Harira is Morocco’s best-known, and best-loved, soup. Families eat this herb-rich,
tomato-based soup year-round. During Ramadan, however, it’s obligatory, and pots
of the soup simmer away in kitchens across the country. Accompanied by dates and
honeyed, flower-shaped cookies sprinkled with sesame seeds called chebakia, a bowl
of harira is the traditional way to break the fast. The velvety-smooth soup—whisking in
flour, or sometimes egg, at the end gives that distinct texture—is nourishing and easy on
an empty stomach.
I have enjoyed harira around numerous family tables and at street stalls—each version
has been different. As a woman in Fès once said to me, “There are as many recipes for
harira in Morocco as there are cooks.”
1 lb/455 g stewing beef, cut into 1⁄2-in/
12-mm cubes
1 cup/170 g finely chopped celery stalks,
tender green parts and leaves only
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1⁄3 cup/15 g loosely packed, finely chopped
fresh flat-leaf parsley
1⁄3 cup/15 g loosely packed, finely chopped
fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp butter, smen (see page 45), or olive oil
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Two 14-oz/410-g cans peeled whole tomatoes,
seeded and puréed with all the juices
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup/170 g canned chickpeas, rinsed
1⁄4 cup/30 g all-purpose flour
Juice of 1 lemon
1 oz/30 g vermicelli or angel hair pasta,
broken into 3⁄4-in/2-cm lengths
1 lemon, cut into wedges
12 dates, preferably mejhoul
12 dried figs
In a large soup pot, put the meat, celery, onion,
parsley, cilantro, butter, ginger, and cinnamon.
Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Cover
with 6 cups/1.5 L water, stir well, and bring to
a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low,
cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and chickpeas,
and stir in 1B⁄c cups/360 ml water. Cover
and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat,
warm 1 cup/240 ml water and whisk in the flour
and lemon juice. Remove from the heat, let sit for
10 minutes, and then whisk again.
Add the flour mixture to the soup in a slow
but steady stream while continually stirring.
Cook, stirring frequently to avoid any sticking,
for 10 minutes. Sprinkle in the vermicelli and
cook until the pasta is tender, about 5 minutes.
The texture of the soup should be velvety.
Serve in bowls with lemon wedges on the
side and with the dates and figs on a small platter.