Harira is to me what chicken soup is to many people. What do I mean with that? As grown-ups, when we need comforting, we make a subconscious connection to the food our mothers made for us. Harira is one of those dishes I turn to when I want comfort food.

There’s no single recipe for harira, just like there is not just one recipe for chicken soup. Recipes are often passed down from generation to generation and everyone claims to have the most authentic harira recipe. I like to believe there is not just one authentic recipe; every family has their own recipe that they turn to in need of comforting.

Some harira recipes add lots of spices, others are very simple. You can add beef, lamb or chicken to flavor the stock. You can aslo easily omit the meat stock and add vegetable stock for a vegetarian version. Growing up we would often eat harira during Ramadan with dates, or home-made stuffed bread (see below picture) or sweets. I know it may sound weird to eat something sweet with a soup, but somehow it works. Or, it may just be that I got accustomed to eating my harira with dates or other sweets because I was brought up with this combination. You know what: you try it, and let me know which one of the two it is.

My Mums stuffed Moroccan bread

I used to make harira a lot with my mum when I still lived at home. I would always ask her how many teaspoons of spices or herbs I had to use. She would laugh and tell me to just taste and add more if it needed it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t instilled with her instinct for balancing flavors back then. Of course I knew when something was too salty or too sour, but I wasn’t able to fix it yet.

I would always try to get it right and then let her do the final taste test. On rare occasions I would get it right. On most occasions however she would add more spices or a little bit of water (when I used too much seasoning). It made it impossible for me to write down a recipe. I always tried to use the same ‘recipe’ when I made it, but it would never taste the same.

To this day I haven’t been able to replicate my mum’s version of harira in my own kitchen. Maybe she added a secret ingredient she didn’t tell me about, maybe it’s the fact that it’s my mum’s recipe and therefore sacred………..who knows. I finally gave up trying and kept to my own version which was delicious too, it just wasn’t my mum’s.

Then one day I had a bowl of harira at my brothers’ place made by my sister-in-law Tima. It tasted very much like the one I was brought up with. It still didn’t taste exactly the same but somehow it came closer than my own version. Tima used ox tail for the stock where my mum uses other cuts of meat. Tima blitzed up the fresh herbs with the onions and tomatoes so her version was much smoother than my mum’s, who sautéed the diced onions and did not blitz them. Small differences but the taste was there.

My youngest sister Diza had watched Tima making the harira and wrote down the recipe. I asked her to send it to me so I could try it myself and see if I can replicate it in my own kitchen. Lo and behold (maybe ‘taste and behold’ is a better expression here): it tasted the same as the bowl of harira I ate at my brother’s house.

So that’s the recipe I share with you today. Unfortunately I can’t share my mum’s harira, but certainly a tried and favourite family recipe. I love it that by posting this recipe, I make sure my kids will always be able to make the harira recipe they were brought up with.


I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

  • 2 red onion (sliced in 6 wedges or so, about 150gr)
  • 25 gr parsley
  • 25 gr fresh coriander
  • 400 gr canned tomatoes
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 oxtail (as I usually keeping it veggie I often omit this)
  • 500 ml vegetable stock
  • 2 tsp Raz el Hanout (Moroccan spice mix)
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch saffron
  • 500 ml water (see instructions)
  • 300 gr canned chickpeas
  • 100 gr green lentils
  • 100 gr vermicelli
  • 2 tsp (corn)flour
  • 1 lemon, cut in wedges for serving
  1. Put the onion (sliced), coriander, parsley, tomatoes in a blender or food processor and blitz it up. Throw in the stems of the fresh herbs as well. They are going to be blitzed up anyway and the stems have so much flavor!


  2. Put the olive oil in a pan, add the above mixture and let it simmer for 2 minutes. Then you add the meat (if you use any), the stock and all the other spices and let it simmer for another 10 minutes.


  3. Then you add the water. I don’t measure the water, I do it by sight, add as much as you like. Let it simmer for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. You can check if it’s done by looking at the ox tail. The meat should be falling off the bone. If you don’t use the meat, then half an hour of simmering is enough.


  4. When the meat is done you add the chickpeas and lentils, they only need 20 minutes to cook.


  5. After 20 minutes add the vermicelli and cook it for another 8 minutes to cook the vermicelli.


  6. Mix the flour or cornflour in a bowl with some cold water en stir well so there are no lumps in the mixture. If you are not sure all the lumps are gone, pass it through a sieve. Then you bring the soup to a full simmer and slowly- and in a thin stream – pour in the flour mixture. Stir constantly and keep the soup simmering so the flour doesn’t stick to the bottom. You will notice the soup beginning to thicken when you've used approximately half the flour mixture. The thickness of harira is up to you. Some like to thicken the broth so that it achieves a cream-like consistency. Make sure to let it simmer for at least 2/3 minutes to cook the flour otherwise your soup will taste like raw flour.


  7. Taste and add salt and pepper when it needs it. If you have used salted stock, you don’t need to add (a lot of) salt.


  8. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side to be drizzled on top when desired.

Prawn soup with Orzo

Don’t you just love making soup when it’s cold outside? Try this prawn soup with orzo next time you want to make a hot delicious soup to warm the soul after you come home freezing cold. I expected some serious cold in November here in the Netherlands but mother nature clearly had other plans. November was a nice and warm month with no cold, no snow and even more important: no ice.

I live in the Netherlands and us Dutch people are known for our love of ice skating. I actually know a lot of people who get really excited when the temperature drops below zero for more than a day. The mere prospect of maybe skating on natural ice can get the whole nation into a frenzy. There are a lot of Dutch people that are genuinely awesome at ice skating and we have a lot of ice skate champions here.

Having said that………………does anyone remember the famous scene in Bambi when he got onto the ice for the very first time? His legs all spread out under him and he can’t get up no matter how hard he tries? That’s more or less how I feel on the ice. To be honest it’s not that bad, but next to others on the ice here I feel like Bambi. That’s why I decided to get some ice skating lessons this year. I convinced my 8-year-old son to join me in the lessons and we both bought ice skates. We had our first lesson in November while it was still 15 degrees (Celsius) outside. That did not stop me from making a big pan of this prawn soup with orzo when we got home though. The prawns are my favourite part of this soup. Don’t you just love prawn?

Prawn soup with orzo

I remember never eating prawn growing up because of my mum’s dislike of seafood and fish in general. I still don’t understand how one cannot like all fish and all seafood. There are so many different fish and seafood that taste so different that I can’t understand how you can exclude such a big food group from your diet. Surely there must have been certain types of fish or seafood that my mum would have liked. Unfortunately, she was not prepared to try it. That’s why I did not eat a lot of prawns when I was young, but I certainly made up for that as an adult.

I’m a sucker for prawns and have them whenever I can. That’s why I love this prawn soup with orzo. An added bonus is that the kids call this “the best soup ever”. Also, this prawn soup with orzo is easy to make and the ingredients can be found in almost every supermarket. So there is no need for a trip to any speciality stores.

I tried this hearty comfort food soup with both fresh and frozen prawn and both worked just fine. Serve it with a crusty baguette and some garlic butter to coat the bread with. One last thing! Be sure to divide the prawn equally over the bowls, because they are the best part. Taking more prawn than you’re entitled to would be shellfish……………

Prawn soup with orzo

I hope you enjoy this prawn soup recipe as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 1 vote
Prawn soup with Orzo
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • 500 gr peeled prawns (frozen or fresh)
  • 3 small red onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled, minced
  • 3 bell peppers (preferably red or yellow)
  • 3 large tomatoes, diced
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 200 gr orzo pasta
  • 10 gr chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • chili flakes, to serve
  1. In a large pan sauté the onion on medium heat in oil until they start to colour. I used a Dutch oven with a heat diffuser underneath. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute longer. Don’t let the garlic get too dark or it will become bitter. Then add the tomatoes, the bell pepper and cook and stir for 8 minutes.


  2. After 8 minutes you add the tomato paste. Fry this until it starts to caramelize. The caramelization is the secret to the umami taste you are looking for. If you don’t do this you will get sort of a sour raw tomato flavour. Fry it until it goes dark and starts to stick a little to the pan, but don’t let it burn.


  3. Then use the stock to deglaze the pan while you make sure you scrape up all the bits that got stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add the frozen prawn and bring it all to a boil (if you are using fresh prawn then add them about two minutes before the orzo is cooked). Then add the orzo pasta, cover and simmer for 8 minutes or until the orzo is cooked. Check the instruction on the package of the orzo you’re using as this may vary.


  4. When the orzo is cooked take the soup off the heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. My kids prefer it without the lemon juice so I serve it on the side for us adults. Serve the soup immediately and sprinkle it with chilli flakes over it. Serve it with a crusty baguette and some garlic butter.


Green Gazpacho

It is unbelievably hot this summer in the Netherlands and I wouldn’t be surprised if these scorching temperatures reach record-breaking heights. However, considering the summer can be quite rubbish in The Netherlands I’m glad that it’s finally hot enough to complain about how hot it is :-). These kinds of temperatures certainly can take a toll on our bodies and when the mercury rises this high, there are few people who are willing to get in the kitchen and cook dinner over a hot stove. So we tend to go for dishes that don’t need cooking at all like fresh cold salads.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

But………………If you read my blog post about ‘garlic soup with harissa’ you know that I’m a big soup fan. I’m that crazy girl that can eat hot soup even in summer for the reason that hot food actually cools me down on a warm day. This heat however, is even too much for me. This is no reason though to ditch soup as a whole. I just turn to cold soups instead and gazpacho is probably what first comes to mind when you think of chilled soup. There is nothing quite like a delicious gazpacho on a warm summer day.

So, what is this green gazpacho that looks too healthy to be any good? Are you sure this is gazpacho? Isn’t gazpacho supposed to be red? That’s the typical reaction I get from people to whom I served this dish. Why? Because the main ingredient in traditional gazpacho is tomatoes. One could think I made this gazpacho with green tomatoes, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. Ottolenghi manages to make a gazpacho with zero tomatoes in it, but I can promise you that you won’t miss them eating this green gold. Its full of green veggies blended into a silky creamy chilled soup with Greek yoghurt, basil, walnuts and parsley.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

This gazpacho is the perfect dish to take to a picnic or maybe to take to work and eat at your desk. Although, why would you eat at your desk if you can eat outside in the sun? I prefer going into the scorching heat to eat my gazpacho lunch to avoid frostbite from our office air conditioning. There is a chance that this portion of blended veggies is not hearty enough for you and that’s where the croutons come in. If you don’t like croutons (who doesn’t like croutons??) you can always serve the gazpacho with a large chunk of fresh bread or add garnishes like spring onions or walnuts or…..……….anything you fancy.

If you want a more posh way to serve it during a dinner party, pour it into cute tall shot glasses and serve it as a refreshing little appetizer. This flavourful soup requires no cooking and can easily be made the day before and stored in the fridge until ready to serve.

Green gazpacho - Ottolenghi

The temperature is 37C as I’m writing this blog post. I think I will go and sip some more gazpacho…………….try to stay cool in this weather and promise me you will try this soon.

I hope you enjoy this green gazpacho as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

5 from 5 votes
Green Gazpacho
Prep Time
20 mins
Total Time
20 mins

Source: 'Plenty' - Yotam Ottolenghi 

Servings: 6 people
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 small green bell peppers, deseeded
  • 1 cucumber (350g in total)
  • 3 slices stale bread (120g in total)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150 g walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 200 g spinach
  • 45 g basil leaves (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 10 g parsley
  • 4 tbs sherry vinegar
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 40 g Greek yoghurt
  • about 450ml water
  • 250 g ice cubes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • white pepper
  • 2 thick slices sourdough bread (150g in total)
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  1. This recipe is so easy that it’s the croutons will take the most time, so start with the croutons.

  2. Preheat the oven to 190C. Cut the bread into 1cm cubes and toss them with the oil and a bit of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the croutons turn golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down.

  3. Roughly chop up the celery, peppers, cucumbers, bread, chilli, and garlic. Place in a blender and add half the water, cover and puree until smooth. You should now have room to add the rest of the ingredients to your blender. Add the sugar, walnuts, spinach, basil, parsley, vinegar, oil, yoghurt, the other half of the water, half the ice cubes, the salt and some white pepper. Make sure it can fit in your blender, otherwise do this in batches. If you don’t have a standing blender you can always use an immersion blender.

  4. Blitz the soup until smooth. Add more water when needed to get your preferred consistency. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning. Put it in the fridge to chill it. I like to make it the day before so it’s really cold when we eat it.

  5. Just before serving the gazpacho you add the remaining ice and pulse a few times, just to crush it a little.

  6. Serve the gazpacho at once, with the croutons and a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil. I like to add a few leaves of basil on top.

Recipe Notes

Over time I changed a few little things in this recipe. I use a normal (unpeeled) cucumber instead of mini cucumbers because the mini ones are not always easily available. I throw in the whole bread, including the crust. I only use 2 garlic cloves (instead of 4) because I don’t like a lot of raw garlic. I know I’m crazy like that. I use regular spinach instead of baby spinach and I use more basil than the original recipe calls for. Furthermore, I only add 50ml of olive oil instead of the 225ml to the gazpacho and use 2 (instead of 4) tbs of olive oil to coat the croutons. It’s a lot of small changes, but I adjusted the gazpacho to my taste.

Garlic soup with harissa

My kids and I love to have soup for dinner, but my husband is not much of a soup eater. So whenever he is not home for dinner and I ask the kids what they want to eat they sometimes ask me to make soup. Their favourite soup is a very simple courgette soup, but I’ve been wanting to try a new recipe for a while so I picked the garlic soup with harissa from Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty”. When I read the recipe it just sounded like a souperb idea.

Some people think of soup as something you only eat in winter. I however can eat soup all year around, every day, for lunch, brunch or dinner, maybe even for breakfast. I just love a hot steaming bowl of soup with some crusty bread. Even on a hot summer day because hot food actually cools you down. Other reasons why I like to eat soup is that it’s easy and quick to make and easy to digest so perfect when you feel a bit under the weather. Ancient cultures have long used warm soups as home remedies for colds and flu. Eating soup is also a convenient and delicious way to make sure you eat enough vegetables and you can make it in bulk and freeze the leftovers for a busy weeknight. Warm soup does no only nourish the soul, it also helps to use up all those leftover vegetables lurking in your fridge.

This recipe uses a staggering 25 cloves of garlic, but don’t be scared. You can still show up at work the next day and have a close face-to-face conversation without blowing your colleagues away with your bad breath. The flavour that the garlic gets from frying it with the shallots is subtle and sweet and not harsh and garlicky.

I’m sure you will enjoy it and…………..may the stink be with you………….just kidding, really I’m kidding.

A soup like this makes for a hearty first course or light main dish. We had it as a main and I added some chickpeas to make it more substantial. I slurped my way through two warm bowls of soup before sitting back and patting my belly. I love it when a meal fills me up, but doesn’t leave me feeling overly stuffed. I served it with a savoury version of msemmen which I had in the freezer. If you think that’s too much work then a crusty baguette will do just fine.

Unfortunately the kids did not like this soup (you can’t win them all, right?) so I didn’t bother making the homemade harissa and added some Belazu rose harissa to my plate, but I added the directions for the homemade version in case you want to try it. The kids ended up having their favourite soup which I can whip up in 20 minutes and they also easily gobbled up two bowls.

Do you know that joke about the frog who ordered soup in a restaurant? He called for the waiter and said: Waiter, there is no fly in my soup……………

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. If you try it, please let me know! Leave a comment, telling me what you think of it. You can also tag your photo on Instagram with @culyzaar or post it on my Facebook page so I can see it. I love seeing your takes on the recipes on my blog!

Just look at that plate………..Doesn’t it look souper!!!

5 from 5 votes
Garlic soup with harissa

Source: “Plenty” – Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Servings: 6 people
For the soup
  • 40 g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 medium shallots, finely chopped
  • 5 celery sticks, finely diced
  • 25 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 200 ml white wine or water if you don’t want to use alcohol
  • 1 generous pinch saffron strands
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 litre good-quality liquid vegetable stock
  • 400 g cooked chickpeas
  • 4 tbsp parsley, roughly chopped
  • Fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • Greek yoghurt (optional)
For the harissa
  • 1 red pepper
  • ½ tsp each coriander seeds, cumin seeds and caraway seeds
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 2 red chillies, seeded and chopped
  • ½ tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
For the harissa
  1. Put the pepper under a very hot grill until blackened (15-20 minutes). Transfer to a bowl, cover with cling film, leave to cool, then peel and discard the skin and seeds. Place a dry frying pan on a low heat and toast the coriander, cumin and caraway for two minutes. Transfer to a mortar and grind to a powder. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and chilies over medium heat until dark and smoky - six to eight minutes - then blitz with all the paste ingredients.
For the soup
  1. Gently fry shallots and celery until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for five minutes more. Stir in ginger and thyme, add salt, pour in the water/wine and leave to bubble for a few minutes. Add the saffron, bay leaves and stock, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, add the parsley and blitz with a hand-held liquidizer. Do not over-process - keep some texture. Add the chickpeas and cook for another 10 minutes.
  2. Serve in shallow bowls. Swirl in some harissa, sprinkle over coriander and serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt, if you like.