This tomato-based soup is a classic North African dinner, served especially in the winter and during Ramadan. Although unfamiliar as a dish, you might find something familiar in the mild, comfortable flavor. Harira tastes like a food I grew up with, even though I didn’t.
After tasting many versions of this soup in both North Africa and Spain, it’s the aroma that gets me every time. Nostalgia creeps in around the time I add the parsley and cilantro.
The recipe isn’t hard, but note that it takes a lot of stovetop time!
- 225 g (1/2 lb.) beef, diced into tiny pieces
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2-3 beef soup bones
- 1 kilo (2 lb.) tomatoes, cooked and pureed
- 1 handful garbanzos, soaked but not cooked
- 1 large onion, grated
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. ground ginger
- 1½ tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 handfuls dry lentils
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste combined with 2 c. water
- 1 stalk celery (with leaves), chopped
- 1 small bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
- 3 tbsp. broken vermicelli (I like to use whole wheat)
- 1/2 c. flour combined with 1 c. water (Although it’s not traditional, I use oat flour.)
Brown the beef in the olive oil.
Add the soup bones, pureed tomatoes, garbanzos, onion, spices, and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for an hour.
Add the lentils, tomato paste mixture, celery, parsley, cilantro, and 2-3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 90 minutes.
Add vermicelli and simmer until tender.
Thicken the soup to a silky, cream-like consistency by gradually adding the flour and water mixture, stirring constantly. Simmer soup for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add salt, pepper, or any of the other spices to taste. Serve in small soup bowls with large soup spoons… or slurp it right out of the bowl! Serves about 8.
Note: If you want a soup with a louder flavor, go light on the water that is added throughout the recipe. Everyone has their way of preparing this dish, so feel free to be creative.