We really enjoyed this chickpea- and lentil-laden North African soup, whose “sophistication” (per Daniel Boulud) can be found in its “haunting taste and rich textures.” We were also happy to find an alternative way to use merguez beyond grilling the sausage and stuffing it into some sort of bread. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Boulud’s version of harira uses merguez mini-meatballs, which not only gave us a deliciously different way to use them but also gave Steve a frisson of nostalgia for SpaghettiOs. (We assure you harira is way, way better than SpaghettiOs.) The layers of spice, seasoning and textures of bean and lamb stayed delicious for several meals, and made us think merguez meatballs may have to become a regular part of our repertory. Ramadan, here we come!
(adapted, slightly, from Daniel Boulud’s recipe in Elle Decor)
- 1/2 lb. uncooked lamb merguez sausage
- Olive oil
- 1/4 c. finely chopped carrot
- 1/4 c. finely chopped onion
- 1/4 c. finely chopped fennel
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1/2 t. ground turmeric
- 1/4 t. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 t. ground ginger
- 1/2 t. smoked paprika
- 1/2 t. ground coriander
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 1/2 of a 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- Quart of chicken stock
- 1/2 c. dry chickpeas, soaked in water overnight
- 1/3 c. dry French green lentils
- 1-1/2 oz. vermicelli or spaghetti, broken into bite-size pieces
- 2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
- Generous handful of cilantro leaves, chopped fine
- Generous handful of parsley leaves, chopped fine
- 1 lemon, each cut into wedges and seeded
Remove sausage meat from the casings and roll into small, approximately 1/2″ diameter, meatballs.
Heat a small amount of olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs and sear on all sides until brown. Remove the meatballs to a plate lined with paper towels. Clean out pan, discarding the fat that has accumulated. Add a bit of olive oil and cook remaining meatballs, adding them to the plate with the others. Cover meatballs and refrigerate. Do not discard the fat in the pan.
Reduce heat to medium-low and add the diced vegetables and garlic to the sausage fat. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until vegetables are softened. Add the spices and cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Then add tomatoes, stock and chickpeas. Season again with salt, and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, or until chickpeas begin to soften a bit. Add lentils and continue to simmer for another 30 to 45 minutes, or until chickpeas and lentils are tender. If too thick, add some more stock. Add the crushed pasta and reserved meatballs, and continue to cook on low until noodles are tender, about 5 or 10 minutes. Stir about the scallions and about half of the chopped cilantro and parsley into the soup. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
Top individual servings of soup with remaining cilantro and parsley and serve with lemon wedges.