The vast temperature changes from day to night out in the high Oregon desert cause wind gusts to gallup down Deschutes river valley. The sound makes you want to spend the day curled up tightly in your Pendleton blanket, watching the windows bow in and out violently with each heavy gust, and question whether you are, in fact, not in kansas anymore.
Small rafting towns along the Deschutes are unparalleled when it comes to grilling trout, or advising which is the best fly to use when waiting out that elusive pike, but ingredients for a Moroccan Harira is not something the small market gets a lot of requests for. Yet attempt it we did. We based our soup as much as possible off the Ottolenghi lamb Harira which I have made in the past with great success. This time we used beef instead of lamb, a couple cloves of garlic instead of saffron and added a cup of uncooked lentils to give it a bit more body. We also had the benefit of local and farm fresh spinach which we added in abundance. The local spinach has so much more flavor compared to the grocery store, it was lovely and almost spicy when eaten alone. For a makeshift and last minute meal it was beautiful and extremely tasty. I’ve copied the Ottolenghi version here with the added assurance that it is such a strong recipe that even ‘liberal following’ offers excellent results.
1 large onion, chopped
200g (about 1/2lb) of lamb or appropriate stew meat, diced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp sugar
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chick peas
1 1/4 quarts chicken stock
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
a pinch of saffron threads
salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh spinach leaves
4 Tbsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
extra lemon wedges to garnish
In a large saucepan with a few tablespoons of olive oil saute the onion over medium heat until translucent. Increase the heat, add the diced lamb and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned on all sides. Add the tomato paste and sugar and mix well. Add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, stock and some salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 35 minutes.
Using a large spoon skim off any scum that forms on the surface. Add the lemon juice, cumin, ginger and saffron and adjust for salt and pepper.
Just before serving chop the spinach roughly and stir into the soup. Serve sprinkled with cilantro and a wedge of lemon.