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Harira Soup with Lamb Lentils and Chickpeas


I make this for anyone who has been unwell or needs something soothing – it soothes the soul this dish. This soup is traditionally served to break the fast during the month of Ramadan.
There are many versions and this is by far my favourite – I especially love the use of French Lentils and the balance of flavours in this recipe. Try to find them as they are in most supermarkets now as well as health food stores.
I used to make this so often I have cooked it with the traditional lamb as per this recipe, plus I have cooked it with diced pork, then beef and with root vegetables alone – they all work and the flavours change immensely – it keeps it interesting and new each time! With vegetables alone the tang of the spices and lemon are much stronger which was refreshing, but watch the lemon at the end. The pork made it a lighter dish – as would chicken  - and I really enjoyed the change. The beef made it richer. My daughter used to devour this when she was 1 so I also froze little pots of it – it freezes really well.

Pictured: Harira Soup with Lamb Lentils and Chickpeas
A good pinch of saffron threads – at least ¼ tsp
¼ cup boiling water
¼ cup light olive oil
400g lamb shoulder steaks, trimmed of excess fat and cubed
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
5 cups chicken stock
1 tin chickpeas, or use 1 cup soaked overnight in plenty of cold water
½ cup French green lentils – you can substitute for normal green lentils 
Juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste*
½ cup chopped coriander leaves

*To note- do not season this dish with salt until the final minutes as it can prevent pulses from cooking correctly.
Combine the saffron threads and boiling water in a small bowl and leave to infuse for a few minutes.
Heat a large saucepan to medium hot and add half the oil -  brown the lamb all over in 2 – 3 batches. Remove the lamb from the pan and set aside.
Add the remaining oil and onion to the pan, once sizzling turn the heat to low, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes to soften. Remove the lid, add the cinnamon and cumin and fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Return the browned meat to the pan and add the ginger, saffron liquid, tomatoes and stock. Drain the chickpeas and add to the pan. Bring the soup to the boil then turn down the heat to simmer for 45 minutes.
Add the lentils and simmer a further 30 minutes. 
Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste. 
Add the coriander just before serving. 
Serves 6