I had a heck of a time finding Harissa, and now that I have, I am definitely in love. It has a tomato paste bitterness to it, with the brightness of red chilis, coriander, and cumin adding depth and a little squirt breathes life into so many foods. I first bought it to make Soup Addict’s Spinach Egg and Harissa Chopped Salad and now I feel like the old lady in the Frank’s Red Hot commercials – I wanna put that sh*t on everything!
I think it would be lovely in a vinaigrette for a salad with roasted cherry tomatoes, mint, and chickpeas. I also want to turn it into a marinade for chicken skewers and then wrap it up in some warm buttered naan. What about a Harissa baba ganoush dip? And I don’t even like eggplant! Speaking of complementary flavours, mint, feta, lemon, toasted fennel seeds are all complementary if you want to experiment with Harissa.
Infatuation like this doesn’t take much tempting – and it was up against Sumac, which I have been eager to bust into ever since I found it at MacLean’s in Nanaimo last month. The can of full fat coconut milk was calling my name from the back of the pantry and I knew Harissa, as a North African spice, was a safer bet for experimenting with a huuujass pot of stoup.
This recipe will work with whatever vegetables you need to use up, though onions, celery and carrots should all play some role for mirepoix affect. And if you’re in Victoria, check out the newly renovated and expanded Rootcellar on Blenkinsop and Mackenzie. They now carry pretty much every food that has ever crawled into my heart and never left, and the space is open and bright and evokes a much more peaceful, breathable shopping experience!
Also, please do not skimp on the coconut milk, ok? I know, I know. It is tempting to buy the reduced fat stuff, but the truth is I just use that light coconut milk to justify a cookie, extra piece of French toast, or glass of Dark Matter somewhere else in life, so what’s the difference? Besides, the lentils and veggies will absorb most of the broth during cooking, so when you add the coconut milk it will just melt into the pot like a dream and you won’t regret it. I promise!
Creamy Harissa Lentil Soup
Makes a huuujass pot – I never understand how people count out soup servings since I eat soup in all kinds of serving sizes, whenever it feels like a good idea!
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 – 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika (definitely more than the cinnamon but not as much as the Harissa)
2 generous squirts from the Harissa bottle (available in Victoria at Aubergine Foods and Chou Chou Charcuterie or Maclean’s in Nanaimo)
Cayenne pepper, salt, and black better to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 can of coconut milk (not the light stuff!)
1 900 ml carton of vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups of dried green lentils
1/2 a large sweet white onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
5 carrots, thickly sliced
5 celery stalks, chopped
Handful of cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 large bunch of kale, chopped finely
Sweat the onions, then add the mushrooms to brown them. Add all of the dried spices and Harissa paste, along with the garlic. Allow to toast and stir for about 1 minute, until it is fragrant and has absorbed the moisture from the onions and mushrooms and garlic. Add all the remaining vegetables, except the kale. Brown semi-covered for about five minutes to bring out the flavours in the spices and get them steamed into the vegetable mixture. Add the lentils and continue to brow semi-covered for another five minutes, stirring often.
Add the vegetable broth and raise the heat to medium-high until the stoup comes almost to a boil. Turn down to low and simmer covered for about 40 minutes. Add the kale, recover and cook for another 10 minutes. When the lentils are nice and tender, remove from the heat and add the can of coconut milk. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste and serve with fresh lime and cilantro.