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MARTIN
 

A large number of people who received help from Zenith were from Morocco.  Now, I would have loved it if Moroccan women who came to Zenith prepared a traditional feast each time we painted.  Hey, I would have been happy if it happened one time.  But, it didn't.  However, I have had more than my share of fantastic Moroccan cuisine.

I learned how to prepare Moroccan soup from my Moroccan family in Casablanca.  Shortly after I arrived in Morocco to teach at an international school, I had to find a shoe repair shop to fix part of my briefcase.  I had instructions from a co-worker on where to find a shop and headed off to a part of town that I wasn't familiar with at all, the Maarif.  I didn't find the shop that I was supposed to find.  The place I located was really no bigger than a bathroom.  It had a desk and a guy sat behind it doing some shoe repair work.  I went up to him, very pleased to find a shoe repair shop, but I didn't know what to do next.  I couldn't explain my needs in French and Arabic was completely out of the question.  Mohamed looked up at me and said, "I speak English.  What do you need?"

My brief case was repaired for free.  Then, to my surprise, Mohammed closed up the shop to give me a walking tour of the city.  The tour included a stop at his home in the medina, the oldest (and most interesting) part of Casablanca.  I had second thoughts as I wound through a maze of streets and up a curved flight of stairs to the second floor apartment.  But I went up the stairs anyway, and met his parents and four brothers and sisters.  I was served mint tea, of course, since good Moslems don't drink alcohol.  And, that was the day that I met my Moroccan family.

The Chakirs took care of me the entire two years I lived in Morocco.  If there was a Moroccan feast, I wasn't invited to their home; I was expected.  Mama Chakir quickly learned my favorite dishes. And, unlike other places where I'd been, they didn't try to make me eat any food if I didn't like it.  And, they knew that I'd never eat bone marrow (even though it was considered a special treat) without ever even offering it to me.  

They were right.

Habiba's Harira Soup
Casablanca, Morocco

  1/2 cup parsley    1/2 cup dried Lima beans
  1/2 cup coriander   salt and pepper to taste
  1/2 cup celery   a pinch of saffron
  1 medium onion   2 Tbs. tomato paste
  1/2 cup chick peas   1/2 cup flour
        soaked all night   1 egg
        with skins off   2 Tbs. oil
  1/2 cup lentils   1 pound meat (optional)
 

Chop finely the parsley, coriander, and celery.  If you don't have all these, it is no problem.  Dice the onion and cut the meat into small pieces.  Moroccans would use lamb, goat, or chicken.  NEVER, NEVER, NEVER use pork.  Faithful Moslems never eat pork.
           
In a large cooking pot, add the three types of beans.  Again, if you don't have three, it really is not a problem.  (The recipe calls for soaking the chickpeas.  I've never had luck with that.  Now, I buy them already soaking in a can.)  Then, add the salt, pepper, saffron, oil, and meat.  Place on medium heat and stir for two minutes.  Add two liters of water and bring to boil.  Simmer for an hour and a half.  Add water as necessary.
           
After an hour and a half, dilute the tomato paste in water and add to the pot. Next, dilute the flour into some water and add it to the soup.  Add one egg.  Stir in well.  Continue to cook the soup until it reaches the desired consistency.  (The desired consistency is usually pretty thick.)

If you're a good Moroccan chef, you soup will look like a piece of art.  But, even you aren't a chef and it doesn't look like art, the soup will still taste great.

MARTIN
Copyright 2009 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.
MARTIN