When I was in middle school, my parents discovered the gustatory wonder ofpreserved lemons. However, as is often the case when you discover something new that you really enjoy… they went a little overboard. For the next few years, we ate preserved lemons at every available opportunity. This Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemons recipe entered our rotation of easy weeknight meals- and stayed there.
I get it, we all do it. Just this last week I may or may not have shamefully binge-listened to a particular pop song on my iPod pretending that I, too, was in a Deadly Supermodel Assassin Squad. It’s only Wednesday and I think I’ve officially overdosed on the song and can’t listen to it anymore.
Of course, the same thing happened with the preserved lemons. By the end of high school, I decided I had eaten too many of them. I got sick of them. I grumbled when we had Moroccan for dinner, previously one of my favourite cuisines. Too much of a good thing…
However, it goes without saying that not all Moroccan dishes have preserved lemons in them. In fact, most don’t. My parents played with other recipes from the region and thus was borne the compromise: they get to keep eating the Moroccan flavours they love (ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, dried fruit, etc.), and I get a break from the once-prized lemons.
Nowadays, after taking a short sabbatical, I am back on the preserved lemon train (and always keep a jar in my fridge 🙂 ), but I understand not everyone keeps them on hand like I do.
This recipe is a great introduction to Moroccan cuisine as it’s incredibly easy and doesn’t require any specialized ingredients like the aforementioned lemons. Nope- just veg, spices and a lil’ bit of lamb! Dive in.
This soup/stew is inspired by one of my friends, whose family immigrated to Canada from Morocco in the 1980s. Harira is a common soup in the Maghreb region of North Africa where they are from. My friend’s mother would make some version of this soup for the week and everyone in the family would take it for lunches. Easy peasy.
Ramadan began last week and, while I am not Muslim so I don’t observe the period myself, my friend and her family do. I am sure there are lots of rituals associated with the celebration (as I understand, according to Islamic belief, this period commemorates the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad) but the most noticeable for me, as an outsider, is my friend’s dedication to the fasting typically practiced during this period.
During Ramadan, devout Muslims typically abstain from food and drink (as well as other sins- sex, cursing, etc.) between dawn and dusk as a means of cleansing their hearts and souls, as a practice of self-control and to help foster empathy towards others less fortunate.
Given the extra long days we have up in Canada during this time of year, that is no small feat. (Also, just as someone who gets some serious hanger, I find this act very impressive. Sometimes I wish I had spiritual convictions strong enough for a practice like this.)
This means that when the sun does set, you need something good and healthful to fill your belly. Also, it’s pretty late by now and I’m sure if you’re fasting your energy levels aren’t what they usually are. The solution? A big pot of soup/stew. Enough to last a week and easy to heat up before sunrise and after sunset. Lovely.
Oh wait, did I just describe my current work schedule? Huh. Well, I guess I’m not officially fasting for Ramadan, but I have been mostly abstaining from food during the day due to how busy I have been. Now if only I could stop swearing, too…
|Moroccan Lamb Harira|| |
- Glug of olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 450 g boneless lamb, cut into cubes
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tsp cumin
- 3 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
- ~1/4 tsp saffron threads
- 1 large zucchini, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 large tin diced tomatoes
- 1 large tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ⅔ cup long grain rice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 large orange, juice and zest
- 1 large lemon, juice and zest
- Fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Pomegranate seeds
- Pistachios, coarsely chopped
- Dried apricots, coarsely chopped
- Fresh lemon wedges
- Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent. Add lamb and cook until lightly browned. Add garlic and all spices, stir and cook until fragrant. Add carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, chickpeas and rice and stir until combined.
- Add chicken stock, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 hour.
- Remove stew from heat and add the juice and zest from one orange and one lemon. Serve with any or all optional garnishes.