Lamb Harissa with Chickpeas by Blanche Vaughan

Lamb Harissa with Chickpeas

Blanche Vaughan – Food writer and Chef

These darker, colder days call for warming sustenance and where better to turn than to the fragrant spices of Middle Eastern cooking? Harira is a soup I love to make when the weather turns, a traditional Moroccan dish which uses vegetables, spices, chickpeas and can include lamb for extra nourishment. Everything is cooked slowly to bring out the maximum flavour and if you make a big batch, it will keep for a few days in the fridge so you can warm up a bowlful for a fast and healthy meal.

I add a spoonful of harissa, a North African sauce made with chilli pepper, paprika, cumin and other spices for extra warmth and depth of flavour. I've recently been using Belazu's Rose Harissa which includes dried rose petals. This may sound odd, but it provides the delicate scented experience often found in Moroccan food where fruit, nuts and rose petals are often used in savoury dishes. A jar of harissa never goes to waste in my kitchen: one of my favourite breakfasts is fried eggs with rose harissa, toasted Poilane and a dollop of cooling yoghurt.

Rose Harissa

Serves 6 

2tbsp olive oil

300g neck lamb fillet, or boneless chops or shoulder

2 large carrots, diced

4 large celery stalks, diced

4 cloves garlic, finely sliced

2 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground ginger

20g flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

1 tin (400g) tomatoes

1 tbsp Harissa paste

or 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

400g cooked chickpeas

1.5l cold water

To serve:

½ lemon, juiced

4 large celery stalks, diced

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and brown the lamb well on both sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the carrots and celery and a pinch of salt. Fry for a minute or so to begin to soften then add the chopped garlic, spices and parsley and bay. Stir well and cook together for a couple of minutes – there will be a wonderful aroma of spices and herbs. Add the tomato and harissa and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the chickpeas. Season generously with salt and pepper and return the browned lamb to the pan. Cover with 1 ½ litres of cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook on a low heat for about 2 ½ to 3 hours, skimming occasionally if any bubbly scum rises to the surface.

After this time, you can turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool completely. This will intensify the flavours and leave the lamb cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bone and pull into bite sized pieces and return to the pot.

To serve, heat to a simmer and sprinkle over the lemon juice and chopped coriander.

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