chicken and chickpea harira

it’s been a quiet blog in recent weeks – i’m sorry for that. a combination of travelling, visitors and dark days have all distracted me and reduced my interest in cooking new things.

having said that, i have not been entirely idle in the kitchen. my love of hearty soups continues – ribollita, white chilli and minestrone are all well-established favourites - and recently i’ve been dabbling with harira recipes.

my last attempt at a vegetarian version wasn’t particularly successful so i decided to try a version with chicken, to use up some leftover meat and stock that i had made. i looked at lots of recipes and chose bits from several of them, while also trying to keep things simple. a lightly spiced fresh flavour and nothing too stodgy were the things i was after.

the result of my efforts was good – a little heat from harissa and ground ginger plus a spice combination of cumin, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon and saffron. it also had chickpeas in abundance (i’m really loving them at the moment), a bit of potato for comfort, tomatoes and carrot for sweetness plus a combination of lemon, coriander and yoghurt to freshen everything up at the end. the recipe below is not prescriptive, more a record of how things developed, to act as a starting point for you.

chicken and chickpea harira (serves c4)

the starting point for my harira was leftover chicken – the meat from about half a bird – plus c800ml of fresh chicken stock. if you’re not using leftovers, you’ll need to adjust the recipe accordingly, perhaps frying the chicken at the start of the recipe, returning it to the pan when you add the spices, and taking off the bone before finishing the dish with its final flavourings.

heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan and fry 1 finely sliced onion, 2 finely chopped sticks of celery, 2-3 peeled and chopped (into bite size pieces) large carrots, 2 peeled and chopped large potatoes plus the finely chopped stalks from a small bunch of coriander.

when the onions have softened and the vegetables started to cook, add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, ½ a teaspoon ground ginger and 2 teaspoons ground turmeric. cook over a medium-high heat for a few minutes then stir in 2 tablespoons harissa paste plus 4-6 chopped tomatoes (or a tine of tomatoes), the chicken stock (plus any water needed to make up 1 litre of liquid), a pinch of saffron, c400g cooked chickpeas and the cooked chicken (shredded or cut into bite size pieces). bring to a simmer and cook for half an hour.

add the juice and zest of a lemon, a teaspoon of honey and season to taste – you may want to add more lemon or honey to balance the flavours. serve garnished with a dollop of yoghurt (this is not essential but i liked the richness it added) and coriander leaves. you might also want to serve it with lemon wedges on the side.