Harira, also known as "the national soup of Morocco," is apparently what you eat at the end of a long exhausting cranky day of fasting during Ramadan. It restoreth your strength and giveth you the strength also to wake up the next morning and starve yourself all over again.
Since I am deeply personally opposed to all sorts of fasting, I can't vouch for its efficacy as a temporary-starvation-alleviator. It acquits itself admirably well on the tastiness front, though. The chickpeas soak up all the good spicy flavors and the slight gaminess of the lamb folds itself around all the other ingredients like a cloak made of YUM.
This recipe makes quite a bit–enough, in fact, that we had it two nights in a row. Stay tuned for "Slightly Altered Harira," coming to a blog near you sometime today or perhaps early tomorrow.
Harira (With Leeks Instead of Celery, Because We Were Apparently Out, But That Might Have Been an Improvement)
Adapted from James Peterson's Splendid Soups
Serves oodles, kind of; tastes even better a day later
2 lamb shanks
3 Tbsp ghee (or you could use plain ol' butter… I used ghee that I'd accidentally cooked a little past golden and dangerously close to dark, but it smelled amazing the whole time I was cooking)
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 small-to-middling leeks, chopped fine
2 Tbsp finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
A healthy pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp salt
2 quarts (that's 8 cups, math geniuses) chicken broth
1-1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight or for at least 8 hours (I really don't think this would be very nice with canned chickpeas)
3/4 cup brown or green lentils
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup plain yogurt, preferably whole-milk
A little more salt and plenty of pepper
Give the lamb shanks a quick rinse and pat-dry with paper towels while heating the ghee or butter over medium-high heat in a large soup pot. (If you're using whole butter, you probably won't really want to go over medium heat.) Arrange the shanks in the pot and cook, turning every few minutes, until well browned on all sides; this will probably take a good 10 minutes all told. Remove shanks with tongs and set aside.
If the butter has burned, pour it off and replace with fresh butter. If not, simply carry on with the lovely lamb-flavored butter now inhabiting the soup pot. Over medium heat, add onions and leeks; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and leeks are tender, about 7 minutes. Add ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, saffron and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes more or until very fragrant.
Return browned lamb shanks to pot. Stir in salt, chickpeas and chicken broth. Increase heat to medium-high; bring just to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
Stir in lentils and tomatoes. Return to a simmer, cover and simmer for another hour, until lentils are tender and lamb meat is about ready to fall off the bone.
Carefully remove lamb shanks from pot. Allow to cool briefly, then remove meat from the bone, shred it and stir it back into the pot. (At this point you may gnaw the bones, as illustrated above.)
Over low heat, stir in parsley, cilantro and yogurt. Heat through, stirring (a whisk works well at this stage); taste and add salt as needed plus plenty of pepper. (You could also grind fresh pepper over each serving.)
Serve forth and banish hunger for another day.