Morocco in a soup bowl

It’s that time of year again. When the masjids begin to fill and there is a Ramadan spirit in the air. The most holy time of the year for Muslims across the globe, when the atmosphere is liter

Published: 31st July 2011 02:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th May 2012 08:51 PM   |  A+A-

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It’s that time of year again. When the masjids begin to fill and there is a Ramadan spirit in the air. The most holy time of the year for Muslims across the globe, when the atmosphere is literally buzzing with anticipation and the excitement of Ramadan. Muslims show their love to Allah, through personal sacrifice and self-discipline. It's the ninth month of the Islamic year, and all Muslims fast for the entire month from dawn to dusk.

It was during Ramadan that the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). According to legend, he was sitting alone in the wilderness when suddenly the angel Gabriel came to him with a golden tablet in his hands.

The angel told Muhammad to read what was written on the tablet. What was on this golden tablet is said to be the essence of the Quran, just as the Tablets of the Law that Moses received on Mt Sinai were the basis of the Bible's Old Testament.

Ramadan, a month-long period of austerity sees devout Muslims keep themselves away during the entire daytime, offering prayers and abstaining from almost every kind of enjoyment. For Muslims all over, it is a very special time—of introspection, meditation, self-control, compassion, charitable activities, spirituality and of course, devotion to God. The fast provides many benefits and is full of wisdom.

It purifies and strengthens your heart.

It rids you of your baser tendencies like exuberance, arrogance and stinginess. It reinforces good traits like fortitude, clemency and generosity. You are supposed to be a better human being, be kind, don’t lie, cheat, steal, be more generous, and be a better person overall. The fast supports in your inner struggle to please Allah and attain nearness to Him. It shows how much Allah has blessed us. We are reminded of our brethren who are less fortunate and are inspired to treat them well.

Having said all this, Ramadan is also a great month to enjoy all the delectable treats prepared for Iftar (breaking of fast).

Be it home-cooked meals—prepared with great care and love or lip-smacking and tantalising treats on the streets outside the mosque. Platters of fruits—fresh and dry, juices, hearty and nutritious soups, fried savoury snacks, curries, biryanis, salaans, rotis, tikkas, kebabs, and desserts—the spread is unbelievable and never-ending.

Family and friends get together to eat, and spend time with each other. Every culture has its own specialties and localised dishes, and it’s wonderful to try what each one has to offer. One of my favourite dishes is Harira. It's very nutritious and wholesome, not to mention absolutely tasty.

A one pot dish, which comprises meat, pulses, veggies and rice, Harira serves as a meal in itself. It’s the perfect thing to have after fasting the whole day.

Morocco’s famous soup, Harira is fragrantly seasoned with ginger, pepper and cinnamon, and also boasts a robust quantity of fresh herbs—cilantro, parsley, celery and onion. Although made throughout the year, Harira is best-loved by Moroccans during the month of Ramadan when it’s frequently served to break the fast at sunset.

Some families also enjoy eating Harira at suhoor, the meal taken in the early morning hours before a day’s fasting begins. Recipes vary greatly from one family to another.

Some make the soup light in texture; others prefer a filling version with chick peas and rice or broken vermicelli. One Moroccan cook may favour more tomato, another more lentils, still another may add paprika.

So there are no rules, feel free to change ingredients and proportions.

Tejsinghani is the author of Aapplemint, a food, travel and photography blog 

Harira Recipe

100 gm dried chickpeas, soaked

overnight and drained

; 100 gm masoor dal

; 450 gm boneless lamb, cut into

1 cm cubes

; 1 large onion, finely chopped

; 1 tsp turmeric

; ½ tsp ground cinnamon

; ½ tsp each ground ginger, saffron

strands and paprika

; 50 gm butter

; 100 gm long grain rice

; 2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander

; 4 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf

parsley

; 4 large ripe tomatoes , skinned,

seeded and chopped

; lemon quarters, to serve

Preparation method

; Tip the chickpeas and lentils into a large saucepan or flameproof casserole. Add

the lamb, onion, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, saffron strands and paprika, then pour

in 1.5 litres/2.5 pints water. Season.

; Bring to boil, skimming all the froth from the surface as the water begins to

bubble, then stir in half the butter. Turn down the heat and simmer the soup,

covered, for one and a half to two hours until the chickpeas are tender, adding a

little more water from time to time as necessary.

; Towards the end of the cooking time, prepare the rice. Bring 850 ml/1.5 pints

water to boil in a saucepan, shower in the rice, the rest of the butter and salt to taste.

Cook until the rice is very tender. Drain, reserving 3 tbsp of the liquid.

; To finish, put the reserved rice liquid in a small saucepan. Stir in the coriander,

parsley (hold a little back for a garnish if you like) and tomatoes, then simmer for

15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add to the soup with the rice, and then taste

for seasoning. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to thicken slightly. Serve hot, with a lemon

quarter for each serving so guests can squeeze over lemon juice to taste.

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