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.
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.
I’ve been getting plenty of use out of the Ral Al Hanout that I made fairly recently and it is particularly good with lamb. Of course, being in New Zealand, there’s no shortage of the baa-ing beast although, as the Boyfriend told a former vegetarian friend after one such dinner, we only eat the ugly ones!