This month in honor of Ramadan, Salima Benkhalti shares her dad’s special Moroccan Harira recipe, a traditional soup used to break the fast, also known as Iftar.
Salima’s Moroccan Harira soup is part of our Flavors of Culture series where we explore the powerful connection between food and culture with food allergies.
Who is Salima?
Salima is the voice, recipe developer, and photographer behind Salima’s Kitchen. She shares her blend of Moroccan and Puerto Rican heritage through cooking tips and creative, vibrant recipes with an allergy friendly focus.
Her allergies include soy, sesame, hazelnuts, cats, dogs, and several kinds of trees and pollen.
Salima’s Moroccan Harira Recipe and food traditions
- What do food traditions mean to you?
Food traditions are the root of my culture. Growing up with parents from two different cultures, we came together every night at the dinner table with a common love of food.
My parents met in France as starving college students. My dad expressed his love through food, so they would cook together instead of going out on dates. This tradition carried on into my childhood. We rarely went out to eat as we knew we could create more magic in our own kitchen.
While my mom grew up eating fresh tropical fruit, rice and beans, my dad’s steady diet consisted of lamb, bread and every vegetable you could imagine. Together, they married spices such as cayenne and cinnamon with ingredients like coconut and plantains in a way that worked without any explanation needed.
When we weren’t eating traditional Moroccan or Puerto Rican dishes, my parents were concocting something completely new in the kitchen.
- When did you learn to cook and how has cooking empowered you to manage your food allergies?
As a young girl (8-10 years old), my parents decided that they wanted my brother and I to be responsible for cooking one meal a week. My mom would provide the cookbooks or ask us to browse online for dishes we wanted to make. Then, she’d help us find a recipe and shop for ingredients.
We would roll up our sleeves and get cooking. This kind of encouragement gave me such a sense of confidence in the kitchen and empowered me to manage my food allergies.
Every evening over dinner, we talked about what we were eating and shared stories from our day. Through these family meals, I learned how special food is; to embrace it and not fear food because of my food allergies.
- What food was typically served at your holiday table?
We celebrated Ramadan, Christmas and the Three Kings Day along with many other holidays. For Puerto Rican holidays, we didn’t focus on traditional meals as my mom left Puerto Rico at a young age.
Traditional foods such as this Moroccan Harira soup, honey sesame cookies and dates were served during Ramadan and other Moroccan holidays. However, it wasn’t a strict thing we followed, some days we just ate couscous.
- How does your cooking style reflect your two cultures and how do food allergies play into that?
I still like to cook without boundaries by adding ‘unconventional’ spices to dishes that others might not. I generously sprinkle spices without measuring amounts and go by the taste of a dish. The lessons my parents taught me are emulated in every aspect of my cooking style.
Now, it is just my husband and I. He has been my biggest supporter of accommodating my food allergies. I try not to let allergies limit my old traditions so I am always trying to find alternatives to make food my husband and I love safe for me.
Salima’s reimagined Moroccan Harira recipe
Moroccan Harira was the last dish Salima’s dad made for her before he passed away last year. It’s a traditional Moroccan soup used to break the fast during the month of Ramadan.
Salima’s dad loved making Harira all year-long as it was one of his favorite meals to enjoy with family and friends.
To make this Moroccan Harira a vegetarian Harrira recipe, simply omit the meat.Print
Salima adapted her dad’s Moroccan Harira recipe to make it gluten-free by using rice as an alternative to traditional vermicelli noodles. You can make a vegetarian or vegan Harira by leaving out the meat.
Recipe reprinted with permission from Salima’s blog, Salimas Kitchen. More here.
1 cup garbanzo beans (soak overnight in a bowl of water, if using dried)
1 pound lamb or beef (stew meat, cut into cubes)
1 yellow onion, minced
½ cup cilantro, minced
½ tablespoon pepper
1 tablespoon salt
½ tablespoon ground ginger
2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup garbanzo beans (if using dried, soak overnight)
- 28 oz tomato puree
8 cups water
2 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon water
1 cup rice
1 cup dried green lentils
- In a heavy bottom soup pot, add cubed lamb or beef, chopped onion, half of cilantro, salt, pepper, ground ginger and olive oil.
- Saute on medium high heat for 5-10 minutes or until the meat is browned and onion is translucent.
- Drain garbanzo beans and add to the pot with tomato puree and water. Bring liquid to a boil then, cover, lower and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until garbanzo beans are cooked.
- In a small pot, add lentils and cover with water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower to a simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Set aside while you wait for the soup to be done.
- In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and cold water until no clumps remain. Uncover soup and mix in the cornstarch water slurry to thicken.
- Add rice, lentils and half of the remaining cilantro. Cook until the rice is done. Serve with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro and enjoy!
- Category: Main
- Method: Cook
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: moroccan harira, moroccan harira soup, gluten-free moroccan harira, gluten-free dinners
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Shahla is a mom of two girls who live with environmental allergies such as asthma and eczema. Their food allergies include tree nuts, peanuts, sesame and other seeds. Shahla is trained as a Natural Chef who wants to share the comfort that cooking has brought her family. She believes that everyone, regardless of dietary requirements, deserves a plate full of color and flavor.