San Francisco is expecting a huge rainstorm today. It’s cold by California standards, so it’s the perfect time for soup. Since you might be stuck inside, why not tackle a slightly more complicated one? This soup, harira, is special to me because it’s a recipe from Chef Mourad Lahlou, whose Michelin-starred restaurant, Mourad, I staged in (was an extern) during culinary school in 2016. It’s also special in Moroccan culture, as the traditional meal to break the fast during the month of Ramadan. On my trip to Morocco after graduating from culinary school, I tasted several different versions of this tomato-based lentil soup; no two were exactly the same. Chef Mourad’s version is, naturally, a cheffy one, with the dates which are traditionally eaten alongside the soup incorporated into it in the form of date balls, and the celery that it usually contains made into a celery salad garnish for extra crunch and freshness at the end. While this soup takes a long time, and many steps, to make, it’s simple in technique, with readily available ingredients. It also makes use of spices, powerhouses in both flavor and health.
Chef Mourad Lahlou’s Harira
Recipe adapted from Mourad: New Moroccan, Artisan, 2011.
Combine the following:
1 ½ tsp salt
½ T ground cumin
½ T ground coriander
½ tsp ground white pepper
¾ tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp saffron threads
6 Medjool dates
Extra virgin olive oil
Remove pit from each date. Cut in ½ lengthwise and then cut each half into 4 strips each. Roll each strip into a ball and keep covered in olive oil.
¾ cup green lentils, rinsed
Place lentils in 3 cups water, bring to a boil and simmer 10 to 12 minutes, rinse and keep in cold water unti ready to use.
½ bunch celery, diced into 1/8 inch dice (to make ½ cup)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T minced flat leaf parsley
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 cup tomato paste
4 qts plus ½ cup water
1 bunch cilantro (discard tough stems)
½ bunch flat leaf parsley
¾ pounds yellow onions—cut into chunks and processed into a mush in food processor
½ bunch celery, leaves only
3 T all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1/16 tsp active dry yeast
1 ½ T lemon juice
- Put tomato paste and 3 ½ qts water in stockpot over high heat. Whisk, then when boiling, reduce to gentle boil and cook for an hour, or reduced by ¼. (Take off heat if onions not yet ready.)
- Process together the onion mush, herbs and celery leaves, adding water if necessary, until almost liquefied.
- Transfer onion/herb mixture to a saucepan and stir in spice mixture. Add remaining 2 ½ cups water and bring to gentle boil over high heat, then simmer for another hour or until reduced by half.
- Stir reduced onion mixture into the stockpot with tomatoes, simmer for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until reduced by 1/3 to just over 2 quarts.
- Add cooked lentils and keep soup warm over low heat.
- Whisk together flour, water and yeast and let sit until foamy, about 10 mins.
- Add to flour mixture to soup, whisking constantly, then stir from bottom to prevent sticking until soup has thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice.
- To serve, put a spoonful of celery salad on one side of a soup plate and then next to it, 8 date balls. Ladle soup around the celery and date balls so some of the garnishes remain visible. Drizzle some of the celery olive oil and garnish with celery leaves.
Thanks for visiting! I’ll be demonstrating another Moroccan-inspired soup at Macy’s Union Square in San Francisco next Saturday, January 14th, so come on by! Following that, I’m teaching the inaugural Thrive Kitchen class on Soups and Salads of the World at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco, Mission Bay on Tuesday January 17th.
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