For the second challenge in The Project Food Blog 2010, I was asked to select an ethnic classic that is outside of my comfort zone.
Challenge number two was surprisingly difficult for me especially deciding what to cook. My challenge was finding an ethnic food that I am uncomfortable cooking. Every week, I regularly make ethnic dishes and am very comfortable cooking Swedish, Thai, Korean, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Vietnamese and Chinese food. I promised myself that the challenge had to be from a country I have never been to or cooked their food. I really had to take out a globe and start looking. Then I came up with a few ideas Albanian, Bolivian, etc. But those didn’t sound very interesting, so then I went to my travel to do list. Which places are on my list for vacation that I still have not been to? Here I found the place – Morocco. I have never been to Morocco, I have eaten Moroccan food and I love their flavors and spices. But I have never cooked it. So then I started doing research on traditional Moroccan food. I was like a little kid in a candy store.
Moroccan cuisine is extremely diverse, and has influences of Berber, Moorish, Mediterranean, and Arab spices. As a result, Moroccan cuisine is regarded as the most diverse in the world. Spices are used extensively in Moroccan food such as saffron, mint, cinnamon cumin, turmeric, ginger, anise, and coriander; spices that are strong and aromatic and just make the house smell wonderful.
The most common Moroccan dish is couscous, something I really enjoy but it is too easy to make. As I continued down the list of traditional Moroccan dish, I found Pastilla, Tajine, and Harira. All three dishes sounded amazing, but I ended up picking Harira since it is a soup and I am a huge soup lover, I knew it would be something I would make again for dinner.
Harira is a chickpea and lamb soup from Morocco usually served in the evening when it’s time for Muslims to break the daily fast during Ramadan. In Morocco, it is eaten along with fresh figs, or honey sweetmeats (chabakkia with almonds and honey).
I looked around for Harira recipes and there are many versions; vegetarian, beef and lamb. Since I am also a lamb lover I opted for a Lamb Harira recipe. Also there are many additional variations of this recipe some use saffron some do not, I do not know if this is because it’s hard to get or not. But I opted for a recipe I found in the New York Times but I decided to add saffron to it since that is what I was reading was authentic. Also I opted to use the vermicelli pasta vs. the rice, you can add rice, vermicelli pasta or both.
As I was cooking this dish the house smelled wonderful and I wanted to start planning my trip to Morocco.
The dish was delicious, so tasty and flavorful. It is something I will definitely make again.
Harira – Moroccan lamb and lentil soup
Yields: 12 servings | Prep Time: 2 hour 30 minutes
Note: If you are using dried lentils and garbanzo beans leave them in water overnight
4 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 red onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 lbs cubed lamb meat
2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 tsp of ground coriander
6 saffron threads (optional)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 carrot, chopped
1 turnip, chopped
1/4 of fresh coriander leaves, chopped or whole or substitute with fresh parsley.
1 29-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tomato, chopped
1 1/2 cups green lentils
2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans, drained
6 ounces vermicelli pasta
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Juice of 2 lemons
12 cups water
In a large pot, warm olive oil. Add both types of onion and garlic, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. On the side heat up a skillet with oil and when hot brown the lamb about 1 minute each on each side. Then add lamb, turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cayenne, celery, cumin, coriander, saffron and cilantro, into the pot and let cook, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Season with salt.
Add canned tomatoes, reserving juice, and tomato and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add reserved tomato juice, carrot, turnip, 12 cups water and lentils. Bring mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
Increase heat to medium-high. Add beans and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to a simmer. Taste for seasoning.
Beat the eggs and add some hot soup to the eggs to make sure you do not get scrambled eggs. Then pour the mixture back into the soup and , then add lemon juice.
Add fresh coriander just before serving or substitute with fresh parsley.
Ladle into bowls and serve with fresh figs on the side.
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