Monday, October 25, 2010

Harira (Moroccan Soup)

When I was in Morocco this summer, I heard about this new kitchen gadget for the first time. The Vorwek Thermomix, which is apparently not easily available in the US, is somewhat of a hybrid slow cooker, kind of a futuristic, George Jetson Crockpot. It kind of surprises me that Americans, the biggest fans of slow cookers, haven't already been turned on to this new miracle machine. 

In Morocco this is the latest kitchen fad and is only sold through direct sales. The representative invites prospective buyers to a cooking demo using the Vorwerk Thermomix and wows people into the purchase. While I didn't attend any of these demos myself, I heard a lot about the machine from family who have seen the Vorwerk in action and I had the opportunity to see a cousin using the machine in her home.

I am not sure exactly how to describe the thing, it's a combination Crockpot, pressure cooker, food processor, bread maker, yada yada yada all in one. Very intriguing, no doubt, and if it wasn’t for the price tag (over US$1,000), I would be tempted to get one and try it out. Interestingly enough, however, a few years back I was also intrigued with the Crockpot and it's more permissible price tag. I bought one but it hasn't made it out of the box yet. If you have a tempting recipe that you think would motivate me to open the box and give it a whirl, please send it my way to .

For now, my Kitchen Aid, food processor, ice cream maker and beloved pressure cooker are the kitchen gadgets of choice for me.

So what does today’s recipe have to do with the Vorwerk Thermomix? Nothing really, but I guess if you had one you could use it to make your Harira.


Harira is a traditional Ramadan soup eaten daily at Iftar in Morocco accompanied by Chibakias. At home I also try to have it daily during Ramadan and any other fasting day. But it is also great for cold winter days.

(Print this Recipe)

1 medium onion (or 2 small)
About ½ bunch of parsley
About ½ bunch of cilantro
2 or 3 celery sticks
½ lb boneless short rib diced small (any other meat for soup or stew if fine)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp of turmeric (or ½ of Moroccan colorant)
1 ½ tsp powder ginger
About 6 threads of saffron
2 Tbsp smen (aged butter), can substitute for butter or margarine
3 tomatoes
1 ½ cup lentils, if not using pressure cooker make sure to soak
1 6oz can of tomato paste
1 8oz can tomato sauce
¾ Tbsp flour
1 15oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), soaked and skin removed
About ½ cup broken vermicelli
Salt to taste
A lot of water

In a food processor puree the onion, parsley, cilantro and celery. Put the mixture in a pressure cooker and add meat, cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric, ginger, saffron and smen. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Puree tomatoes in food processor and add to the mixture. Add enough water to cover the mixture, lock pressure cooker’s lid and bring to high pressure over high heat. Reduce the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 12 minutes. Release pressure according to manufacturer's directions. Remove lid, and add lentils. Again, bring to high pressure and cook for about 7 minutes.

While meat and lentils are cooking, dissolve the tomato paste in about 4 cups of water. Dissolve flour in 4 cups of water and add to dissolved tomato paste. Mix well then pass mixture through a strainer and set aside.

After the meat and lentils have cooked, release pressure according to manufacturer’s directions and if needed move soup base to a larger pot. Add tomato paste/flour mixture, salt, tomato sauce, and about 7 cups of water. Let cook for about 20 minutes over low heat stirring frequently for the lentils not to stick to the bottom.

Taste for salt, add chickpeas which have been previously soaked and the skin removed. Also, add the vermicelli and let cook for about 8 minutes. Always mixing.


  1. sounds tasty. I don't have a pressure cooker. how do you think this would turn out if cooked in the crock pot? also, what about substituting chicken broth for the water? too salty or more flavorful?

  2. By all means do use chicken stock, but I would go with a mix of water and chicken broth, I do that sometimes. I am embarrassed to say that I know nothing about cooking with a Crockpot but can’t see why you couldn’t. All the pressure cooker does is save me time cooking the meat. Let me know how it turns out.

  3. I need to make this!!! thank you for the recipe! :) Looks so delicious.

  4. I finally made this today, using a regular big pot. I altered the recipe a bit.
    Soaked the chickpeas and lentils the night before.
    Boiled the chickpeas in the morning, strained and removed skins. Browned the small bits of meat and added water to cook it, the spices went in too except the saffron.
    I've prepped canned tomato with tomato paste and set aside.
    Pureed onion in processor and added to meat, let it simmer until almost tender, then added tomato mixture, let it simmer more, then lentils and let it simmer until they were cooked then added previously boiled chickpeas then simmered more.
    Saffron went in and chopped the herbs so when it was almost finished all the fresh cilantro and parsley went in. Noodles added before serving.
    I haven't tasted it yet but it smells great and I hope my family like it when I present it to them tomorrow.

  5. Wow! It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into it. I learned to make Harira with a Moroccan friend, but my mother in law kind of throws everything at once in the pressure cooker and hers is phenomenal. I guess everyone makes it differently. In some parts of Morocco they put rice instead of the noodles, I don’t like so much. During Ramadan my husband must have Harira everyday, so by Eid I need a break from doing it. Soon enough I guess I will start making again, specially since it has been so cold around here. Don’t forget to let me know how it turned out.


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