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Dash to the Sahara

Passport & Plate - Moroccan Harira (Lamb and Chickpea Soup)

Morocco | Thursday, 13 March 2014 | 5 photos


Ingredients
1kg bonless lamb leg, diced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large brown onion, sliced
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 red chilli (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of paprika
1 bay leaf
2 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
1 Litre of veal or beef stock
1 400g tin of chickpeas
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt
Pepper
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
Coriander leaves to serve

 

How to prepare this recipe
Trim the lamb of any excess fat and dice into 2cm cubes.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based stock pot or saucepan, add the onion, garlic and chilli and cook over a low heat until the onion is translucent.

Add the lamb, increase the heat to medium and stir until the lamb changes colour.

Add the spices to the pot and cook until fragrant (approximately 1 minute). Add the tomato paste and stir for two minutes. Add the stock to the pan, stir and bring to the boil.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add to the pan along with the tinned tomatoes and chopped herbs. Stir and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours uncovered, stirring occassionally. Season with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Cooking this recipe for longer over a low heat will make the soup richer and the lamb more tender. I recommend at least 6 hours if possible. If the soup becomes too thick for your liking, simply add smal amounts of hot water to thin it out.

Serve with cous cous or warm flatbread.

 

The story behind this recipe
My recipe is inspired by a meal I had at the end of a whirlwind visit to the Sahara Desert. Our visit to Morocco was taken on a whim. My friend Kate and I had travelled to the Southern Spanish coastal town of Tarifa when the twinkling lights of Tangier beckoned us over the water.

The next day, a two hour ferry trip over the very choppy Gibraltar Straight saw us arrive in Tangier as the sun began to set over the town, turning the white terraces of the Old Medina a shade of burnt orange, the sound of the call to prayer echoing through the air.

After a night in one of Tangier's whitewashed riads, we set off for Chefchaouen, a town notable for its varying shades of blue at the base of the Rif Mountains. We were visiting the souk (an open air marketplace) to shop for souvenirs where we met a blacksmith (yes, they still exist!)

Next to his anvil was a dog-eared, laminated poster advertising Sahara trips from Fez. He explained that his cousin runs the tours and if we paid him a deposit, his cousin would meet us in Fez and escort us to the desert in his 4 wheel drive.

Throwing caution to the wind, we paid the man a deposit and made our way by bus to Fez where we were duly met by the man's cousin, Noureddine. After a tour of the market and a night in a hotel, we took off at daybreak to the desert, arriving at a small hotel on the edge of the dunes where we dropped our bags.

The trip by camel to the campsite was something I'll never forget. Berber guides led us under cover of darkness to a semi-permanent campsite where we we greeted by the crackle of a roaring fire.

After a spectacular night under the stars, we returned to Fez when Noureddine invited us to dine with him in his home. A steaming tagine of harira was presented and promptly devoured and it's a memory I'll never forget. I'm still friends with Noureddine to this day.

Every time I cook harira it brings back many fond memories of my travels and reminds me that the best experiences are rarely planned.

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