Harira: Moroccan Soup for Supper Club

We gathered at the Rigby’s home last evening for our monthly supper club. Isabel, I was so happy to be there for many reasons: it has been an out of control month as you well know. I’ve been sick. The house is on the market, and there are random people inspecting  all hours of the day ( and sometimes night! ) with their agents.

To drop it all and be with good friends and their lovely kids, and eat food we all prepared for each other was such a pleasure and a relief. It is a lovely group of people, and we share a lot of laughs: I will really miss them when we move.

The theme this month was Moroccan, and how it works is that the host family cooks the main dish. The rest of us bring the other portions of the meal. Everyone brings a bottle or three. It all adds up to a very satisfying meal.

I had been in a mild panic for a few days over what to cook.The Brands were assigned the appetizer.  I had initially decided on a semolina ‘roti’ stuffed with spiced onion and olives, but the waiting for the dough to rise and many other steps just made me think that I would run out of time to do it properly. Wise decision.

As I kept looking, I was reminded of a delicious Moroccan soup called Harira. Do you know it? I’ve never made it for a family meal, but decided that this would be the occasion to try it out.  By the time I’d put it all together, I was quite sure that this was a recipe to send to you: it is hearty and delicious, and a convenient to make all-in-one soup. Once I had assembled the ingredients, it took a  nano-moment to make. Most of the time is taken in the slow simmering. I made mine with bite size pieces of chicken ( about 1/4 kg) , but the recipe below is the vegetarian option.

The weather continues to fluctuate wildly here. Bright sunny days of quite mild temperatures, followed by flurries of what looked suspiciously like snow on Friday. Claudia and I were incredulous!  Today is grey and overcast, with a steady drizzle. I keep bringing the pot plants in from the steps outside, never sure if an unexpected overnight frost might snap them dead. Still, the slopes around Geln Edyth are covered in carpets of bluebells and there is bright yellow forsythia spilling over the castle walls of Casa Loma nearby. At least nature is determined to bring Spring forth; let’s hope it wins soon!

The next week will be another crazy one: dad arrives home tomorrow night after three weeks away. On Friday we make the long journey to KL for Easter, and Tasha and Dave’s wedding. You’ll be getting on your flight from Melbourne on Friday too, to meet us there. How very exciting to have another rendezvous with you. After these crazy few weeks, I hope we’ll be able to relax and enjoy the wedding all together. Hen’s night on Wednesday! And Malaysian FOOD! YUMM! Satay! Aunty Roshi’s uppams! Mee Goreng! Nana’s samosas! Uncle Colin’s cutlets! Laksa! I’ll bring my gym shoes!

I know you are frantically busy trying to get all your reading and assignments done before you meet us in Malaysia. Good luck, sweet girl; I am thinking of you. Meanwhile, cook some soup to fortify your busy household. I think they’ll like it too. This recipe will feed you all with lots of left overs. Please say hello to Grouse for me.

And by the way, we ate our soup before I could take a  photograph, so this image is courtesy of the www. It is always good to see what the dish looks like before you make it, don’t you think?

Moroccan Harira Soup

  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained
  • 2 tablespons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 large can dice tomatoes
  • 2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/4 lb dried green lentils
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Method:

  1. Wash lentils and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot, add the onions, celery, carrots and stir gently till soft, but not brown.
  3. Add the ginger and dried spices, and stir further until fragrant.
  4. Add the tomatoes, the stock, lentils and chick peas and bring to a gentle boil.
  5. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for an hour.
  6. Add the rice, and adjust seasoning to taste.
  7. About thirty minutes later, or when the rice is cooked, stir in the fresh herbs and lemon juice.

Serve warm, garnish with lemon slices and enjoy!

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Mexican pozole soup

Yesterday wasn’t such a perfect weather day for the Boxing Day cricket, but the Sant guys were game, and went with our lot to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to watch Australia play India.

The Cattapans came to dinner so they could meet our American friends who had come to spend Christmas with us. To complete the picture, Tasha, visiting from Perth,  came over in the late afternoon and hung out with us. How lucky our family feels to be with all these people we love. Your Melbourne is really the central hub, Izzy! Anyway, what to feed a tired mob from a day at the cricket?

I thought a soup, as an antidote to our Christmas day feasting. Something piquant and light, but filling too. The pozole I made seemed to hit the spot.

You should have this recipe: it is a slow cooked meal, something you could put on the stove when you have a long evening at home working on a project or studying.

Pozole is a Mexican soup, traditionally made with a pig’s head(!) but don’t worry, these days it is usually with a piece of pork shoulder. It should be a hunk of pork which is fatty ( yes, I know you hate fat, but it cooks the meat sweetly and prevents the meat from drying out. The fat is discarded at the end anyway.) The first time I cooked Pozole, it was for a Virginia Living magazine article I was writing. There was a hominy article I was researching so including a recipe using the grits seemed like a good idea. Traditional pozole (pronounced ‘pot- zolay’) includes hominy grits but sometimes they are hard to come by, so I substitute with chickpeas.

 Mexican Pozole Soup

  •  1 piece pork shoulder ( about 2 kg)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons paprika powder
  • salt
  • 2 cans chickpeas or hominy grits if available
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 to 6 limes
  • 2 dried Mexican ancho chillis
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 pods garlic, chopped fine
  • 2 fresh green jalapeno chillis, sliced fine

To garnish:

  • ½ finely sliced green cabbage
  • 1 to 2 bunches sliced radishes
  • ½ bunch fresh coriander/cilantro sprigs
  • ½ bunch chopped spring onion
  • 1 seeded and chopped red capsicum
  • tortilla chips

Method

  1. In a large stockpot, cover the pork piece with lightly salted water and put on the boil
  2. Add the oregano, chilli powder, bay leaves, half the chopped onion, and pepper
  3. Cook the pork and skim the scum off the surface.
  4. When the pork is tender, lift from the liquid and put aside to cool
  5. Turn the heat off for the stock pot.
  6. In a separate saucepan, sauté the rest of the onion, the sliced jalapeno chili, and garlic
  7. Pour half a cup of hot water over the ancho chilli and leave to soften
  8. When the meat is cooled, shred in thick pieces, discarding any fat and bone.
  9. Relight the soup and when it begins to simmer, add the meat, and the sautéed onion and garlic.
  10. Add the chickpeas
  11. With a pestle, gently mash the softened ancho chilli, and add the mixture to the soup
  12. Squeeze two limes and add juice to the soup
  13. Cook for a further twenty minutes
  14. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper

To serve:

Ladle soup over a bowl of raw green cabbage, and other diced vegetables.

Top with a dollop of guacamole and sour cream, and a wedge of lime

Serve with tortilla chips

A salad of substance

Until you causally mentioned it Izzy, it had never occurred to me: Aussies don’t generally eat salads the way Americans do.  What comes to mind for an Australian when you say ‘salad’ is usually the equivalent of an American side salad: mixed greens with a light dressing.

A salad is the most common thing anyone we know in the US eats for lunch these days. But it isn’t just a plate of mixed greens.

In the early days, with the great enthusiasm of making a healthy salad ‘hearty’, American chefs overdid the whole idea: tons of creamy dressing, lots of cheese and chopped egg, meat, and  croutons.

Californians have it down pretty good, we think: there is always a decent ceasar to be had. There are great mexican riffs with black beans, crumbled tacos and jalapeños. Maybe a Chinese chicken salad?  It has asian cabbage cut in a slaw with carrots, shredded chicken and maybe bean sprouts. The dressing is usually honey and soy. A little predictable, but quite delicious.

When you were out with friends, Izzy, it was usually sushi and miso at Taiko in Brentwood Gardens. And if not, it was a salad with warm felafels from the Countrymart, or your favourite chopped salad from California Pizza Kitchen.

Now I quite often make Claudia a hearty salad to take to school for lunch. It consists of a mix of the greens I have in the fridge (baby spinach, arugula, and romaine usually). Toss in some cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumber, and a handful of whatever fresh herbs you might have. Maybe a handful of edamame, if you have some. Then the ‘hearty’ bit which helps her go the distance in a long school day: some left over chicken curry pieces, or meat. I lift a few pieces out of the sauce it is in, and pull the pieces apart (a shred is much nicer to eat than cubed or chopped meat in a salad). I toss it all together with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. It really does make for a delicious lunch. And satisfying!

The other day we picked up your sister from school and took her down to the Forest Hill shops for lunch. We thought we’d try out the new Café Aroma. I ordered the chickpea salad, and immediately thought I should record the ingredients for you. We all know how much you love chickpeas….

Chickpea salad

  1. 1 can chick peas, drained and washed
  2. ½ cup chopped cucumber
  3. ¼ cup crumbled fetta
  4. ½ cup cherry tomatoes
  5. ¼ cup flat leaf parsley ( I would substitute with fresh mint)
  6. 1 chopped hard boiled egg
  7. a handful of croutons
  8. ¼ cup finely chopped red onion
  9. olive oil and lemon juice to taste

Method:

  • Toss all the ingredients together and dress with sparing amounts of olive oil and lemon juice. 
  • If you are making it to eat later, remember to add the dressing at the last minute!