Harira (Moroccan Chickpea Soup)

harira

Our friend Stephen has mentioned a couple of times this yummy Moroccan soup he makes – chickpeas, tomatoes, and spices. It sounded delicious, and this lazy Sunday Zoeya and I were just hanging around the house so it seemed a great time to try it (I feel much less lazy if I have something simmering on the stove while I’m doing nothing else important).

Harira is traditionally eaten to open fast during Ramadan, but there’s no need to wait until then. This is complete comfort food, with the added bonus of perfuming the whole house with cinnamon – heavenly!

Harira

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
salt & pepper
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp saffron, crumbled
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
heaping cup dried chickpeas – preferably soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp lentils (I used chana dal)
6 cups water or vegetable broth or combo
handful broken vermicelli (or spaghetti in a pinch!)
handful cilantro, chopped
handful parsley, chopped
juice of half a lemon
one bunch spinach, roughly chopped

Heat olive oil (medium highish), and add onions, garlic, and ginger, and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Add all spices, and cook, stirring. Add tomatoes and cook until they start to break down. Add chickpeas, lentils, and broth/water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer; simmer until chickpeas are soft, an hour and a half to two hours (during which time your house will smell wonderful).

Add vermicelli (or spaghetti, lame), parsley, and cilantro, and simmer several minutes, until noodles are cooked. At the end, spritz the pot with lemon juice and adjust seasoning (you’ll probably need more salt) and add spinach and cook until wilted.

Serve hot!

By the way, this is my 100th post! Here’s a witchy gypsy song to mark it – play it while you’re cooking this, will definitely set a spicy mood.

Tan Cani by Aloehverah on Grooveshark

Lentil and Kale Fritters with Tamarind Sauce

lentil-fritters

I Lentils.

I make a pot almost every week, and I make it different every time (one of my recent experiments was lentils with pumpkin and coconut flakes – delicious!). And they get reinvented every meal until they’re gone: lentils over rice. Lentils over greens. A spoon of lentils in my miso soup.

The last of this week’s pot – I made my East Indian Lentils, only I used little white urad dal instead of split red lentils – got reborn as lentil fritters. Zoeya was a fan. Kids love when you take something nice and healthy and fry it! Not that I’m recommending that for every day, but this was a nice treat, and I think she accidentally ate some kale which she normally complains about if it’s not in chip form.

What takes this up a few thousand notches is the tamarind sauce. I just adore the fresh tartness, which turns my mouth inside out and contrasts perfectly with starchy bites, like aloo tikki (potato fritters), chickpea or potato samosas, or pakoras. Yep, I’m the chick at the Indian buffet sneaking two or three little bowlfuls.

Lentil and Kale Fritters with Tamarind Sauce

For the fritters:
leftover lentils – any kind you want, I have several easy recipes
handful cilantro, chopped
handful kale, stems removed and chopped
You can also add: diced onion, chopped garlic, lemon juice, or whatever else you are in the mood for
enough bread crumbs to hold them together
vegetable oil (or some less evil oil) for frying

If you’re using stewy lentils, you don’t need to bother with draining them, but if you’re using lentil soup you will probably want to drain some of the liquid before you get started.

Heat a quarter inch of oil and combine the rest of the ingredients. Roll into small balls and flatten. Fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown, remove to a paper towel lined plate.

For the tamarind sauce:
1 tbsp tamarind concentrate
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
generous sprinkle salt & pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Put in a pretty little bowl for dipping!

While I’m cooking, Zoeya is often hanging out in the kitchen with me playing with her magnetic letters. She knows how to spell her name, forwards and apparently also backwards. Shan and I didn’t notice this until the next morning, it cracked us up. Cutest thing ever.

Frenchy Lentils and Roasty Beets

frenchy-lentils

Cute little French lentils have an earthy flavor – perfect for fall! – and take nicely to flavors both sharp (dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar) and sweet (carrots, molasses). They go really nicely with roasted beets, which I just love, mostly because they turn everything they touch an obscene magenta. I learned an ingenious method to cook them, which is just to trim the stalks and roast them whole with a little olive oil. After they cool, the skins will slip right off, and you can avoid staining your fingertips and cutting board.

Frenchy Lentils and Roasty Beets

For lentils:
olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
salt & pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp molasses
2 carrots, diced
1 1/2 c French lentils
water
dash balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Cook onion, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring, until the onion is translucent. Add paprika, stirring for a minute, then tomato paste. Add dijon, molasses, carrots, lentils, and about 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary, until lentils are softened. Adjust seasoning (you’ll probably need more salt), and finish with a dash of balsamic vinegar (and maybe another little drizzle of olive oil).

For beets:
1 bunch beets, trimmed
olive oil

Heat oven to 450°. Arrange beets in a pan lined with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Roast until a fork easily goes through the beet. Allow to cool, remove skins, and slice.

Coconutty Chana Dal

chana-dal

I’ve always made lentils fairly frequently, but lately it seems we are never without a pot in the fridge. This is partly out of laziness, because I can make them with my eyes closed with pantry ingredients that don’t require the foresight of a trip to the store, and they make for days of lunches and side dishes. Usually I whip up the split red lentils that cook in a snap – as in my Weeknight Lentils – but since it was the weekend I decided to get a little crazy and make chana dal.

A weekend warning, apart from the longer cooking time: “lentils” may sound like rabbit food, but with creamy coconut milk and a pat of butter, these are pretty decadent.

Chana dal take longer to cook and than red lentils and they hold their shape instead of dissolving into a starchy mush. They have a very nice nutty flavor. I like just a little sweetness in my lentils (I usually put a drop of honey in my French black lentils) which I got here from carrots. It’s just enough sweetness for me without Shan accusing me of adding sugar. Also, I’ve been getting into cooking with coconut oil lately. I already love the nutty note it gives a dish, and though it’s a saturated fat, I’ve been reading more about its health benefits. So multipurpose, I like to oil my hair with it too.

Dinner was a collaborative effort; we had friends over and enjoyed this with basmati rice, a lovely cucumber raita made by our friend, and my husband’s famous Lahori tilapia.

Coconutty Chana Dal

2 tbsp coconut oil

whole spices:
2 cloves
2 cardamom pods (cracked)
1 cinnamon stick

1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, grated

ground spices:
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp cayenne
black pepper

2 tbsp tomato paste
zest of 1 lemon
2 carrots, finely chopped in food processor
1 1/2 c chana dal
several cups water
1/2 c coconut milk
1 tbsp butter
salt

Heat oil in a good-sized, heavy-bottomed pot, and add whole spices. When they smell fragrant, add the onion, stirring until it begins to turn translucent, then add garlic, ginger, and whole spices. Cook, stirring, a few minutes, then add tomato paste, lemon, carrots, dal, and water to cover by an inch or so. Reduce heat to a high simmer, and cover. Cook, stirring fairly frequently so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. The dal will begin to absorb the water so add more as necessary. The final consistency should be wet but not watery.

I’m not in the habit of timing things, I just cook them until they’re done. I will say the cooking time is a little lengthy, enough to do the dishes, make the rice, give Zoeya a bath and put her to bed (Shan babysat the pot while I was upstairs so it didn’t burn). Cook until the dal is soft. Stir in coconut milk, butter, and salt to taste.

Pretty when garnished with cilantro, but mine wilted in the thousand degree heat.