Saturday, August 29, 2009
Moroccan Foods for Ramadan
After being married to a Moroccan for almost a decade, I finally figured out how to make harira. Harira is a tomato-based soup with meat and chickpeas that Moroccans eat to break the fast during Ramadan. I've tried a number of delicious recipes, but none of them ever tasted quite like the harira made in my husband's family. Somehow, even though I got other cooking lessons, I never learned to make harira the way they did. So finally this past summer while in Fes, I wrote down my sister-in-law's directions. I pulled out the recipe a few weeks ago and realized it was just a giant list of ingredients, a little here and there, approximated using tea glasses or small spoons, most of said ingredients thrown into a blender and then a pressure cooker, with other things added later. So I worked on the measurements until I got the recipe right. Last night we finally had some authentic food-- I've also been tinkering with the recipe for bghrir, otherwise known as the "pancake of a thousand holes," and I think I've got that one down, too. I'm writing them down now for posterity, and so I can remember what I did next time.
Harira (Serves 4)
1/2 lb stew beef, cut into 1 " pieces
4 large tomatoes
1 large onion
3 stalks celery, with leaves
1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup cilantro
1 Tblsp canola oil
1 tsp. salt, add more to taste
1/2 tsp. black pepper
A can of chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons Better than Boullion, or beef boullion cubes, or beef stock
1/8 cup flour
1/4 cup water
2 Tblsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup long grain rice
1/4 cup cilantro
4 cups water
Small handful vermicelli noodles, preferably fideo, broken up angel hair noodles that they sell at Hispanic grocery stores.
Place stew beef in a pressure cooker, or large Dutch oven (will take longer). Blend tomatoes in blender then strain them through a colander, adding strained tomatoes to pot. Blend large onion with 1/2 cup water, add to pot. Blend celery with 1/2 cup parsley, 1/4 cup cilantro and another 1/2 cup water, add to pot. Turn on the burner, bring to a simmer, keep adding stuff: oil, salt, pepper, beef stock or boullion, chickpeas (You can use canned, but if so, don't add them now, add them at the end). Seal pressure cooker, cook 45 minutes, turn off heat. If using a dutch oven, simmer about 2 hours, or until beef is tender.
In a blender, blend flour, 1/2 cup water, 2 Tblsp tomato paste. Add to pot, along with rice, cilantro, and 4 cups water. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring frequently to keep flour from sticking.
Best if you let it sit for another hour or two before eating. Salt to taste. It should be a slightly thick soup. If too thick, add more water. Just before eating, add a very small handful of fideo noodles.
Serve with lemon. Some people also put in lentils; you could do 1/4 cup or less at the same time you add the rice. This is the best soup ever; very filling.
Bghrir (Pancake with 1000 holes)
1 3/4 cups semolina
1/2 cup white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk, warmed slightly
3 cups water, lukewarm
1 Tblsp yeast (or a yeast packet)
Sift semolina, flour and salt. In a separate bowl, mix milk, water, eggs, and yeast with a whisk. Add SOME of the milk mixture to the semolina until mixture gets thick-- like a thick soup. Put that in a blender, blend for 3-4 minutes. Now strain it through a colander and then add the rest of your milk/eggs mixture. Allow to rise in a warm place for two hours.
Batter will be frothy. Stir gently with a ladle, and fry, crepe-style (not too thick) in a small frying pan coated with nonstick cooking spray over medium heat. Pancake will gather lots of tiny holes, but don't turn it over-- when it's golden on the bottom and done on the top, place it on a cookie rack or clean dish towel, but don't stack. This makes a LOT of tiny pancakes.
Before serving, heat another skillet with some butter (or butter substitute) and honey. Warm the pancakes you will be eating in the honey mixture, then stack on a plate to keep warm. Extra ones keep well.