Vegetarian Harira - A Moroccan Chickpea & Green Lentil Soup

Vegetarian Harira - A Moroccan Chickpea & Green Lentil Soup

This 'Vegetarian Harira' recipe was a part of an article originally published in TheWashington Post Food section, on September 23, 2014. To curate my articles and recipes in one space, I am republishing it here, just before Yom Kippur eve, falling on September 27, this year. I republished on Foodwanderings the Quince Jam and Tunisian Bulo recipes. The other two recipes you can find in the link to the WaPoFood article, including Claudia Roden's kreplach. 

Vegetarian Harira - A Moroccan Chickpea and Green Lentil Soup

Harira means silk in Arabic. It is traditionally served during the month of Ramadan at the end of the dailyfast. It is also served at the end of the Yom Kippur fast by Moroccan and other North African Jews. There are many versions to this hearty lentil and chickpea soup. I bring you the vegetarian version.

Vegetarian Harira - A Moroccan Chickpea and Green Lentil Soup

4 tablespoons or less vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion (about 1 1/2-2 cups), peeled and diced
1 large stalk celery, diced
2 small celery from the inside of the stalk with leaves, diced and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 large beefsteak tomato (about 2 cups), stemmed and diced
4oz tomato sauce
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley, finely chopped
25oz can canned chickpeas (about  2 1/2 cups), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry green lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups water (plus 1 cup water or as needed as the lentils soak up the water and it evaporates)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/4-1/3 teaspoon cumin (according to taste)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4-1/3 teaspoon black pepper (according to taste)

1/2 cup pre-cooked Vermicelli noodles cooked as directed on package. Boil water and drop the vermicelli in to cook for 2 minutes. Immediately drain under cold water. (optional)

Wedges of 1-2 lemons to serve

In a large pot sauté the onions, celery and garlic with the oil on low/medium heat while mixing occasionally. When the vegetables are softened and the onions are translucent, after 5-7 minutes, add the tomatoes and give a quick stir. Let the tomatoes cook for a few minutes until soft then add the tomato sauce, cilantro, parsley, lentils and chickpeas and stir. Cover with 4 cups of water, add the salt, cumin, turmeric and black pepper and mix. Bring to a boil, give a quick stir, and reduce the heat to low/medium heat, a low boil. Add the extra cup of water as necessary. Cook covered with the lid on for at least an hour at minimum or until lentils are silky soft.

Serve with a some vermicelli noodles and squeeze a wedge of lemon or to taste before serving.

This soup can be made up to five days ahead and freezes well. Freeze in small batches.

Author's notes:

If you do not wish to dice and chop by hand, you can process the onion, celery, tomato, cilantro and parsley, each individually, through a rough chop, in the food processor.  The food processor step makes this soup super easy to make.

This soup is typically made with lamb, beef or chicken but the vegetarian version is plenty hearty without any meat in it.

Flour is usually added to the soup as a thickening agent or in some cases a roux that was made ahead. I do skip this step as I find the soup hearty enough. I also like to pre-cook the vermicelli separately, and add to each serving dish, as needed, so that the vermicelli won't get mushy in a reheating or cooking process. I often do not add the vermicelli.

At times saffron and cinnamon is added to this recipe. 

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