Our last Bibliofemme bookclub – for The Rum Diaries by Hunter S Thompson – was held at my flat on a rapidly-darkening autumn evening. The previous evening had been cold and dreary as I walked home from my webmaster course so I decided to start a soup, leave it sit overnight, and then finish it off as the girls arrived. I’d recently come across a Julie Le Clerk‘s version of Harira in an old copy of Cuisine so this was a good opportunity to try it out. I had made a meatless version of this last year in Christchurch but this time I was going to make a meal in a bowl, stuffed with lamb, lentils, chickpeas and, after a look at Claudia Roden’s version of the fast-breaking soup, haricot beans.
With the onset of cooler weather, the amount of cooking and baking in my house has increased, if not the recent writing about it. It’s no longer torturously hot in our tiny kitchen if the oven is on and, as a result, I’ve gotten back into baking old reliables like Brown Soda Bread and our favourite Chocolate Flapjacks as well as trying out new recipes for Bill Granger‘s Coconut Loaf (especially good toasted), Peanut Butter Cookies (very moreish) from current favourite cookbook, Comfort by Michele Cranston and a zesty Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf that I decided to make in homage to the tasty muffins that I usually get in Dún Laoghaire from the California Market Bakery.
The Middle Eastern soup Harira has cropped up in several of the different cookbooks and magazines that I’ve been reading lately. It’s a thick, near solid, nourishing soup (it can be so thick that it’s close to getting called a stew!) which was traditionally served to break the Muslim fast during the month of Ramadan but what drew me to it was the fact that it combines both chickpeas and lentils – two of my favourite ingredients. Most recipes also include lamb but, due to my lack of funds when I made this, my soup was almost vegetarian, save for the chicken stock.