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Moroccan Ramadan Soup

Wood stove
This thick, peppery soup is a symbol of the Moroccan way of fasting. Almost every Moroccan, every evening, every Ramadan, breaks the fast with fresh milk and dates, followed by a bowl of harira, often eaten with a special wooden spoon called a mgurfa. Harira is traditionally made with a lump of dough from the previous day's bread, and according to many Moroccan cooks, tastes best when made on a traditional wood-burning stove.
Sponge preparation: 5 minutes
Fermentation: Overnight
Total second-day time: 2 hours
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1-½ cups warm water
1 tsp. yeast
¾ cup chickpeas
2 lbs. boneless lamb or chicken,
in bite-sized pieces
¼ cup cooking oil
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1-½ cups finely chopped onions
½ tsp. crushed saffron
½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped fresh coriander
1-½ tbsp. salt
1 tbsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
9 cups water or stock
2 lbs. (3-½ cups) pureed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste in ¼ cup hot water
1 cup vermicelli, broken into 3" pieces
3 lemons, quartered

Combine the flour, water and yeast in a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let ferment overnight. Put the chickpeas in a bowl, cover with cold water, and let soak overnight.

Combine the meat, oil, butter, and onions in a soup pot, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the herbs and spices and cook for another 5 minutes, then stir in the lentils and drained chickpeas. Bring 9 cups of water to a boil and pour it into the pot; scrape the bottom, lower the heat, cover, and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally. As the soup thickens, stir more frequently; if it becomes too thick, add more hot water one cup at a time.

After the first hour, add the tomatoes and tomato paste to the soup and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add the flour mixture, blend into the soup, and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently; then add the vermicelli and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring frequently. As soon as the vermicelli is cooked, serve the harira with lemon wedges.