Every day during the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and every day the delicious scent of soups spreads through Moroccan streets and homes, a rich soup called harira.
The dates of Ramadan are never known in advance. The Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, which depends on the visibility of the crescent moon.
This is why on the 29th day of Châabane, the month before Ramadan, Muslims around the world observe the sky in search of the hilal (crescent moon). If they see it, Ramadan begins the day after. Otherwise, the month of fasting begins 2 days later and lasts 30 days. Because of this difference of a day, the dates of Ramadan vary by country.
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. This is a period of reflection during which Muslims can’t eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from sunrise to sunset. Only sick people, women who are menstruating, pregnant or lactating women, the elderly and prepubescent children are exempt from this fast.
Thus, Muslims are supposed to pray, reflect on the place of faith in their life and focus on how to develop their human qualities such as patience, kindness, compassion and humility.
At nightfall, observant Muslims gather with family and friends to eat a festive meal, and it often includes harira.
There are a total of three meals that punctuate Muslim tables in a few hours:
- “Al Ftour” is the meal to break the fast after sunset
- “Al h’chaa” is the next meal. It takes place a few hours after Al Ftour
- “S’Hour” is the meal before sunrise
What is harira?
Harira is a rich soup, with which all Moroccans break their fast, accompanying it with dates, hard-boiled eggs or sweet cakes according to individual tastes.
During the month of Ramadan, you can smell fresh cilantro and vegetables from all the kitchens early in the afternoon. All of these smells revealed the preparation of this jewel of Moroccan cuisine.
Every Moroccan loves this soup enough to take 3 to 4 bowls of it, and everyone knows the recipes of at least three or four regional variations. The recipe presented here is the Fassi harira (harira el fassia) or harira from Fez.
Many Moroccans say that the real harira is the one from Fez. With fourteen centuries of rich culinary history, this imperial city, very close to traditions, offered recipes worthy of its fame to famous cookbooks of the country. Fassi cuisine, renowned to be noble and elitist, distinguishes itself by its sophistication.
What is the origin of harira?
When it comes to the origins of harira, there is a soup with 7 ingredients called harira mentioned by the scholars of Quran, Ahmed Ibn Hanbal and Mohamed el Bukhari. Our soup is supposed to be part of the food of farmers throughout the Arab world before the Hijra.
It certainly did not exist in its current Moroccan form and its variations were multiple:
- khatifa: porridge cooked in milk and accompanied by salted butter
- khazira: boiled bran, accompanied by diced meat
- rista: pieces of boiled meat, chickpeas, lentils and hand-rolled vermicelli
- hsuwa: almost the same ingredients as the current harira
- bufertuna: a variation with a curious name, still prepared today in the capital, Rabat, but also by some Fassis. It is a simplification of the Spanish buena fortuna meaning good fortune or good luck. Its peculiarity is that the thickening agent includes baker’s yeast.
As for the etymology of the word harira, it may come from heat (harrara), spicy (harr), desire (harara), porridge made of flour and fat (harira), hearth (harr), silk (harir), free man (horr) and a host of other meanings including the female abdomen (har).
Highly nutritious, this soup composed mainly of chickpeas, lentils, vermicelli or rice and meat can also be prepared in a vegetarian version, a version as delicious as the original.
Each country in the world has a popular dish that perfectly illustrates the legacy of its ancestors as well as its pride, and harira is part of it.
Moroccan cuisine is not just pastilla, couscous and tajine. The traditional recipes of Moroccan cuisine, just like harira, feature an array of flavors and colors for the pleasure of the eyes and the taste.
- 1 lb beef (shank, chuck or cheek), chopped
- 1 marrow bone
- 3 onions
- 5 stalks celery (with leaves)
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 6 tomatoes
- Juice of 2 lemons (or more to taste)
- 2 (6 oz. / 180 g) cans tomato paste
- 2 cubes chicken bouillon
- 1 cup yellow lentils
- 1 cup chickpeas (soaked for 8 hours)
- 1 cup vermicelli
- 5 tablespoons flour , diluted in 2 cups of boiling salted water (prepare 5 minutes before the end of cooking)
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- In a pressure cooker, put the tomatoes, onions, half the cilantro bunch, tomato paste, celery, ginger, and bouillon cubes.
- Cover with water. Boil for 20 minutes at high heat and mix with the hand blender until reaching a velvety texture.
- Add everything else but the flour / water mixture, vermicelli and lemon. Cover generously with water. Add salt and pepper.
- Close the pressure cooker and cook for 1 hour total: 30 minutes over medium heat 30 minutes on medium-low.
- Open the pressure cooker, add the flour and water mixture prepared at the last minute and stir well.
- Add the vermicelli and stir constantly over medium-low heat until cooked.
- Add salt and pepper again if needed.
- Pour the lemon juice into the pan and add the other half of the bunch of cilantro.