February, the beginning of Spring. The Sun is just starting to make inroads into our lives again as the frost vanishes, not to be seen for another 9 months. Who am I kidding? My phone is telling me that it’s -2 degrees outside and the entire ground is frozen. I think we should just accept that Spring doesn’t really begin until May here and save ourselves the disappointment. I can’t say that it bothers me too much although my recently dug vegetable garden is frozen solid, leaving me no chance of loosening the soil anytime soon. Not to worry, there’s always March.
Morocco is far hotter than Ireland. Right now, it’s 21 degrees hotter in Agadir than it is in Newbridge. If I could hop on a plane right now, away from the freezing Irish weather, it would surely be to Morocco. I would land on the tarmac and gaze out at the scorched earth, waiting for the heat to penetrate the plane as soon as the doors were opened. I would take a bus to my hotel, a cheap yet surprisingly practical building near the edge of town. I would have a sleep with the windows wide open before venturing into town, ravenous with hunger. I would stop at a small, run-down cafe and order a bowl of Harira……
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
300g Lamb Shoulder (trimmed of fat, cut into 1cm dice)
1 Onion (finely chopped)
1 stick of Celery (finely chopped)
2cm piece of Ginger (grated)
1 clove of Garlic (finely chopped)
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground Coriander
1 tbsp Harissa Paste (optional)
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
1 400g Tin of Tomatoes
1/2 tsp Sugar
500ml Stock (Lamb, Chicken or Vegetable)
1 400g Tin of Chickpeas (drained)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
Natural Yoghurt and Coriander to serve
Choose a heavy bottom pan, large enough to hold the finished Harira soup. Heat half the oil over a medium-high heat and add the lamb. Season liberally with salt and pepper and fry until browned all over. Remove the lamb from the pan.
Set the pan back over the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the onion and celery and fry for 2 minutes before adding a pinch of salt and turning the heat down to medium-low. Allow the vegetables to cook, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes until softened. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the meat back to the pan before stirring in the spices, harissa paste and tomato puree. Cook for 5 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes, stock and sugar. Scrape the bottom of the pan with a flat bottomed wooden spoon (to remove any stuck on bits) before turning up the heat. Once it comes to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, add the drained chickpeas and a pinch of salt. Put the lid back on and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. If the soup is too thick you can add a little water and bring back to a boil. If it’s not thick enough you can add a little roux or simmer uncovered for 10-15 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. Check for seasoning and serve the Harira with a dollop of natural yoghurt and a sprinkling of chopped coriander.