Harrira (Moroccan Soup)

Saffron threads

Serves 4 as a main course

Here is a recipe that uses lots of spices – Harrira.  Authentic Harrira is a Moroccan soup made with lamb but I use beef in my version as it is easier to come by and generally a lot cheaper.  Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – many of them are just spices.  It is easy to make, it is a convenient one-pot meal, and it demonstrates how food can taste fantastic when you get the flavouring right.

(Note: if you do use lamb instead of beef in this dish, it can throw off a lot of fat, so it is best to pre-cook the dish then allow it to cool (or better still, chill in the fridge over night).  The fat will then come to the surface and can be skimmed off quite easily.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground coriander
1 pinch saffron threads
1 kg beef knuckle or shin beef, trimmed & cut into bite sized pieces
6 large celery sticks, chopped
2 green peppers, deseeded and diced
2 green chillies, deseeded and diced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 ½ litres beef stock (made with 2 Oxo cubes)
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 teaspoons sugar
Red wine vinegar (optional)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained

Heat the oil and sauté the onions until soft.  Add the spices and sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the beef and sauté, stirring until hot.  Add the celery, peppers and chillies and sauté until starting to soften.  Add the tomatoes, stock, salt, pepper and sugar.  Cover and bring to simmering point.  Cook in the oven or simmer gently on the hob for 1 ½ hours.

Check the seasoning and add salt, pepper, cayenne, red wine vinegar and/or sugar as necessary.  The aim is to get a good balance between salt, spice, sweet and sour.  Add the chickpeas and simmer for a further 30 minutes.

Once cooked, this dish can be cooled and stored in a fridge for a couple of days.  To reheat, simply bring it slowly to a boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.