Harira – Moroccan Chicken Soup

There are about as many variations on this recipe as there are families in Morocco, or so I’m told.  This one came to me through a book on world street food and takes a little preparation – but some of that can be short-cutted if you’re in a rush.

It’s rich, hearty, winter-warming, and I can’t make less than a small vat of the stuff.

Serves a family of 7 comfortably.  If you want to make more, use the quantities in brackets to serve a churchful of hungry lent-lunchers and still have enough left over to feed the family that night and over the weekend to come.  Seriously, I can’t seem to make a small quantity of this stuff.

Quick spin round the ingredients, Clive, then back to me.

  • 1 (2) Medium chicken (1.5kg ish)
  • 2 (8) tbsp butter
  • 2 (8) tbsp olive oil
  • 2 (6-7) large onions, sliced
  • 6 (all the garlic in the house) cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 1tsp (4) ground turmeric
  • 1tsp (4) ground cinnamon
  • 2 (8) large, ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 1 (4) cup dried chickpeas
  • 1 (2-3) cup short-grained rice
  • 1/2 (2) cup plain flour
  • Parsley
  • 2 (6) eggs
  • Lemons

The night before you want to make the soup…

Pressure cook the chicken.  Put in the pressure cooker with enough water to cover, add a carrot (broken into chunks), a quartered onion (skin still on), 2-3 tsp salt and a dozen or so whole black peppercorns.  I like to sling in a teaspoon or so of ground turmeric at this point.  20 minutes on high pressure, allow to cool.  Strain off the stock and keep it, separate the meat from the bones – shred the meat and save that, all the squidgy bits of carcass (including the soft, pressure-cooked bones) can go to the dog.  He’s now your bestest friend in the whole world EVER.

You can shortcut this by buying cooked chicken and using chicken stock you’ve already got, but if you make your own stock you can control the flavours so much more.

Dissolve the 1/2 cup plain flour in a cup of water and leave it to stand overnight.  Not found a way to shortcut this one.  Answers in the comments below, please!

Put the chickpeas in a bowl and cover with water until they’re about 3-4cm under.  They’re going to absorb the water and expand, so check on them and make sure they’re still covered at some point.  You can bypass this by using 2 tins of chickpeas as they’re pre-soaked for your convenience.

The Main Method

Big, deep, pan.  We’re talking stock pot, jam pan, that sort of thing.  Well, we are if you’ve quadrupled the ingredients.  You can probably get away with something smaller, but not a lot.  Heat the butter and oil, fry the sliced onions and garlic until soft and translucent.  Add the turmeric, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and diced tomatoes.  Simmer this until it reduces to a gorgeous thick sauce.  Smells fantastic at this stage.  Add the drained chickpeas, rice, chicken stock.  Simmer until the chickpeas are cooked through.  This takes about an hour, less if you’re using pre-soaked chickpeas.

If it starts to stick and looks really gloopy, add more stock.  The final consistency is pretty thick and sticky, but you want to serve it by the bowl, not by the slice.  It’s amazing how much liquid the rice soaks up, so just keep adding a cup or 2 of stock as required.  Each time you add stock, check the seasoning of the mix.  Chicken is remarkably bland, it’s amazing what a pinch of salt and a grate of pepper will do.

2 man job, this stage.  One to stir, one to pour.  First, pour in the flour and water mix into the soup in a thin, steady, stream.  The second person at this stage is to keep stirring to ensure it’s thoroughly mixed as it’s added in.  If you can persuade them to keep stirring for the next 15 minutes, go for it.  Otherwise, dismiss them for now, but let them know they’ll be needed again in a quarter of an hour.  Stir frequently throughout the next 15 minutes.

Add the shredded chicken meat back in, mix thoroughly, give it a couple of minutes then take it off the heat.  Chop the parsley, add and mix.  Finally, beat the egg and get your assistant back.  Just as with the flour, pour the beaten eggs into the soup, stirring all the while.

Last, but not least, juice the lemons and stir the juice in.

Serve with chunks of fresh bread.

You can adjust and adapt this recipe with whatever you happen to have on hand.  Got a load a lovely, fresh, chillies?  Add them in!

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