This soup was inspired by a couple of chance happenings during recent shopping outings. Ras el hanout is a Moroccan seasoning blend meaning “head of the shop” in Arabic, the best spices that are available for purchase. There’s no set list of ingredients included. It’s more of a house blend that brings a certain flavor to the foods where it’s used.
Some of the spices typically used include cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, fennel, nutmeg, and cardamom. It can include over a dozen in total and some of the additions can be quite exotic flavors to the palate. I’ve had it in mind for a while, but my favorite spice shop, Penzeys, doesn’t carry it, and I haven’t yet gotten around to trying to make my own.
McCormick has added ras el hanout to their Gourmet Collection Blends and I just saw it being offered at the grocery store. Their spices are generally fairly top notch and I could see that this was fresh so I picked some up. Then came the task of figuring out what I wanted to do with it first. It smelled a bit like a garam masala, but it was also quite different on its own. I would imagine that you could substitute the much easier to find garam masala in this recipe and it would still turn out great.
Shortly after that, I came across some prepared harissa at Whole Foods. Harissa is a fiery condiment commonly used in North African dishes. I’ve had it before and I love to dip pita bread wedges right into it—although I will tell you that you need to have a high tolerance of hot foods to handle it that way! It’s also fantastic on falafel. I love it, though, and I’m always interested in coming up with new uses for it. You don’t need much and a container usually goes bad before I can use it all up. So it’s a treat for me, and since I already had the ras el hanout I knew I could come up with something that used the two together.
Inspiration struck. We already know that chickpeas are mighty and miraculous rock stars. They were a natural fit. I decided to whip up a soup and see how it turned out.
I thought it was really excellent. I hesitated about how much ras el hanout and harissa to use. I went a bit lower than I wanted, figuring I could always add more. It turns out I didn’t need to do that. You could easily double both if you really want some heat and to bump up the flavors.
Because both ras el hanout and harissa are slightly esoteric ingredients and may be a little difficult or pricey to locate, feel free to omit them if you need to. As I mentioned above I believe garam masala would make a suitable stand in for the ras el hanout and if heat is all you’re after just add a diced chili or some cayenne pepper.
If you use half the amount of vegetable stock you’ll have more of a thick stew. It would work well as a side dish along with some pita, falafel, and some couscous. This could easily be gluten free, but check your spice blend and the harissa paste ingredients.
Moroccan Chickpea Soup with Ras El Hanout and Harissa
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp ras el hanout
1 Tbsp harissa
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
1 Tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp sea salt
black pepper, to taste
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions and carrots until the onions are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Add the ras el hanout and harissa and cook 1 minute longer.
Stir in the diced tomatoes, chickpeas, vegetable stock, lemon juice, sea salt, and black pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.