Ever since I can remember, my family has often enjoyed dinner at a local Sacramento restaurant, Casablanca.
Alongside of a series of delicious dishes, we would order Harira – a traditional, hearty Moroccan soup with a nice kick of flavor.
I never had had the chance to ask the owner of Casablanca, Abdel Moghith, for his recipe. I was probably too embarrassed or just assumed he’d never share it. But over time, I found out that my dear Khalto (Aunt) Leena had her own special Harira recipe.
She shared it with my mother and I, and now I get to share it with you.
Serves 6-8 people
*Note: This is a lot of soup! And it’s super filling. I usually make a big pot and freeze the rest to enjoy another day 🙂
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-11/2 lbs beef or lamb, cubed*
2 small onions or 1 large onion, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
5-6 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 cup brown lentils
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 can tomato Sauce
7+ cups water
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup mini pasta (Orzo, Pastina, or Vermicelli)
1+ tablespoon Salt
1/2+ tablespoon black Pepper
1/4-1/2 tablespoon Red Cayenne Pepper (optional)
*Look for a boneless cut of meat. I’ve used everything from Stew Meat Chunks to Fillet Mignon (Yeah, I know, kind of bougie — but it’s so tender!). You can also opt out of using meat entirely or replace it for an ingredient like potatoes or sweet potatoes.
Step 1: Finely chop up the onion, celery, parsley and cilantro. If you want to save some time and energy, use a food processor.
Step 2: If you’re using meat, trim off any fat and slice into cubed pieces. I like them to be about 1/2 inch size cubes or smaller but size is personal preference.
Step 3: Sauté the onion in olive oil until translucent. Then add finely chopped cilantro and parsley. Stir for a minute or two until all the herbs have cooked down.
Step 4: Add the meat to the mix and stir. Continue to cook until meat is fully browned in color. Add the celery and allow the ingredients to combine as you stir for another minute or so.
Step 5: Rinse the lentils and then add them to the mix. Then add tomato paste and mix. It’s going to look like a chunky, sticky mess.
Step 6: Pour in 1/2 the can tomato sauce and water. Now it looks like a soup! Sprinkle salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Give it a taste and add more salt/spice if needed.
Step 7: Bring to a boil then cover with a lid and turn down to low-medium heat. Simmer until the meat is tender. The longer stew meat cooks, the more tender it will be. This should take anywhere from approximately 45-60 minutes.
Step 8: Add the pasta. The pasta may seem little for such a big pot of soup, but it will will expand and keep in mind it’s going to absorb some liquid too.
Step 9: Bring soup back up to a boil. Once the pasta is tender and cooked, add the garbanzo beans and allow it to boil for another 2 min or so and then your soup is complete.
*Note: If at the end you feel like your soup has absorbed a significant amount of liquid, feel free to add a little more water and/or tomato sauce more until you have reached your desired consistency. Don’t forget to taste for salt, pepper – you may need more because you’ve added more liquid. Give it a taste to make sure.