The COVID-19 pandemic will not stop you having the perfect Ramadan iftar.
Ramadan 2020 will be difficult and different for families all over the world. My family, like thousands of others, is preparing to celebrate the month of Ramadan in separate countries. Despite not being able to sample my mother-in-law’s mouth-watering harira, I am determined that my son will still be able to taste the delicious and healthy Ramadan soup, so I have had to learn to cook harira like a Moroccan mum!
Ramadan is a special time for families all over the world. It is a time for togetherness, stillness, and taking advantage of time spent together. This year, my one-year-old son and I are in the UK with his British grandparents while my husband waits out the lockdown at our home in Morocco. It will be very different, but, I hope, no less special.
During this time of separation, we have had to find ways around the distance and I cannot say that has not been difficult. Watching my son take his first steps and not being able to share it with his father was definitely bittersweet, but in 2020 physical separation does not have to mean social or emotional distance.
My husband and I, and millions of people around the world, will be breaking the Ramadan fast online this year with a bowl of remote harira and a lot of love.
Obviously, here in the UK I cannot get all the ingredients I would usually use but I have found ways around that and, I hope, am still able to make a hearty bowl of Ramadan harira as good as any other Moroccan mum.
For readers who do not celebrate Ramadan, that is no reason not to cook up a delicious pan of harira! The thick tomato soup is a perfect evening meal for a family, full of protein, vitamins, and warming flavors.
This is a COVID-19-defying recipe and you should be able to make it with store cupboard staples.
So, here goes!
First check your cupboards for the ingredients:
- Vegetable oil (a very generous glug)
- Dried lentils (two handfuls)
- Tomato puree (a healthy tablespoon)
- Parsley (dried or fresh)
- 2 large onions
- Dried chickpeas (two handfuls or half a tin)
- Broken vermicelli (a couple of handfuls – if you cannot find it, replace with macaroni or pasta shells)
- 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
- One tablespoon of butter or smen (Morocco’s answer to ghee)
- Ground ginger
- Black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of flour (gluten-free flour works too)
- OPTIONAL: 300 grams diced lamb or beef
Moroccan harira is delicious as a vegetarian dish. Using the meat adds to the richness of the flavor but is not necessary.
It is time to start cooking:
- If you are using dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water overnight and then boil for 2 hours. Peel the skins off when cool enough to touch and remember to wash and check through the lentils.
- If you are using meat, brown it off in oil in a pressure cooker.
- Grate the onions and chop the parsley, celery, and onions. Add the pressure cooker with the smen or butter and gently cook for two to three minutes.
- Stir in 2 teaspoons of each of the spices (I tend to be quite generous with the ginger to give an extra kick to the flavor).
- Stir over a gentle heat for a further two minutes. Now add the chickpeas and tomatoes (my mother-in-law sieves the tomatoes first but I like to leave some texture).
- Pour in 4 cups of water.
- Put the lid on the pan, making sure it fits tightly. Leave on a gentle heat for 30 minutes.
- Release the pressure and, making sure you do not scold yourself on the steam (speaking from experience), add the lentils, tomato puree, and another 4 cups of water.
- Pop the lid back on and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Now add the vermicelli or pasta. Cook until the vermicelli or pasta shells are soft.
- Next, you will have to thicken the soup. In a bowl, mix the flour with some water until it becomes a smooth, pourable paste.
- Slowly add your paste to the soup and stir continuously. Leave the soup to simmer until it is thick and hearty.
- Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary.
- Serve with lots of love, online or in person!