Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Morrocan Harira

For me nothing is more comforting or satisfying than tough cuts of meat that are seasoned and simmered in some kind of liquid over a long period of time. Hence my love of oxtail stew, beef stew, lamb curry and a popular Moroccan dish known as harira.

Harira is a dish that is used to break the fast during the Muslim season of Ramadan. It comes in so many different forms -- some using lamb, others beef; some using celery, others not; some using rice, others not; some using green beans, others not. I love this dish because it's a one-pot meal. The rice, lentils and garbanzos absorb the stock and turn it into a stew that doesn't require cornstarch, tomato paste or flour to thicken it.

There is also variety in terms of how harira is seasoned. I've seen recipes that use ginger, saffron, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, cilantro and parsley. These ingredients vary. But all the recipes I've seen use both cumin and cinnamon, giving the stew a distinctive taste associated with Moroccan cuisine. The one I used also included saffron, one of the world's most expensive spices. You don't need much of it for it to color and gently flavor the dish.

I also like the idea of ginger with meat so I put in about 1/2 tsp. of it.

I made this dish to serve to friends who came over for dinner. I decided to go all in on the Moroccan theme. I mixed cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, parsley, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil for a nice side salad. And I blended a bunch of mint with 3 limes (including the rind), a bit of sugar, and 32 ounces of water for a refreshing mint/lime juice.

The star of the meal, though, was the harira. My guests had seconds!


Harira (serves 6)

4 tbsp olive oil

300g/10½oz rump steak, finely chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 carrots, chopped

100g/3½oz red lentils

100g/3½oz green lentils

100g/3½oz rice

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 tsp ground cinnamon

large pinch saffron strands

3 tsp ground cumin

400g/14oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

200g/7oz canned tomatoes, chopped

2 litres/3½ pints beef stock

100g/3½oz vermicelli noodles

150g/5¼oz green beans, cut into 1cm/½in lengths

½ lemon, juice only

bunch fresh coriander, chopped

bunch fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped

To serve

warm bread



Preparation method

In a large saucepan, heat half the olive oil over a high heat and cook the steak until browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the onion, celery and carrots until softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Heat the remaining olive oil in the pan and add the lentils, rice, garlic, cinnamon, saffron and cumin to the pan.

Add the chickpeas, tomatoes and stock, along with the reserved meat and vegetables, and bring to the boil.

Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the vermicelli and the green beans and stir.

After a further five minutes, add the lemon juice, coriander and parsley.

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