will want seconds, I can almost guarantee it.