Harira Soup

One of my fondest food discoveries from Morocco was the Harira soup. Savouring the different versions we had of it as we travelled around that great country was a total delight.
Some times, it had vermicelli in, some times not.
Some times, it was made on a meat stock base, some times not.
Some times, it was quite a thin soup, some times not.
Some times, it had quite a few lentil varieties in it, some times not.
Some times, it was quite red, sometimes it was more orange.
Every time it was pretty darn tasty, some times just a lot more tasty 🙂

It was one of the foods that every time we were presented with a buffet, I quickly scoped out the soup option, would this soup that I so dearly loved be present?
When a pot of soup would be brought to our table by our cooks or hosts whilst travelling, I eagerly awaited the opening of the pot, would it contain this soup that I so dearly loved?

Since I returned home, mastering this soup has been on my list of things to do. I’ve read countless, countless recipes online in English and French using my average French language skills that extend to well recipes 😀

Looking at pictures, to see if I could find a recipe that resembled most the versions of Harira that I liked the most.

As the days start to sometimes get a little cooler here in Brisbane, it seemed fitting to finally make Harira as the first soup of the season. The Islamic world has just started Ramadan and Harira is a very common fast breaking soup in Morocco so it seemed like a fitting soup to make to reflect on.

In the end, I turned to the Moroccan recipe book that has been a trusty companion for many, many years now; Arabesque by Claudia Roden. A book that actually is recipes from Morocco, Turkey and Lebanon but well, in the 14 years of owning this recipe book, I’ve not strayed much out of the Moroccan section 😀

In all the years of having this book, I’ve never made any of the soups out of the book, well that has now changed 🙂 Last night, after a long day at work, I made Harira.

Though in both true #isolife style and Helen’s make do in whilst cooking approach, my soup did not turn out anything like I imagine Claudia Roden’s did 😀

My soup was started on the stove and finished in the slow cooker overnight.
My soup, had red lentils instead of brown lentils.
My soup had carrots instead of celery.
My soup had lamb soup pieces on the bone instead of 1cm cubed pieces of meat.
My soup was made with 3 tins of tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.
My soup didn’t have any tomato paste in it because I had run out and due to COVID-19 ISO life, I was not about to run down to the shops to just get tomato paste, celery and brown lentils 😀
My soup used powdered cinnamon because well cinnamon sticks?
My soup had paprika in the spice mix as well because it seemed common in the many, many recipes I had reviewed.
My soup used a small handful of spaghetti broken into short pieces to substitute the vermicelli.
My soup had shredded spinach and kale in it instead of coriander and parsley.
My soup only used about a third of the flour/water mixture as any more would have thickened the soup way too much.
My soup was good but there will be a few more tweaks before I am 100% happy with the recipe.
My future tweaks will involve making a version with no meat base, a version with celery in it, playing with the spice mix as I didn’t quite get the mix right with this first go.

Version 1 of Helen’s Harira – Eaten for Breakfast 29 April 2020
The first version of Harira that I had in Morocco. Breakfast, 9 September 2019, Casablanca.

Claudia Roden’s recipe and backstory from Arabesque 


Harira is the generic term for a soup full of pulses – chickpeas, lentils or beans – with little meat, few vegetables and plenty of herbs and spices. Every day during the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, the smell of this soup permeates the streets as every household prepares its own version to be eaten when the sound of the cannon signals the breaking of the fast.

While ingredients and spices vary, a particular feature is the way the soup is given what is described in Morocco as a ‘velvety’ touch by stirring in a sourdough batter or simply flour mixed with water. In the cities in Morocco, it serves as a one-dish evening meal, and in rural areas, it is also eaten as breakfast before peasants go out to work in the fields. During Ramadan, it is served with lemon quarters and accompanied by dates and honeyed pastries.

The soup can be made a long time in advance, but if you are adding the tiny birds tongue pasta -douida in Morocco (you find it in Middle Eastern stores), orzo in Italian stores (or you can use vermicelli) – these should be added only 10-15 minutes before you are ready to serve otherwise they will get bloated and mushy. I have given measurements for a large quantity because it is a rich, substantial soup that you might like to serve as a one-dish meal at a party. The best cuts of meat to use are shoulder or neck fillet.


2 marrow bones, washed (optional)
500g lamb or beef
2 large onions, chopped coarsely
200g chickpeas, soaked overnight
150g large brown lentils, rinsed
500g ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
4 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
2 teaspoon saffron threads or powder or 1 teaspoon turmeric
5 tablespoons plain flour
150g bird’s-tongue pasta or vermicelli (optional)
juice of 1 lemon
100g coriander, chopped
large bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

To serve with: 3 lemons, cut into quarters: dates (optional)

If using marrow bones, blanch them in boiling water for a few minutes then throw out the water. Put the bones into a large pan with the meat, cut into 1cm pieces, the onions and drained chickpeas. Cover with about 3 litres water and bring to the boil.

Remove the scum and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Remove the bones (if using), scoop out the soft marrow with a knife and drop it back into the soup.

Add the drained lentils, tomatoes and celery (include some leaves), the tomato paste, pepper, ginger, cinnamon and saffron or turmeric. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, adding more water if necessary as the level drops, and salt when the lentils begin to soften.

In the meantime, put the flour into a small pan and gradually add 500ml cold water, a little at a time, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend well and to avoid lumps. Put over a medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens, then simmer for 10 minutes. Pour this batter into the soup, stirring vigorously, and cook for a few minutes until the soup acquires a light creamy texture,

If you are using the tiny pasta or vermicelli (crush them with your hand into small pieces), add this to the soup 10 or so minutes from the end, adding the lemon juice, chopped coriander and parsley at the same time.

Serve with lemon wedges and if you like, also dates.

VARIATION Instead of meat, you can use 500g chicken fillets, preferably thighs, and crumble in 3 chicken stock cubes.

thissundaylife is a rainbow day

#thissundaylife is a #blessingway for a very beautiful family.<br />
A day of stories, love, rituals, tears, good energy, memories, wishes and more love.
#thissundaylife is a #blessingway for a very beautiful family.
A day of stories, love, rituals, tears, good energy, memories, wishes and more love.

I first met this girl on August 6, 2007 at this concert and then a few days later we were piled in a red Land Cruiser heading up to Noosa for an adventure. A 20hr adventure up the coast which was a great time.

6 and a half years later, we’ve all been through a lot.  This girl is a mumma, with a wee babe due very soon.

I made hummingbird patty cakes with cream cheese icing from the Crabapple Bakery cookbook to take along for the the blessing way.


Hummingbird patty cakes with cream cheese icing for a very special blessing way today.


Finally a front on of that marvellous belly.



A blessed belly, waiting for a rainbow baby to come earth side.
A blessed belly, waiting for a rainbow baby to come earth side.











My plan for 1 photo and post every Sunday on a moment from that day.

I baked the #bread.<br /><br />
I grew the #tomatoes.<br /><br />

Breakfast today.

Bread I baked, Tomatoes I grew.

Tommy Toe tomatoes from my garden on grilled beer bread that I make once a week as a “sandwich/breakfast toast” loaf.

Very, very, very yummy.


Penang dua

Oh what to say and where to start.  I’ve now been home for 2.5 weeks. I went to Penang with a dodgy cough and came home with a dodgy ankle. I only started wearing heels part of the day at work  late last week, wearing flats for two weeks was almost as bad as the pain itself. If you told a 21 year old Helen that she would wear heels to work everyday, I would have told you were to go.  I possibly hated wearing flats more so because I had picked up two new pairs of work shoes in Penang and was very much looking forward to wearing them 🙂

I tripped walking out onto the balcony. Of course I would have to fall on my dodgy ankle, my poor left ankle. That darn right ankle always gets off scot free. Jo was at work of course but as per usual she put on her “oh Helen” cap and brought me home chocolate and ice packs. Not that we didn’t have enough chocolate in the place already but … (see previous post)

White Knight Love

Yep! A White Knight bar! Hadn’t had one of those in years. Super mint chocolate goodness.

What else did I do in Penang?


The birthday girl had a birthday and Easter. That meant more chocolate and presents.

Lukcy girl, birthday and Easter on the same day

We spent the day wandering round George Town and the shops. Nothing exciting or really interesting to report really.

Dinner though needs to be reported. There was roti! (and curry) for dinner at one of the makanans at Batu Ferringhi and then a wonder of the markets before a round of birthday mojitos at Bora Bora.  Roti! (the ! is always needed at the end of roti! because one always get chipper about the prospect of a roti! overload).


Lychee juice, watermelon juice

Mo, Mo, Mojito!


Looking at my collection of photos, I’ll think I break this post here and save the touristy day that was Easter Monday for another post.

Ever since I got back, people have been asking me about all the exciting things I saw and did whilst in Penang (I didn’t visit Malaysia, I visited Penang, since I didn’t leave the island at all). My answer is that I didn’t go to Penang for a week of sightseeing and shopping but I went for a week of girlie hanging out with one of my dearest friends. This means a week of chocolate, movies, food, casing the shops, drinks and general girlie shenanigans. Sure there was a few little touristy things thrown in here and there but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.