It is easy to get so wrapped up in the excitement of trying new things that time momentarily becomes irrelevant; a peaceful meditation of chopping, measuring, stirring, smelling, and finally enjoying the creation at hand. It is inspiring to work with different flavor profiles and see what works well together. It was not without some hesitation that the tender lamb was dropped back into the melange of spices, but this shall be the best victory yet! A new favorite for the family, spanning three generations at the table last night!
Harira is a North African lamb and chickpea stew that is a popular Iftar meal during Ramadan to break the daily fasts. Like most recipes, there are many variations. The one highlighted here can be found at http://www.whats4eats.com.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound lamb, cubed for stew(lamb leg was used in this preparation)
1 large onion
2 stalks celery(doubled this amount)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
Big pinch Saffron(used 4 envelopes from Sicily)
2 Cups chopped tomatoes(used canned San Marzano that I crushed)
2 quarts water or stock(used one quart organic chicken stock, one quart water and one vegetable bullion)
2 cups cooked and drained chickpeas
1/2 cup lentils
Salt and pepper to taste(don’t forget that salt brings out the favors so don’t this was definitely needed)
1/2 cup chopped Cilantro
1/2 cup chopped Parsley
2 lemons cut into wedges
Sauté the onions until they are translucent, add the spices and sauté for another 1-2 minutes. Here it was necessary to remove from heat so that it was possibly to prevent sticking to the pot.
Stir in the tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Pour in stock and return the meat to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 45 minutes.
Add the chickpeas and lentils and simmer for another 20 minutes. When 5 minutes are remaining, add the thickening agent(see below)
This stew is traditionally thickened with a type of sourdough starter; for this recipe 1/4 cup tomato paste, 3/4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of flour were mixed together.
Also added one cup of soup pasta.
Adjust seasoning, stir in the cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges for diners to squeeze into their bowls.
And now a short review:
There is a citrus note apparent from the cilantro and ginger, though the addition of the lemon is refreshing and adds even more depth. Hearty and flavorful, it is evident how this meal could become a favorite to break a daily fast. It is complex with all the spices, yet earthy and simple enough to be enjoyed by three generations of Italian-Americans, who are not accustomed to North African cuisine. This soup was a delightful surprise and has already been requested for future gatherings. It will definitely become a favorite in my kitchen!
Thank you to my dining companions for their open, willingness to try what I set out for them. Also, thank you to my husband, who loves food as much as I, and has helped in some seasoning, plating, and of course enjoying these meals.
See you again soon from Andorra!