I feel like it’s high time I give you guys something sweet for you to sink your teeth into, but for some reason it’s the savouries that have captured me and taken me on a trip to enthusiasmville, and I must say I quite like it.
Up next is a soup I had forgotten about for more than two years, which is bordering on criminal because it truly is a beautiful soup. Harira is one of those exotically seductive yet immensely comforting soups, flashy enough to serve as a special dinner but also perfect for a midweek meal. To make up for the lack of lamb in this vego version, I’ve added a few chopped up dried porcini mushrooms. I’ve also replaced celery, not because I have split feelings about it, but because I think that parsley stalks have an incredibly complex flavour, which cooked along in the soup do a fabulous job at adding that dynamic that usually le celery is responsible for. The medley of spices work spiffingly with the vibrant tomatoey broth, and is made even better by the accompaniment of the sweet buttery almond-flecked couscous. The soup will taste better the next day, as most soups do. But even a few hours after you’ve cooked it will do if that’s all the time you’ve got.
And yes I have a thing for shooting food in tiny (blue) dishes. And no, that is not a serving size I would ever dare to serve someone, let alone myself.
Vegetarian Harira with Date and Almond Couscous
4 slices dried porcini mushroom, very finely shopped
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cinnamon quill
1 tsp each of ground turmeric, ginger, cumin and paprika
1 pinch saffron
the stalks of half a bunch of parsley, tied in a knot
1 large red capsicum, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, half of them crushed with a fork
splash of soy sauce, salt
¼ tsp chilli flakes
half a bunch parsley, leaves finely chopped
half a bunch coriander, leaves picked
Place the chopped porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onion and carrot. Fry until softened. Add the garlic and the spices, and stir until fragrant. Add the soaked mushrooms with their liquid, the capsicum, parsley stalks, capsicum, chopped tomatoes and the stock, and bring to the boil. Let it cook until all of the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and soy sauce and season to taste with the salt and chilli flakes. When ready to serve, ladle into bowls and top with the parsley and coriander. Serve with the couscous (below).
Almond and Date Couscous
1 big nob of butter
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 cup / 190g couscous
1/2 tsp cinnamon, plus more to serve
1 cup /250ml boiling vegetable stock
10 dates, chopped into tiny cubes
1/3 cup /40g slivered almonds, toasted
In a small pan, melt the butter and add the garlic. Once it starts to go golden, remove from the heat and stir in the couscous and cinnamon. Pour over the boiling veggie stock and cover for about 5 minutes until completely absorbed. Fluff with a fork and stir through the chopped dates. Divide the couscous amongst serving dishes and top with the toasted almonds.