This nourishing soup was originally a Bedouin dish that was adopted by Arab Muslims, and later by the Jews. Traditionally harira was served to break a fast, during Ramadan or for Yom Kippur, but today it is served throughout the year for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There are many variations of harira, but it is usually based on lentils or chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tomatoes, onion, garlic, herbs and spices, thickened with flour and delicately flavored with lemon juice. Sometimes vermicelli or orzo – small pellets of pasta the size of a grain of rice – is used instead of rice. — Paola Gavin, author of Hazana
- 1 Cup whole brown lentils
- 4 Tablespoons butter or ghee
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, thinly sliced
- 1 Teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 Teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1/2 Teaspoon saffron threads, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
- 1 Pound ripe plum tomatoes, peeled and forced through a sieve or pureed in a food processor
- 5 Cups hot water
- 1/2 Cup long-grain rice or orzo – or vermicelli, broken into 2cm (3/4 in) lengths
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon flour
- Juice of 1/2–1 lemon, to taste
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
Soak the lentils for 2 hours, then drain.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the onions, garlic and celery. Cook over a moderate heat for 2–3 minutes. Stir in the ground coriander, turmeric, saffron liquid and tomatoes. Add the lentils and the hot water and bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Add the rice and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the rice is tender but still firm.
Place the flour in a small bowl and mix with enough cold water to make a smooth paste. Add a few tablespoonfuls of the hot soup and mix well, then pour back into the pan and cook over a gentle heat for a further 10 minutes or until the flour is cooked and the soup is slightly thickened. Stir in the lemon juice and herbs and serve hot.
Recipes excerpted with permission from Hazana: Jewish Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin (Quadrille October 2017)